Can I nurse lying down with my baby?

Although breastfeeding manuals often focus on sitting-upright positions (e.g., cradle, cross-cradle, football), many women do breastfeed while lying down. Here are some breastfeeding positions to try:

  • Side-lying. This lying down position is very similar to the common cradle hold, except that the mother and baby are both lying on their sides facing each other. This position may be easier for women who have had a cesarean delivery, those who choose to bedshare with their babies, or those who wish to nurse their babies to sleep. Make sure your body is well-supported by pillows. You will want to put them under your head, behind your back, under your top leg, and behind your baby. Position your baby on his side, so that his mouth is opposite your breast. This position may be more difficult with a newborn who is still learning to latch well, but it should get easier as your baby grows, and as you both learn to breastfeed.
  • Semi-reclined. A semi-reclined approach called “biological nurturing” (or BN) encourages mothers to adopt a less defined and more relaxed posture during breastfeeding. BN seeks to maintain touch and eye contact between a mother and her baby and achieve optimum comfort. It is a flexible approach, often begun immediately after birth. Make sure your body and arms are well-supported by pillows. Then, place your baby “tummy to mummy” on your body. Most babies will lie vertically rather than across their mother’s midriff, but you are encouraged to experiment with whatever position feels the most comfortable. Once you place your baby skin to skin, he will likely nuzzle in and mold himself to your body. Keep in mind that this is not a lying flat position, which would pose challenges for establishing eye contact with your baby and may cause neck strain, sore shoulders, or other physical problems. Instead, position yourself at a 25-degree (or more) angle for optimal comfort.

Check your baby’s latch 

Hold your baby close and snug. To ensure that breastfeeding is pain-free and effective, make sure your baby’s head, shoulders, knees, and chest face your breast. Think about how you face the table to eat your meals, and position your baby in the same way. 

Depending on your breast size and shape, you may need to support and shape your breast. Make sure you place your thumb and fingers outside the darker part of the breast (areola), away from the nipple. Gently compress or shape the breast so that your baby can latch on well. 

An effective latch requires a wide open mouth. Tickle your baby’s nose with your nipple. As soon as he opens his mouth wide (like a yawn), place him gently on your breast, leading with his chin and lower lip. His chin should press firmly into your breast and his mouth should be full of breast. His nose and cheeks may lightly touch the breast. Your baby’s mouth should be open wide, and his lips should curl out. This will ensure that he has a good, deep latch. 

For more on breastfeeding positions, review this slideshow.

Last updated May 20, 2020

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