NURSING a Natural Instinct

Lactation Consultants Help Moms “Learn” Breastfeeding

Human beings have been breastfeeding for millennia—after all, if we couldn’t figure out this breastfeeding thing, we wouldn’t be alive, right? So why would anyone need a consultant to help with the most natural thing in the world?

Yes, breastfeeding—or rather, suckling—is an instinctive behavior in infants. Research suggests, however, that the mother’s breastfeeding behaviors are learned.

Take the story of the female gorilla born and raised in an Ohio zoo in the 1980s. After losing one baby gorilla, this second-time mama received a visit from the local La Leche League during her pregnancy. A group of volunteer (human) moms sat nursing their babies in front of the pregnant gorilla, who watched with keen interest. After her baby was born, she was visited by another a nursing mom and, mimicking that mom’s actions, fed her own baby for the first time.

Breastfeeding is a set of learned skills, and all of us—human or gorilla—deserve the chance to learn before we’re expected to do it well.

Some education may not be all it takes, though. Before each of us learned to ride a bike, we likely watched older children riding, over and over. Sitting on the curb studying the motion of the pedals and the posture of the rider wasn’t enough, though. There was eventually a moment when we sat, terrified or exhilarated, on that sweaty bike seat in the sun, ready to pedal for the first time. But chances are we had a parent running beside us until we felt confident, or an older sibling cheering us on, offering advice.

Many mothers remember keenly the similar feeling of being left alone for the first time with their newborn. You mean you expect me to be able to take care of this precious life all by myself? Despite all the watching and learning, every new mom eventually faces her time to ride, and she doesn’t have to do it alone.

An IBCLC—a member of the International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants—is that been-there-done-that voice, with years of clinical and academic experience to boot. She cheers you on and can offer crucial information and course corrections along the way. She is a medical expert in lactation, and very often a mom herself, who has spent years studying the art, science and practice of breastfeeding.

Jen Chendea is a lactation consultant with Belly to Cradle, which provides comprehensive birth support for the whole family, including doula care, childbirth education, and placenta encapsulation, in the Greater Pensacola Area. For more information, contact Belly to Cradle at 850-324-5393 or, or visit

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Functional Medicine Is Cornerstone of Chiropractor’s Practice

Gynecologist, Karen Kennedy, Sheds Light on Unhealthy Excess Body Fat

Moving Easily into the Golden Years with Structural Integration

A 2015 study in the American Journal of Neuroradiology reveals that every decade of age is accompanied by a greater rate of bulge and deterioration in the spinal discs:

Looking New and Shiny

Ric Kindle is renovating a building at 532 Garden Street and will open a restaurant, juice bar and event space there in the fall. He says Live! Raw Juice Bar & More, a venture centered around mindfulness, will bring something new to the Pensacola scene while preserving a bit of the city’s history.

Hair Care Products That Are Rich In Active Natural Ingredients And Free From Chemical Treatments Are Healthier

As the beauty and self-care industries have flourished, many women are making an unfortunate tradeoff: good looks for good health. On average, a woman puts more than 200 chemicals on her skin every day—and about 60 percent of them are absorbed by the body.