Guest post by Andrea Vandiver
“Am I doing it right?”
That’s the first thing I said when my son began to nurse half an hour after he was born. I thought I was a professional. I thought I had prepared. I read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding like three times.
I knew how important it was to get the perfect latch and without even thinking about it, went with the standard cross-cradle hold.
You know, the position you see every woman using.
But one week into new motherhood bliss, I had a severely cracked nipple and cringed any time a “helpful” family member said, “He’s hungry!” I literally wept every time I nursed him. After several days of pain and a couple of well-intentioned suggestions to switch to formula, I decided to go to a local La Leche League meeting.
It was there I met Ruth, who saved my nursing relationship and my sanity by introducing me to laid-back breastfeeding.
What is laid-back breastfeeding?
Laid-back breastfeeding, also known as biological nurturing, is kind of a non-positioned form of breastfeeding. The idea is that while breastfeeding is natural, it’s only instinctual for our babies. Us mothers have long since distanced ourselves from our primitive sides, but babies are born with a set of instincts that will keep them fed and alive. These instincts will drive and guide our sweet babes to the nipple, with little to no help from us. Breastfeeding shouldn’t be primarily about us learning a new skill; it should be about letting nature take its course.
How do I do it?
To begin, simply relax into a comfortable semi-reclined position. Imagine how you would sit to watch TV or read a book. Use pillows behind your back if needed. You want your neck, back and shoulders supported
Place your baby tummy-to-tummy with their feet pointed towards your feet. Allow your baby to find the nipple on his own. Some refer to this as the breast crawl – and laid-back breastfeeding is simply a continuation of that.
Why is it beneficial?
Laid-back breastfeeding allows the baby to do the latching, not the mother. If you were taught conventional breastfeeding positions, you were probably told to touch the baby’s nose and chin with your nipple and when the baby opens her mouth widely, bring the baby to you and let her latch.
The problem with this is that the baby doesn’t choose the angle, which can cause a shallow latch and create a lot pain and discomfort. Laid-back breastfeeding eliminates a lot of common latching problems.
This position is extremely helpful for babies born with a tongue or lip tie. Laid-back breastfeeding allows the baby to latch at the angle and position that works best for them.
With proper support, you can comfortably nurse like this for 30… 45… 60 minutes during those sometimes-tiring cluster feedings.
With the help of gravity, you won’t need more than an occasional steadying hand on the baby’s back, which frees you up to multi-task.
What if I had a c-section?
No problem. You can use this same approach by allowing baby to latch on from the side, with their nose pointed toward your chest and their feet pointed away from your body.
Is there a down side?
In the beginning it’s best to help your baby by having as much skin-to-skin contact as possible so they can use their senses to find the nipple. This might not be feasible if you need to nurse while out and about, but you can adjust as you and your baby’s comfort levels rise.
I specifically remember sitting in that La Leche League meeting with Ruth, cringing, as my son was about to nurse in this new position. He bobbed his little head around and latched on. And it didn’t hurt a bit. I immediately felt a surge of joy and a renewed bond with him. I knew this was what I should have been doing all along.
It seems that lactations consultants are embracing laid-back breastfeeding more and more and are designating it as the go-to way of nursing. While this may seem like a new thing, biological nurturing is thought to be nature’s intended way of breastfeeding.
Women face tremendous obstacles in breastfeeding as it is, so with fewer latch issues and less pain, maybe this is the start of a revolution. I’m thrilled to see it become mainstream!
And the best thing about it? No expensive breastfeeding pillows required!