The seven senses

We have 7 senses, not 5, but not all of them are fully developed at birth:

  1. Vision. Babies have very poor vision with no depth perception. They can see about 8-10” away, the distance from the breast to your face. They also don’t have very good color perception and prefer high contrast, like your areola compared to your breast. Over the first few months, babies may have uncoordinated eye movements and may even appear cross-eyed.
  2. Hearing. At birth, fluid in the ear canal and middle ear may affect your baby’s hearing. This fluid usually clears in a few days, and after that your newborn can hear fairly well. Babies actually do have fully developed hearing, but they are still learning to process and interpret what they hear. They know your voice and prefer it above all others. They also know your language and can distinguish it from other forgiven languages. A song or book they heard while in utero will also be preferred to a new one they’ve never heard before. 
  3. Smell. Babies have a fully developed sense of smell. Your amniotic fluid changes smell based on what you ate and your hormones. Those little bumps that developed around your areola secrete and oil that smells like your amniotic fluid, helping baby locate dinner. Your body odor also changes and become more pungent to help baby know it’s you and bond to you as caregiver. Avoid washing in strong soaps or using a lot of deodorants and perfumes. You’re supposed to be stinky. 
  4. Taste. While breast milk constantly changes in flavor based on what you eat, and has a similar flavor profile to what you ate during pregnancy and flavored your amniotic fluid, baby’s sense of taste isn’t fully developed at birth. Flavors are much stronger for them and they prefer sweet (which is most like the sweetness of breast milk) to bitter or sour. 
  5. Touch. This is one of the strongest sense at birth. Touch is very powerful and can elicit reflexes in the baby to help them survive. Touching baby’s mouth gets them to root for a good latch. Touching the roof of their mouth triggers a sucking reflex which helps them feed. Being held in skin to skin contact regulates their heart rate, respiratory rate, blood sugar and temperature. They know they’re on an adult who will protect, defend and care for them. Do not underestimate the power of infant touch. 
  6. Proprioception. The body awareness sense which tells us where our body parts in relationship to each other. It also gives us information about how much force to use, allowing us to grab the object we want without crushing it. This sense is developed by experience and babies need to use all of their other senses to mature these skills over their first year of life and beyond. Reflexive movements in response to movement and sensory input help lay the foundation for posture and motor planning later on.
  7. Vestibular. This sense is all about balance and movement, which tells us where our body is in space. It is the first sense to be fully developed by 6 months gestation. It is the unifying system in our brain that modifies and coordinates information received from other systems. Some babies, especially if premature, can be very sensitive to our handling and have difficulties going from one position to another. They can get easily unsettled with diaper changes and switching breasts. When a baby has an overactive vestibular system, they can displays gravitational insecurity and an intolerance to movement. Working with physical and occupational therapy can work through vestibule disorders. 

Tongue tie post release: what to expect


My baby had their tongue tie released, what should I expect? First, having a tongue tie released isn’t always a magix fix to breastfeeding issues. While 80% of mothers do report a significant decrease in reported nipple pain after the procedure, there is still a recovery and healing proceess that needs to take place. That tongue has been like that since 8 weeks gestation and depending on how baby has learned to use their tongue, some relearning is necessary. 

Do I need to do stretches on my baby’s tongue after a release? There are conflicting answers, and it seems like every provider has a different one, which gets really confusing. The biggest concern is reattachment, which defeats the purpose of the release and for some, reattachment means re-release. 

Every baby is unique, as is their healing post release. When you have a tongue that is strong and coordinated but range of motion is limited because of the frenulum, the stretches, exercises and wound care management are different than a tongue that is super weak and disorganized. I have found in my practice that tongues that are super strong pre-release do much better post release and tend to need much less wound care management to keep the tongue from reattaching. They also need fewer oral motor exercises to get baby back to breast. The tongue was already functioning as it should, it was just anchored by the frenulum. When you have a weak tongue where range of motion was poor to begin with, they tend to need much more suck training/exercises, and without stretching, the tongue will reattach because of how the tongue rests on the floor of the mouth instead of up on the palate during healing. Body work is essential for these babes as the tension and weakness is usually though the whole system. Bodywork, suck training and lactation support are still crucial for the few days to weeks after the release is done. 

But what should you expect as a parent.

Day 1-3 your baby will feel sore and tender. They may be fussier than usual. A white patch will form where the surgery was done. Baby may have difficulty latching to bottle or breast, so have an alternative feeding plan ready such as cup or finger feeding. 

For the first week, baby is relearning how to use their tongue. Your provider should talk to you about stretches to do several times a day to help prevent the tongue from reattching. Our body likes to heal together so this is very important. Some minor bleeding may occur, but if you see lots of blood notify your provier right away. Pain management is often needed for the first few days, but many babies can taper off of this. 

From week 2-4, the white patch will shrink and may turn yellow as it heals. Some babies will see a small to drastic reduction in their symptoms at this point. Many babies will still need bodywork or lactation suppot. 

Natural remedies can include frozen breast milk chips that you can use to numb the area. This is especially helpful for very small babies when you don’t want to use an OTC rememfdy. 

Coconut oil is often recommended to lubricate the wound and for use during the stretches. A little goes a long way.

There are natural remedies that some parents find helpful such as arnica or camellia. And infant’s children tylenol can also be helpful. Mae sure to talk to your provider and your pediatrician for the correct dosage which is done by age and weight. 

Lots of snuggles, skin to skin time, and baby wearing can be helpful. Keep time at the breast pleasant and if you’re having trouble feeding, make sure to reach out as soon as possible for help.

Tricky Posterior Tongue Ties

Some times even the best lactation consultants and feeding therapists can miss a posterior tongue tie in the immediate days or weeks after birth. Having a frenulum under the tongue doesn’t automatically mean it’s tied. A long, stretchy frenulum that allows full movement of the tongue is normal and not something that needs released. However, sometimes a frenulum can allow the front of the tongue to do what it needs to, but still be tied at the back. These are what I can tricky posterior ties. Mom may have lots of milk and baby transfers well from the breast in the early days or weeks post delivery. Mom may have no nipple pain or damage whatsoever. Only they come back a month later with new symptoms like slow weight gain or feeling like there breast isn’t emptying. Why is that?

Mom’s body often compensates well during the early weeks post delivery. The uterus doesn’t tell the breasts how many babies came out. So her body goes into overdrive to make more milk than needed from the start. As time moves on, the body figures out how much milk to make and drops supply to just what is being emptied. A baby that rode on mom’s robust post delivery flow may all of a sudden start to struggle at the breast as supply regulates. Based on how the anatomy is, there may never have been nipple pain or damage. If the baby has a high palate where the front of the tongue can still move well and mom has a large nipple that fills baby’s mouth well, the nipple may come out creased or pinched, but without pain. The anatomy on one or both sides masked the tie while baby was small. 

If breastfeeding was going well in the beginning, but symptoms start to pop up later, working with a qualified lactation consultant can help figure out what’s going on. And some times that means finding a posterior tie that was originally missed where a release is necessary to get feeding back on track.