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Will Licking Your Baby Like a Cat After Birth Be the Next Big Birthing Craze?

Birth is a beautiful moment. Nothing compares to hearing your baby’s first cry, catching a glimpse of the face you’ve been waiting nine months to see, and finally getting to hold that tiny body in your arms. Being such an overwhelming and emotional time, it is no surprise that some mothers will be overcome by maternal instinct, causing them to experience some fairly primal reactions.

A mother licks her child after giving birth

A photograph has been doing the rounds on social media over the past week showing a mother instinctively licking her newborn baby’s head moments after giving birth. The beautiful, yet unusual moment that was captured by award-winning birth photographer Ludy Siqueira has sparked a lot of debate online as to why new mum Catia was driven to lick her son’s head, whether it poses any risks or if there are any benefits to it. Others are questioning whether licking your baby like a cat after birth is likely to become the next big craze in birthing plans.

Across most of the modern world, mothers typically do not lick their newborn clean after birth; however, it is normal for many mammals, as well as in Inuit and Tibetan cultures. Animals are known for licking their young immediately after giving birth, as it is an instinctive response. As humans have been able to clean their babies using other methods, any desire to lick the baby clean after birth tends to be suppressed as it isn’t necessary or the norm to do so.

In the wild, this process of licking the baby clean is done for a number of reasons. Firstly, it helps to remove the scent of the baby, ensuring that any predators are not attracted by the smell. For humans, cleaning the newborn is also important for removing any bacteria that remains on the child’s skin following the birth. Another reason some people think licking a human child might be beneficial is that licking the baby may help the mother to bond with their newborn child – something that cannot be achieved by cleaning alone.

 

A baby being cleaned after birth

This is thought to be because when the baby is licked, oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that reduces stress and strengthens the relationship between mother and child is released. Many of these bonding benefits can be gained through a simple kiss or hug, however, so you don’t need to stick your tongue out to properly bond! Finally, some new mothers hold the belief that they will gain additional nutrients from anything that remains on their babies skin from birth.

From an evolutionary stance, however, there are no essential reasons for a human mother to lick her child, as it is not a feature that has been evolutionarily selected, as we are able to clean using other methods than our tongues! But many mothers online have claimed that they too had the urge to lick their baby clean post-birth, and resisted doing so as it was not considered normal. Yet, with more and more women opting for a natural birth, more instinctive afterbirth practices, such as licking the baby or eating the placenta, are becoming more common.

After giving birth, whether you decide to lick your newborn, or leave the cleaning up to the nurses, you are sure to want to commemorate the joyous occasion. While there are very few of us who will be able to get an award-winning photographer to snap the special moment, one way of creating an incredible keepsake is getting baby hand and foot casting to remind you how tiny and adorable your newborn was! Get in touch for more information.

Image Credit: YouTube/Senhoritas Fotografia