You've gone through pregnancy, labor, and delivery — and you're exhausted. No matter how you delivered your baby, you're bound to experience some pain in various places, and may even find it hard to sit upright. Most of your healing process, at least in those initial days and weeks after delivery, will most likely be done in your bed or on a couch. While you're presumably horizontal and on the mend, you may even consider having your baby nurse while you lay on your back. So is it safe to breastfeed on your back?
"It's perfectly safe to breastfeed your baby on your back," Kendra Tolbert, a certified lactation consultant that runs the blog Live Fertile, tells Romper. "In some cases, it's actually ideal." Laid-back breastfeeding or biological nurturing, as it's often called, has gained popularity in the mainstream mom world recently. It's a method of nursing touted by midwifes and lactation consultants as a new approach to breastfeeding that aims to reduce latching problems and early unintended breastfeeding cessation, according to the website, Midwifery Today. There are several positions that can be tried, all of which have the mother lying comfortably on her back to breastfeed.
"Laid-back breastfeeding positions allows the baby to take the breast deeply into their mouth, especially during the first few weeks," Ileana Berrios, a certified lactation consultant with Maternity Care Coalition in Philadelphia tells Romper. She said the reason it's safe is because in the laid back positions, gravity is actually favoring the baby, rather than working against the baby. Berrios explained that the position is safe as long as the mom is alert and not under the influence of medications that make her drowsy. Laid-back positions can be really helpful for two sets of mamas: moms who've had C-sections and those with a heavy flow of milk, although anyone can try the positions.
"Laid-back positions are practical for women after a C-section; making feeding more comfortable and less painful than the traditional positions," Berrios says. As a mother myself who had two C-sections I can see how lying down to breast feed would've really helped me nurse, seeing that my abdomen was in such excruciating pain after delivery. For several reasons — pain and otherwise — I abandoned breastfeeding quite early and chose to feed my babies with formula. With laid-back breastfeeding becoming more mainstream, I'd like to think new moms in similar circumstances might find a chance to breastfeed longer if they'd like to.
The other way laid-back breastfeeding can help in the nursing process is in cases of fast flowing breast milk and as mentioned above, the related gravity issues that accompany it. "In the case where mama's milk is really flowing, sometimes referred to as an oversupply of breast milk, and baby is having trouble keeping up with the flow, lying on your back allows the baby to turn her head away more easily, if necessary," Tolbert says. "Plus, since gravity is no longer exerting any force on the flow of milk, the milk won't come rushing down as quickly." You can alleviate gravity problems for you and your baby with several variations of laid-back breastfeeding positions.
The four main positions for laid-back breastfeeding as shown on the Breastfeeding USA website include: below your breasts (with baby on abdomen), across your breasts, supported at side, and over the shoulder. As explained on the site, there are many ways to customize each position to best suit you and your baby, and sometimes it will take a little trial and error to find the most comfortable one.
With anything breastfeeding related, if you're having trouble you can always contact a certified lactation consultant to help you. If you're committed to trying laid-back breastfeeding, just make sure the consultant that assists you has experience with the method.