You see your baby smacking their lips and sticking out their tongue, and you know it’s time to feed them. But you’re feeling groggy, exhausted, and physically weak. How are you possibly going to get through another feeding?
Breastfeeding your baby every 2 to 3 hours is hard work! You deserve a break, and breastfeeding while lying on your side can help you relax. You can rest while also bonding with and feeding your baby.
Sound too good to be true? It’s not! Breastfeeding on your side is considered one of the most popular breastfeeding positions. It just might be worth a try.
One of the best parts of side lying breastfeeding is having the opportunity to rest your body while feeding your baby. Allow us to walk you through some simple steps to make it a comfy experience for both you and your baby:
- Place your baby on their back in the middle of the floor or on a large bed. If you’re on a bed, remember to keep loose sheets, blankets, and pillows away from baby’s face to minimize risk.
- Lie down next to your baby, with your stomach lined up near baby’s head. You can use a pillow under your head, just make sure that it’s in a place that your little one can’t reach it! (You can also use a pillow as back support or between your legs if that will make you more comfortable lying on your side.)
- Slide your little one up so their nose is level with your nipple and your arm is above their head. Or cradle baby with their back along your forearm. (But don’t rest baby’s head on your upper arm.)
- Roll your baby onto their side pulling their hips or knees close to your hips. (Your spine and your baby’s spine may form a “V” shape.) You can put a rolled blanket or pillow behind baby’s back to support them and prevent them from rolling away from you. Encourage baby’s nose to make contact with your nipple, but do not squash their face into your breast!
- Try to position baby so their ear, shoulder, and hip are in one line. This will help them get milk more easily.
- If needed, use the arm not resting on the bed to shape your breast and guide it into your baby’s mouth. However, many babies (especially older babies) will naturally latch on their own.
You may find that it is most comfortable to roll yourself and your baby to the other side to drain the second breast. If this is the case, you’ll want to follow the same latching routine described above, facing the opposite direction.
Some breastfeeding parents find that once the lower breast is empty, they can simply lean forward and feed their baby off their full top breast. If you choose to do this, make sure to completely drain the lower breast first.
Occasionally women will find that their breasts don’t drain fully or evenly after feeding in the side-lying position. Excess milk in your breasts can lead to engorgement, plugged ducts, mastitis, or a decrease in milk supply, so you’ll want to keep a lookout for this!
If your breasts aren’t fully draining, you should consider sitting up to finish the feed or expressing some milk to make sure that your breasts are appropriately drained.
If you’re feeling tired, side lying breastfeeding is a great option to help you and baby get a little more rest. But remember: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) still recommends that you and your baby return to separate sleep surfaces after the feeding is done.
Side lying breastfeeding may also be a good position if you had a cesarean delivery. Being able to lie down and not have the baby put weight on your scar is certainly appealing as you heal.
You might choose to use side lying breastfeeding to feed your baby during your recovery period. If you gave birth at a hospital, the hospital bed rails can help you feel confident that your little one won’t roll backwards during the feeding, which is an added bonus!
If you have oversupply or a forceful letdown, side lying breastfeeding can help your baby manage the flow of milk. When you lie on your side, gravity has less effect on your milk letdown, and your baby can more easily let extra milk dribble out of the corners of their mouth.
If you have larger breasts and struggle to help your baby find the right position, side lying breastfeeding can make it easier for baby latch.
Figuring out the picture-perfect latch can take a while! No one position is guaranteed to bring success for you and your little one, but side lying breastfeeding may be worth a try if you’re struggling with other positions.
Remember that with any breastfeeding position, your baby’s latch shouldn’t hurt. If your nipple is being pinched, put your finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth to break the seal. Then you can try to help your baby latch back on with a wider mouth.
Your newborn may seem so tiny and fragile that you’re wondering if it’s really OK to feed them while lying on your side. If you take the proper safety precautions, side lying breastfeeding can be done as early as the very first feed.
If your little one is very tiny, you may need to give them extra support. Use pillows or blanket around their bottom and lower back to support the proper feeding position. Just make sure to keep pillows away from their head and face!
Be sure to stay awake while feeding your newborn. Due to the higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) when bed sharing, you’ll want to make sure that if they fall asleep, your newborn is placed in a separate, safe sleeping environment.
If you’re a new parent, chances are high that you’re feeling pretty tired! Breastfeeding while lying down can be an amazing opportunity to rest your body and feed your baby at the same time.
Remember, if you’re having problems with breastfeeding or feeling pain when your baby latches, don’t hesitate to reach out to a lactation consultant. They can help you and your little one master new positions and troubleshoot problems so your breastfeeding relationship is successful.