The Claw-Face-Push

I'm feeling pretty on top of the world, what with 3 brand new grand babies over the past 10 months 😲.

My newest grandchild was welcomed into the family just last Sunday, August 11th. 

Please meet Christopher Morris and his proud parents, Alex (my sweet youngest son) and Paula (my amazing daughter-in-law).

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I've observed lots of similarities in my children's perinatal and postnatal experiences (besides the effusive buckets of joy 😃).

All three of my children chose to breastfeed their precious new babies.


And all three experienced what I am now calling 'The Claw-Face-Push'.  However, unlike the claw in Toy Story which rescued Buzz Lightyear from a mass of toy aliens, ...

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this claw grasps the head of the precious newborn and then proceeds to do a face push of said newborn's head onto (or into more accurately) the unsuspecting breast of his or her mother.

Now, when I was a young NICU nurse I was introduced to the 'claw-face-push" technique, it was a pretty standard practice for the lactation naive.  The prevailing belief was that if we could get their little head on or at least near the nipple the baby would immediately latch on and all would be well with the world.  After all isn't breastfeeding natural and everyone knows what that means; it must be easy. 

Well, I think it's safe to say, successful breastfeeding is anything but easy.  It takes an enormous amount of patience, commitment, persistence, and conviction on the part of the mother and her partner.  Choosing to breastfeed can be empowering while at the same time exposing our deepest darkest vulnerabilities.

Women are in such a fragile state after giving birth physically, psycho-emotionally, and spiritually.  The mere thought that they may not be breastfeeding the 'right way' or 'may not have enough milk' can be devastating. Especially in the numbers obsessed medical world where we measure everything.

The fact that we can't measure how much milk the baby is taking from the breast at any given time MAKES US NUTS!

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And because it makes us crazy, we in turn pass our crazy on to mothers and make them feel incredibly insecure and anxious about their ability to nourish their baby.

You know the expression man does not live on bread alone? Well same rule applies to babies! Babies need more than calories to grow, develop and thrive.  It's not just the nutritional value of breastmilk that makes it so wicked awesome. It's the proximity, the intimacy, the tenderness, the uniqueness of nourishing and nurturing your child that feeds a physical, emotional and spiritual connection.   

So, when my children shared their experiences with the 'claw-face-push' they were all horrified that someone would be so rough with a brand new human being but their horror had no voice - why? Because they assumed the person knew what they were doing, even though it didn't look or feel right to them, they didn't say anything.

And this is where I am stepping in, on behalf of all the babies and families who have experienced the claw-face-push and say to my colleagues STOP IT!!! The service we provide to these beautiful families, be it in the NICU, Special Care or the Postpartum ward should never include force.  Nursing is NEVER about aggression, power, or judging for that matter.

If I put my hand on the back of your head and pushed it forward, your natural instinct would be to recoil, to push your head back against my hand.  This is exactly what the baby does - this is natural.

For so long we have used force to provide care. We rationalize that we must because it is with the best intention for the baby.  But, did you know that causing harm, regardless of your intention is considered maltreatment? 

I am going to challenge you to discover a new way.  A way led by compassion and kindness. A way that requires patience and presence. A way that will require courage to go against the status quo and promote hope and hopefulness.

It's not just breastfeeding where we are invited to do better and be kinder, it's every aspect of service we provide.  How we engage with our patients and their families defines how they will respond to us.  If we are kind, patient and compassionate they are open, trusting and feel cared for. If we are rushed, aggressive, and perfunctory they are guarded, defensive and not trusting, not just you but the system at large.  When these experiences are repeated over time ... neurons that fire together wire together.

All of us have experienced the claw-face-push in our life (maybe more than once),  when some external force was pushing us to do something we weren't ready for or we didn't choose.  Remember how that felt and let that memory fuel your desire to change how you proceed in your practice and in your life.

I'll leave you with a reading recommendation.  I've just started the book but am loving it so far. The book is entitled: "A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to be Compassionate can Transform our Lives"

I look forward to your comments on this post, in the meantime...

Take care and care well,


P.S.  Please consider joining us (LIVE or VIRTUALLY) in Las Vegas NV this Saturday, August 24th for Quantum Caring for NICU Clinicians.  In this one-day workshop we will present the science of hope, compassion and courage and the implications of these critical virtues to creating a trauma-informed approach to care in your clinical setting.

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P.P.S.: We are accepting applicants to our FALL QUANTUM LEAP program. Quantum Leap is a 12-month leadership coaching and development program that provides the learner with a strong foundation in research and evidence-based best practices in trauma-informed newborn care while cultivating essential skills to become courageous and authentic leaders for change.


I look forward to speaking with you soon! 😊

Using breakthrough, evidence-based strategies Caring Essentials helps you achieve clarity, build congruence, and challenges you, your colleagues, and your organization to become a center of excellence in trauma-informed care for infants, families and professionals.

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Want to just chat and explore how Caring Essentials can serve you? Schedule a Get Acquainted Call and start the conversation that will change the way you think about developmental care!

The babies and families are waiting!

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P.P.P.S.  Here is your quote for the week!

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