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. (7 Ways to Naturally Increase Breast Milk Supply)
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!
My one week old has a slight tongue tie, yet I’ve seen her easily open her mouth very wide when she attempts to latch on to my arm when she wakes up – but her latch on my breast is very shallow. I’ve had temporary success in every hold I’ve tried, and laid back breastfeeding worked well a few times on my left side. But I can’t seem to recreate it every time, and never on my right! My breasts are large and the nipple naturally points down, so it seem like no matter how I recline she just face plants into my breast. Any advice for finding the perfect angle of reclining?
I had exactly the same experience. The biological nursing feeding position saved me from giving up on breastfeeding altogether. Still going strong 20 months later! Thanks for sharing!
The little things make such a difference! That’s so wonderful!
I wish this was common knowledge Ana! Maybe we can start changing things by passing it down to our daughters and daughters-in-law.
I have a three week old, and I have had difficulty from te beginning. I honestly was scared to try laid back position because of how he bobs his head! But after trying many positions with inconsistent success, I tried it again! I’m so glad I did, and I see right away it is the best for little one and me. Thank you!
These videos helped me a lot too. https://youtu.be/3pDRJ-29EGQ
That’s so great! Breastfeeding is definitely a trial and error activity. Congratulations on your little one! <3
I have a 1 week old baby. I’m trying the laid back breast feeding. And I realize that I was not doing it correctly.
I’m sitting up straight, helping ny baby latch and then try sitting back in a reclined position. She is latching great onto the right breast but my left one – ouch!! Can i still practice the “breast-crawl” for her to latch on her own?
YES! I don’t think it’s too late to do that at all.
I came across this on Pinterest last night and I started using this position right away. I have a 10 day old baby and my nipples were hurting so bad I wanted to quit nursing and I cried many times as she nursed. Well, after using this position just a few times, I have to say that I think it’ll work!!! It does not hurt nearly as badly and I can let her nurse for longer periods of time. Thank you so much for this HELPFUL tip!
Your comment made my heart happy! I’m so glad it’s working for you. You’re in the thick of it Tara. Hang in there and I can *almost* guarantee you it will get better. And soon. Congrats on that beautiful blessing. <3
If I could hug you right now, I would! LOL
I’d hug you right back. Come back here and update me in a week or two, please! ?
I have been having lots of problems with ‘a shallow latch’ despite trying many different breastfeeding positions including variations on laid back nurturing / breastfeeding. It seems that whatever position and style of breastfeeding I try I always end up with blanched nipples. Any ideas on how to fix this would be amazing. No one I have bee tk see so far has been able to help. I don’t have circulation problems so don’t think it could be reynards
Hi K! I haven’t had your exact experience but my go-to resource was Kellymom.com. Maybe this will help!
Do you have any tips on how to get the baby to open his mouth wide to get a deeper latch? My son has had a lip tie release but he still has a shallow latch and clicking/slipping off the breast and I’m getting sore nipples 5 weeks down the track.
Have you tried pulling him down a bit so that the nipple is at nose height, and he has to tip his chin up in order to latch? That’s how I was taught. It forces baby to open wider. Keep trying – you’ve got this! If in doubt, look up your local lactation consultant or La Leche League – they should be able to help!
My husband found this position after trying for weeks to master the cross cradle position. It saved my sanity and kept mebteastfeeding for a year. I’m now a breast feeding peer supporter in a hospital and I ensure I include this in my discussion about feeding positions.
I gradually moved to her feeding whilst sitting up – looked like we were just gaving a lovely cuddle ?
That’s awesome!! I’m so glad you found this position right when you needed it. <3