Foundations For The Alien Zookeeper’s Guide to Breastfeeding

Why The Alien Zookeeper Guide:

Human babies breastfeed a certain way. There are two possibilities for this:

a)      Human babies were created to breastfeed a certain way

b)      Human babies evolved to breastfeed a certain way

Being a coward, I didn’t want to get into a creation vs evolution debate.

So I came up with: “If you were in the Human pen of an Alien Zoo on an alien planet in a galaxy far, far away, without access to technological development, textbooks, classes, and human hyper-educated brilliance, this is how your baby would breastfeed.”

It was a joke, at first. But it grew on me, so it stuck :-).

This is the guide from the Zookeeper of the Human pen in the Alien Zoo.

What The Alien Zookeeper Guide is not (aka disclaimer):

A comprehensive breastfeeding/infant care guide.

Intended to suggest you ignore the advice of your trusted health care professionals.

A replacement for in person lactation support.

What The Alien Zookeeper Guide is:

A “why” guide.

Every mom and baby is unique. The “what to do” and “how to do it” that work for some may not work for others. The Alien Zookeeper Guide focuses on the “why” behind the “what to do” and “how to do it” so that families can determine the “how to do it” that works best for them.

The “why” vs “what to do” and “how to do it” analogy:

1. The “what to do” and “how to do it” approach:

I give you step by step driving directions that will take you to a specific place. Once you are there, you are supposed find an envelope with further instructions.

Possible outcomes:

a)      You arrive at your destination (a store), open the envelope, find a shopping list, buy the ingredients on the list, and return. Life is good.

b)      The road is closed. You don’t know what to do next because you don’t know where you were supposed to be going or why. You are very frustrated.

c)      You get to the store, but there is no envelope. You don’t know what to do next because you don’t know why you are there. You are very frustrated.

d)     You get to the store and find the envelope, but the store is out of one of the ingredients. You don’t know what to do next. You are very frustrated.

2. The “why” approach:

I tell you:

a)      I’m ravenous, I’d like a roast beef sandwich, but anything will do, or

b)      I’d like a roast beef sandwich, sometime in the near future, or

c)      Sandwiches sound cool for dinner tonight

Possible outcomes:

a)      Road is closed. You know a different route and/or a different store. Life is good.

b)      The store is out of roast beef. No problem. I said I’d eat anything, so you buy turkey instead. Life is good.

c)      The store is out of roast beef. I really want roast beef. You go to another store to get the roast beef. Life is good.

d)     It’s a sunny day. You feel like walking. Dinner is not for several hours. Instead of driving, you walk to the store, buy food, and get back in time for dinner. Life is good.

You could say that the goal of the Alien Zookeeper Guide is to help make life as good as possible!

Who Am I (i.e. the boring stuff):

I am a Registered Nurse and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). I’ve been supporting moms and dads as they learn to care for and feed their newest family members for seventeen years as an RN, and six as an IBCLC.

Significant Influences (not all-inclusive):

Below are the breastfeeding/newborn gurus who’ve had the greatest impact on me. I do NOT know any of them personally, as much as I would love to.

  • Catherine Watson Genna
  • Tom Johnson
  • Jack Newman
  • Suzanne Colson
  • Christina Smillie
  • Nils Bergman

Zookeeper Foundations:

Baby mammals are born with the reflexes and wiring necessary to seek out their mother’s milk production gland, latch on and eat!

Human babies are mammals. That means that human babies are born to breastfeed.

Watch the breast crawl video – it’s quite cool.

All mammals, however, need a certain setting, a certain environment, in order for their reflexes and wiring to achieve successful feeding. A habitat, if you will.

According to Nils Bergman, the habitat for human babies is skin to skin contact with mom.

The habitat provides the optimal setting for learning to breastfeed.

The Alien Zookeeper’s Guide focuses on the aspects of that setting that maximize baby’s ability to tap into his reflexes and wiring in order to feed effectively.

A Word About Opinions:

Why do I think my opinion matters? Because it’s my opinion. Naturally!

And it is my opinion that breastfeeding/newborn care advice is heavily opinionated :-).

We humans know a lot. But we think we know more than we really do.

The study of human lactation is a science. Parenting and breastfeeding are arts.

If you ask twenty people (who have studied human lactation) a question about the physiology of lactation you will likely get the same answer from all of them. At least, I hope so.

If you ask those same twenty people a question about breastfeeding, you will likely get twenty different answers. Probably more.

We try, we really do. But at the end of the day, we, too, are only human :-).

My Opinion on Nurturing A Newborn and The Journey of Parenting:

There are many aspects to nurturing a newborn: feeding, cuddling, loving, talking to, holding, changing diapers, ensuring safety, keeping from being eaten by other animals in the zoo, soothing, providing clothing and shelter, providing a stable home life, providing opportunities for appropriate mental stimulation…the list could go on forever.

My point?

Parenting is an exciting, terrifying, and exhilarating ride. Without a doubt the greatest journey that life has to offer. Feeding is only one aspect of of it.

One day, you’ll be standing in your driveway, waving good-bye to your baby as he/she drives away in a car for the very first time.

Please remember – the journey of parenting is about so much more than how you feed your baby.