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  • Jenna

Learning to breastfeed by watching others

Updated: May 6, 2020

Do you know anyone who’s breastfed before? Do you know anyone who’s breastfeeding currently? If you do, great! You should go hang out with that person before your baby arrives because it turns out that seeing other moms breastfeeding can be a very powerful tool for learning to breastfeed!

There’s an often cited story from the 1980’s that tells about how a mother gorilla at an Ohio zoo could not nurse her first born infant, the infant gorilla sadly, did not survive. Realizing that the gorilla needed to learn these skills before the birth of her next baby, the zookeepers contacted the local La Leche League group and asked for volunteer nursing mothers to come nurse their babies in front of the mama gorilla’s enclosure throughout her pregnancy for her to watch. When her next baby was born, the mama gorilla initially struggled but volunteers were called back to nurse their babies again and through watching them, the mama gorilla caught on and was able to successfully nurse her baby!

I’m not trying to imply that simply watching another mom will be all you need to do to successfully breastfeed, but it can be a very helpful part of the process! So, call up that friend, grab some snacks and go visit. Or, attend a breastfeeding support group during your pregnancy to get a lot of great exposure, tips, and meet other moms!

And for those of you who have already breastfed babies, share your stories with soon-to-be and new moms and don’t be afraid to let them watch you nurse your baby.

For those of you curious about the gorilla story, it’s a story that’s been retold in numerous breastfeeding books and articles, but I am unable to find an “original source”. Given that it’s simply an inspiring, anecdotal story, I’m comfortable talking about it without an exact source. Thanks!

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