Some women lick their babies just after birth – here’s why

Posted in Birth.

An image of a mum licking her newborn baby recently went viral across the internet. So, is baby licking now a thing?

Mmmm, delicious!

The image was taken by Ludy Siqueira of Senhoritas Fotografia and it’s sparked some discussion about why a woman would lick her newborn. Is it even a good idea?Of course, lots of animals routinely lick their babies clean once they are born, and it seems the baby lickers are taking cues from them.

“[Animal] mothers often eat the amniotic sac’s remains, while cleaning their newborns,” science-y website Sciencing says. “By licking the newborn’s face first, mothers make sure the baby’s nostrils are clean. In addition to stimulating respiration, the licking of the newborn’s face also tends to stimulate a sucking response.” 

There are other reasons animals lick their babies, too. 

Bond, baby bond

But it’s not only these obvious practical benefits that animals pass to their baby when they lick them after birth, researchers have found that the so-called feel good hormone oxytocin is released by the mother, which promotes bonding and increases the baby animal’s survival chances. It may also tweak how the animal baby develops.

“It turns out that being licked by the mother releases a neurotransmitter called oxytocin, which reinforces the relationship between the mother and baby, reduces stress, and changes which part of the DNA gets read,” Dr Alex Korb writes. “Now oxytocin can’t change the genes you have, but it can affect how much those genes get expressed.”

It’s suggested that serotonin may also be switched on by this licking practice.

Feeling licky?

So, pregnant mamas, should you lick your baby? It seems you probably don’t need to but if you’re feeling licky, you do you, Boo.

If you’re having the urge to lick your baby but aren’t quite there, you could try hugging and kissing your baby instead? This provides many of the same bonding benefits licking encourages.

It goes without saying that – unlike animals – humans can easily clean their babies when the time is right. We can also ensure their respiratory system is clear  because we don’t have pesky trotters and hooves and paws hampering our progress, (plus we have nurses and doctors!) We can even make sure they are amniotic sac-free, without treating them like a very delicious popsicle.

So lick your baby if you must, but honestly? You probs don’t have to. 

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