In an earlier post I
explained why it’s time to change the way we teach breastfeeding.
I described research findings indicating that early breastfeeding
is easier when mothers lean back with their babies’ weight resting on
their body.1 (See my new
Blog History category “Laid-Back Breastfeeding” in the right column
for a link to all my posts on this subject.)
These laid-back positions not only make breastfeeding less work
for mothers, they also make it easier for babies to take the breast
deeply, especially during the early weeks.
That’s because in these positions gravity helps rather than
hinders babies’ inborn feeding reflexes, which can make a huge
difference when babies are at their most uncoordinated.
After decades of
teaching mothers to breastfeed sitting upright or lying on their sides,
many have difficulty visualizing this new approach.
One common question I am often asked is whether these positions
are practical after a cesarean birth.
The answer is most definitely yes.
A number of
adjustments can be made to help a mother customize laid-back
breastfeeding (also known as “Biological Nurturing”) to her body
type and situation. As you
can see from these line drawings, one adjustment is changing the
direction of the baby’s “lie” on her body.
In all laid-back positions, baby lies tummy down on mother, but
this can be accomplished in many ways.
The baby can lie vertically below mother’s breast (as on this
website’s banner), diagonally below the breasts, across her breasts,
at her side, even over her shoulder.
As Suzanne Colson explains in her DVD, “Biological Nurturing:
Laid-Back Breastfeeding,” the breast is a circle, and the baby can
approach it from any of its 360 degrees, except for positions in which
the baby’s body covers mother’s face.
So after a cesarean birth a mother can use many laid-back
positions without baby resting on her incision.
adjustment is the mother’s angle of recline, or how far the mother
leans back. In laid-back positions, the mother leans back far enough so
that her baby rests comfortably on her body without needing to support
her baby with her arms but is upright enough so she and her baby can
easily maintain eye contact.
Because most hospital beds are adjustable, finding their best
angle of recline is especially easy during the hospital stay. At home, I suggest mothers imagine the positions they use to
watch their favorite television show.
Most of us lean back on a sofa, chair, or bed, using cushions or
pillows so we can relax our shoulders, head, and arms.
Colson says the best laid-back breastfeeding positions are those
that mothers can easily and comfortably maintain for up to an hour.
When using laid-back
breastfeeding, ideally each mother finds her own best variations by
trial and error. In light of these insights, I think the time has come for us
to stop naming and teaching specific breastfeeding “holds.”
(After all, no one teaches bottle-feeding mothers how to hold
their babies during feedings!) That way, mothers will no longer waste their time trying to
duplicate feeding positions taught in classes or pictured in books that
may not be right for them or--even worse--may even make early
breastfeeding more difficult. Instead, each mother’s focus will stay
exactly where it belongs: on her and her baby.
S. D., Meek, J. H., & Hawdon, J. M. Optimal positions for the
release of primitive neonatal reflexes stimulating breastfeeding. Early
Human Development 2008; 84(7):441-449.