During unmedicated childbirth, natural biochemicals are created that "prime" the baby's brain so that he/she can survive well outside the womb.
The natural endorphins and oxytocin and much more that the mother's body makes cross the placenta and saturate the baby's brain and awaken areas that are important for bonding.
Below is a video showing a newborn latching to the breast after the birth.
The baby is handled roughly once born, so ignore this part at the beginning.
The rest of the video is lovely.
Breast Crawl Video
The classic six minute video by Dr. Lennart Righard shows three newborn babies who were part of a medical study is shown in the first class of the ChildbirthJoy Prenatal Hypnosis series.
The results of this study were published in The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal.
The first newborn is less than one hour old and crawls to the breast and self-latches with ease.
This baby was born after a natural and unmedicated birth.
The second baby was unable to self-latch after a birth with medication (narcotics administered to the mother imtramuscularly/I.M.). The baby is quite "out of it" because the drugs have passed from the mother to the baby. The actual drug used is not mentioned and is probably either Demerol or morphine.
The third baby had a lengthy separation from the mother (10 hours) due to complications but because the mother had an epidural and not narcotics, this baby self-latched easily.
Dr. Righard found that two conditions create greater difficulty for a newborn to self-latch:
- separation from the mother at the birth
- narcotic use in labour.
While epidurals can narcotic medication, the route into the epidural space via the spine doesn't seem to affect babies with self-latching as shown in this video.
Many lactation consultants find, however, that epidural use seems to be associated with sleepier newborns in the days after the birth. This can make breastfeeding more of a challenge.