Image: YouTube/Senhoritas Fotografia

What is going on with mothers licking their newborns

THERE'S nothing like those first moments after bringing a child into the world. Hearing their first cry, finally glimpsing their little face, feeling the weight of their tiny bodies on  your chest ... it's an overwhelming, indescribable moment in time.

So it's no real surprise that sometimes a new mother may be overcome with emotion or experience a rush of maternal instinct.

The award-winning photo, taken by Ludy Siqueira of Senhoritas Fotografia, depicts a new mother tenderly licking her newborn's face.

While some of us may flinch at the idea, others have argued from a biological point of view, it's a totally normal thing to do.

I mean we've all seen cats, dogs and other mammals do it ... but why?

According to Lee Dugatin, co-author of the 2017 book How To Tame a Fox and Build a Dog, there is "a combination of reasons."

"One would be health-related - removing any nasty creatures on the surface of the skin, such as bacteria, viruses, that sort of thing," Dugatkin told HowStuffWorks.

He also said it may be a way of the mother recognising and bonding with her baby.

"It may be the start of a chemical recognition system between mothers and offspring. Licking is one way to get that sorted out. There are all sorts of bonding behaviours that go on between mother and offspring," he said.

Dugatin's argument may make sense in the animal world, but just like many mammals will consume the placenta as a way of masking the arrival of their little one from predators, just because it happens in the wild, it doesn't mean it has to happen in your hospital room.

"I certainly have never seen anyone do it in 35 years [of midwifery]," Andrea Quanchi of Melbourne's My Midwives told Kidspot.

"I mean it's very normal for parents and mothers to be affectionate at birth, and to feel overwhelmed, but I have never seen anyone lick their baby."

In terms of biological urges, Andrea was more enthused about the importance of skin-to-skin contact.

"Skin to skin is important for the baby's immune system," she said. "Babies get the micro-organisms that live on the parents' skin which they already have antibodies to."

And while Andrea wasn't familiar with any baby-licking in her career, she said that's not to say it was wrong.

"If you think about it, there's not much difference between kissing and licking," she said.

"And depending on the situation, there's nothing wrong with cleaning your baby, especially people who don't have access to clean water.

"But really, most people in this country do have access to those kind of facilities so I wouldn't view it as a necessity.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with it, it's not a dangerous practice, but I've not seen anyone who wanted to do it."

So. Whaddya think ... Would you lick your newborn? 

This article appeared on Kidspot and has been republished here with permission.

News Corp Australia


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