Restful Breastfeeding and Nursing – Side-Lying Breastfeeding Position
Getting comfortable in restful breastfeeding positions is one of the most essential skills new parents can start to integrate into their breastfeeding journey in order to get through those frequent night feedings and optimize rest during the daytime hours.
It can take some practice to feel more instinctive, and it will also become easier as your baby gradually gains greater head control to help with positioning.
To get into the side-lying breastfeeding position, here is an overview of the steps:
1. Get comfortable:
Find a comfortable spot on your bed. Lie on your side with the breast you are going to feed from closest to the bed. So you would lie down on your right side of you are going to offer your right breast. Adjust your pillows under your head, behind your back and between your legs for support.
(*Variation for larger breasts: If you have larger breasts, you may find it easier to feed from the breast furthest from the bed, the upper breast.
Your lower arm, near the bed, is under your pillow or your head, supporting your head. Your upper arm is free to help position your baby.
*Variation: Some mothers find it more comfortable to rest their head on a pillow and cradle their baby with their lower arm (arm nearest the bed). This way, your baby’s head rests on your arm above the elbow and your lower arm and hand can bring your baby in close or simply rest behind them.
2. Position your baby:
Bring your baby close to you, so your baby is on their side and you are tummy to tummy with your baby’s chin coming towards the underside of your breast, your nipple between their upper lip and nose in the sniff position. It is usually easiest to bring your baby closer by bringing their bum closer first. This naturally brings them into the chin first sniff position. You can place a rolled towel or receiving blanket behind their back to help them stay in their side while feeding (*do not place the towel or blanket behind the baby’s head, only below their shoulder blades/middle back or lower).
3. Latch your baby:
Help your baby to open their mouth wide by tickling their nose and upper lip with your nipple. You may need to lean back a little in order to bring your breast to the level of your baby’s mouth, a few centimeters/1-2 inches above the mattress level.
If you need to use a sandwich hold of your breast (C shape from the side in this position), you can do this one of two ways: (1) with your upper arm that is freer and use your less free lower arm to bring your baby quickly to the breast when they open their mouth wide for a deep latch; (2) use your lower arm to do the sandwich coming from above and use the upper freer arm to guide baby to the breast (this is especially useful for younger babies with less head control). Guide them from behind their ears or between their shoulder blades, not by their head. Pushing on the baby’s head will make them push back.
If you need to use nipple tilting to facilitate a deep latch, you can do this with either hand, whichever is more comfortable for you.
Once your baby is latched deeply, you can adjust your position to get more comfortable and adjust your baby’s position by bringing their bum in closer which will bring their chin in closer and their nose away from your breast.
5. Rest and enjoy:
Relax, rest, and enjoy this quiet time with your baby. When your baby is taking longer pauses between suckling and swallowing bursts, your can use breast compressions during suckling bursts to help them transfer more milk toward the end of the feeding. When your baby is finished on the first side, unlatch them by breaking the suction and switch sides by holding them on your chest between your breasts, roll onto your back while holding them with one hand and then roll onto your other side and place your baby on their side as you did with the first breast. You can also sit up to pick up your baby and place them on the other side if you are more comfortable this way.
You can burp your baby between breasts while holding them on your chest before rolling over to the second side. If your baby has not burped after 1-2 minutes, offer them the other breast.
When your baby is finished on the second side, remove the blanket or rolled towel from behind them, and place them on their back at breast level. You can offer them a chance to burp or put them to bed and burp them before the next feeding. If your baby sleeps in a separate bassinette or crib, return them to their bassinette. If you are exclusively breastfeeding and co-sleeping, be sure to follow La Leche League’s Safe Sleep 7 for safe co-sleeping.
Note: It’s important to make sure you are comfortable and you are well supported on your side to avoid any strain on your neck, back and hips. If you experience discomfort or pain while breastfeeding side-lying, unlatch your baby and readjust your position. This is meant to be a restful comfortable position. It may take a few tries to find the most comfortable combination.