Your Baby Prepares For Birth
You have probably been very busy preparing for life with your baby throughout your pregnancy. There have been books and articles to read, plenty to buy, classes to attend and lots of plans to make. You are not the only one preparing for the huge change birth will bring; inside your womb, your baby is also getting ready.
A Look Inside The Womb
Your baby has been practicing certain moves inside the womb long before he will need to use them. Swallowing is seen as early as 12 weeks gestation. Sucking begins around 24 weeks gestation and coincides with the fetus turning his head towards a stimulus. The rooting reflex, which causes the baby to open his mouth wide in anticipation to nursing, is seen at 32 weeks and is strongest at term.
By 19 weeks gestation babies can already step, hold themselves erect and even scoot forward by bracing against a hand. From the 14th to the 36th weeks babies are often seen with their hands touching their faces and sometimes they even suck their thumbs.
Life On the Outside: After Labor
Your baby will put all his reflexes and skills to use immediately following the birth. He should be toweled dried and placed skin to skin on you. If he is placed on your belly, he will make his way up to your breast on his own, using the stepping reflex and his scooting abilities. The amniotic fluid on his hands smells like your breast and he will continuously bring his hand to his mouth and nose while finding his way to your breast. Of course you will probably want to scoop your baby up and bring him closer to your face but it is best to let him latch on to the breast on his own. Babies who latch on by themselves have fewer breastfeeding difficulties.
Once baby has gotten to the breast he may be more interested in your face than anything else. The distance from breast to face is the distance at which your newborn sees the clearest. Newborns prefer to look at faces to anything else. Your baby recognizes your voice as you speak to him from hearing it in utero.
When your baby is ready he will latch on to the breast and eat. He has practiced sucking, swallowing and breathing and is ready for this moment.
Helping Your Baby Help Himself: Happy Newborn
As you see, your baby is born expecting and ready to interact with you. You are as much the center of his world after birth as you were during the pregnancy. Unfortunately your baby's effort can be easily thwarted. Drugs used during labor may dull his reflexes and abilities, being washed or dressed will confuse him and being separated from you will leave him completely helpless. Consider having a natural childbirth and keep your baby with you as much as possible. You will have a happier and healthier newborn if his expectations are fulfilled.