3 Ways To Make Laid-Back Breastfeeding Work For You

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Does breastfeeding in a laid-back position not feel as comfortable and natural as people say it should? Here are three important adjustments you can try to make laid-back breastfeeding work for you.

Laid-back breastfeeding has a lot of benefits, including making it easier to get a deep latch, allowing you to relax and feed more comfortably, helping baby cope with a fast milk ejection reflex (a.k.a. letdown), and reducing the amount of gas and reflux baby experiences. It is perhaps one of the best feeding positions you could try…if you can make it work

What They Don't Tell You About Breastfeeding

This is what they don’t tell you in the hospital. Our FREE guide will give you 12 breastfeeding secrets that will help you avoid common problems down the road. 

For being so “natural,” laid-back breastfeeding sometimes doesn’t come very naturally. It might feel strange to be in a reclined position if you’re used to feeding upright. It might feel odd to abandon your nursing pillow. It might be frustrating that, in this position, you sort of give up the ability to actively latch baby onto your breast. And if your chest is on the small—or large—end of the spectrum, you might not be sure how to make this position work for you.

But fear not! There are actually some pretty simple and straightforward adjustments you can make to a laid-back breastfeeding position so that it’s comfortable and effective. Here’s what you can do:

(If you haven’t already read my post on how to get into a laid-back breastfeeding position, start there and come back to this post!)

3 Ways to Make Laid-Back Breastfeeding Work For You

Concept of “Adjust your body, Adjust your baby, Adjust your breast” credited to Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA. Read more from her at NancyMohrbacher.com.

Adjust Your Body

It might be the case that you’re not reclining back far enough (or you might be lying too far back). Remember, you want the angle that your back makes to be much less than 90 degrees—more like 15-65 degrees. Baby should be able to lie on your chest without sliding or rolling down your body, but you should not be lying so far back that your back is flat. 

Breastfeeding parent reclining but not far back enough
You might need to lie back farther than you think. This breastfeeding parent might feel like she is reclining, but this is still a pretty upright position.
When reclining, lie back at an angle of about 15-65 degrees. Not too upright, not too reclined.

Try adding more pillow support to your body to make yourself comfortable. Pillows behind your back and under your arms are helpful. Remember, your body (especially your arms) should be supported enough that you could relax all your muscles without feeling like baby would fall out of your arms if you did so. 

If you are reclining in a seat that doesn’t support your feet, try resting your feet on a footstool. Putting your feet up can help tilt your pelvis so that there is less pressure on your tailbone and perineum (which is always a good thing after a vaginal birth!)

Adjust Your Baby

Often in a laid-back position, baby is lying down the breastfeeding parent’s body. But if you just had a Cesarean birth, this might position baby’s feet up against your incision, which could be uncomfortable. Likewise, if you have larger or more pendulous breasts, laying baby down your body might make latching difficult. 

Make laid-back breastfeeding work for you by adjusting baby's body in relation to your own
You can place baby across your body in a laid-back position if this is more comfortable for you.

You can help fix this by instead laying baby across your body if that’s more comfortable for you both. Think of your nipple/areola like a clock. Baby’s mouth can approach your nipple from 9 to 3, or 12 to 6, or 8 to 2 and everything in between. So feel free to experiment with how baby is positioned in relation to your nipple. Baby might latch more comfortably onto your right breast at one angle, but his or her body many need to be positioned differently to get a comfortable latch on the opposite side. 

Lastly, make sure that baby has something firm to push his or her feet against. This might be your arm, the back of the couch, or a pillow. This gives baby more positional stability and prevents baby from feeling like his or her legs are precariously dangling off the side of you. 

Example of baby's feet supported by mother's arm
You can support baby’s feet with your arm, like in this photo, or with a pillow.

Adjust Your Breast

Sometimes babies can have trouble getting their mouths around the breast. This is actually really common!

You can help baby out by making a “breast sandwich.” To do this, you’ll compress the breast a bit, the same way you sort of squish down a sandwich that you’re trying to fit in your mouth. Your thumb and fingers will make a C shape around the breast behind the areola (the darker skin around the nipple), like so:

How to make a breast sandwich

When you make your “breast sandwich,” you want to make sure that you think of holding the breast like a hamburger, not a taco. In other words, you want your fingers to be placed such that they aren’t in the way of baby’s mouth as he or she puts it around the nipple. 

Another way tO MAKE LAID-BACK BREASTFEEDING WORK FOR YOU…

If latching baby on in a laid-back position just isn’t working for you despite making these adjustments, you can still nurse baby in a laid back position! You can do this by latching baby on in a different hold, such as football or cross-cradle, and then reclining once baby is on the breast. You will still use pillows to support your back and arms, and you will still want to be sure that baby is able to rest his or her feet against something for positional stability. 

Here is an example of how you might transition to a laid-back position after latching baby on in a football hold and a cradle hold:

“I tried it but it didn’t work”

Consider giving laid-back breastfeeding another try if it hasn’t worked when you’ve tried it in the past. There can be a bit of a learning curve with this position when it’s unfamiliar, but when it works, it works really well. Laid-back breastfeeding is an optimal position for stimulating baby’s innate feeding reflexes, and it can make long nursing sessions during growth spurts much more comfortable. 

If you find yourself wishing you took a breastfeeding class before baby arrived (or if the one you took wasn’t that helpful), be sure to take my Breastfeed With Confidence online course. It’s focused on preventing the most common breastfeeding issues and helping you (re)build and protect your milk supply. It’s perfect for new parents AND those with prior breastfeeding experience! Here’s what one of my students had to say after taking it: 

“I wish I would have had this class prior to my first child. I had numerous complications with breastfeeding my first baby, many of which I might have been able to prevent had I taken this course. I decided to take this course prior to having my second child, and was quite surprised how much more I learned, despite the numerous sessions with multiple lactation consultants I had with my first baby. Breastfeeding with my second child has been a much more enjoyable experience!”

-Christy E.

What They Don't Tell You About Breastfeeding

This is what they don’t tell you in the hospital. Our FREE guide will give you 12 breastfeeding secrets that will help you avoid common problems down the road. 

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out our digital library of helpful resources that quickly teach how to avoid common breastfeeding problems and give you the peace of mind and confidence you need to meet your breastfeeding goals.

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