The best breastfeeding positions for babies with reflux include gravity's help.
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The Best Breastfeeding Positions For Babies With Reflux

Gravity is your friend here.

by Cat Bowen
Originally Published: 

My son had the devil’s throat as a baby — also known as acid reflux. His was so bad that it would make him look like he was gasping for air. Doctors were confounded with its severity, especially because he was exclusively breastfed. For months we struggled, and it wasn’t until I learned how he needed to be held while he was breastfeeding, and after, that he started to improve. Certain breastfeeding positions for babies with reflux can make all the difference in their comfort.

But the thing about breastfeeding positions — especially breastfeeding positions for babies with reflux — is that they matter almost as much for the mom as they do the baby. If you can’t sustain that hold, you’re not going to do it. Many of these breastfeeding reflux positions are greatly eased with the help of a solid breastfeeding pillow. I know that they might seem like a frivolous purchase when you’re registering for your shower or strolling the beautiful lands of Target, but they’re a total lifesaver.

Thankfully, once you get comfortable, these breastfeeding positions for babies with reflux can really help you when you feel like you’re at your end, and trust me, I know what that’s like. Lactation consultants and feeding therapists have devised myriad solutions for these problems, and they’re more than willing to share. However, it’s important to get your baby seen by a pediatrician to determine if it is, in fact, reflux that is causing their discomfort and agitation before you do anything else.


Keep Your Baby’s Head Higher Than Their Belly

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Jocelyn Bermudez, international board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) and host of the breastfeeding podcast The Snarky Boob Queens, tells Romper, “When a baby is struggling with reflux, we recommend positions where the baby's head is higher than their belly.” This might be with an upright or “koala” hold, where the mother essentially holds the baby in a vertical position in relation to their nipple. (Baby wrap-style carriers can be a godsend for this.)

“The goal is to work with gravity to help aid in digestion,” she says. “Additionally, mothers should keep the baby upright after feedings, and burp when switching sides and at the end of the feeding.”


Position Your Baby Upright After Feeding, Too

Christine Miroddi, a feeding therapist and certified lactation supporter, cautions that parents should have their child evaluated before beginning therapeutic treatments. She notes that what you think may be reflux may actually be something else. But, if it is reflux, she echoes Bermudez’s recommendations. “There are several positions that allow the mom to hold baby upright,” Miroddi says, and you should try one of those.

But she also says, “A lot of remediation is also what happens after breastfeeding. That is just as important, if not more so.” These may take the form of burping, moving your baby, and baby positioning after feeding, according to the Seattle Children’s Hospital.


Football Hold

Andrea Tran, RN and IBCLC, tells Romper, “The football hold with baby in a sitting position is one of the best positions for reflux. This keeps the baby in a position where gravity helps keep the milk in the stomach.” This is where you hold the baby like you would a football, to the side, with their bottoms lower than their heads, with the assist of a pillow.

“Another good position is the straddle position for the same reason,” Tran says. The straddle position is similar to the koala, with a bit more assistance for the baby’s head.

Keeping baby’s head above their little body seems to be the universally accepted way of keeping reflux at bay, and that makes sense. Think of when you’ve had reflux (hello, third trimester!) — lying flat on your back after eating was torture, right? When you were slightly elevated, or sitting up, things were a lot more comfortable. The trick to feeding your baby with reflux is similar. Keep them upright, keep them burped, and hold them in that position for as long as necessary. And as ever, talk to your provider about your child’s discomfort.


Jocelyn Bermudez, IBCLC, host of The Snarky Boob Queens

Christine Miroddi MA CCC-SLP, CLSE, TSSLD

Andrea Tran, RN, IBCLC

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