Feeding the baby in sleeping position
How to Effectively and Comfortably Do It
Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors
Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 02, 2021
In this Article
- How to Breastfeed While Lying Down
- Why Breastfeed While Lying Down?
- Is Breastfeeding While Lying Down Safe?
Breastfeeding often means staying in one position for an extended period of time, multiple times each day and night. Fortunately, some breastfeeding positions allow the mother (or person breastfeeding) to lay down and effectively feed a baby. Not only are these reclining positions potentially more comfortable for the mother, but they can also provide some benefits in other situations, too.
How to Breastfeed While Lying Down
The key to breastfeeding while lying down is finding a position that is comfortable and safe for both you and the baby. Here are two common positions you can use for breastfeeding while lying down:
Laid-Back Breastfeeding. In this position, the mother leans back on a couch or bed to nurse her baby. It is best to not lay all the way flat, but prop yourself up partially with some pillows. Make sure that your head and your back are fully supported so that you can completely relax for the feeding session. Baby can lay across your chest, or lengthwise down your torso. There are plenty of benefits to this position including:
- Baby can achieve a deep latch on the breast
- Relaxing for mother
- Can be used on all sizes of babies
- Can be used while feeding twins
- Gravity can help slow the flow of milk if it is too fast for your baby
Side-lying breastfeeding. This position is when a mother lies on her side next to her baby and nurses. It is easiest to do in bed, on the floor, or a large couch. Keep your head and back in a straight line, and put your head on a pillow or your arm. You may need to lift your breast or nipple to your baby's mouth. Sometimes, it's more comfortable to bend your knees, or even put a pillow between them.
Benefits of side-lying breastfeeding include:
- Easily used in bed
- Allows mother's body to rest
- Avoids pressure on C-Section stitches or other painful areas during recovery
- Can be helpful for mothers with large breasts
Why Breastfeed While Lying Down?
After having a baby, breastfeeding lying down can be helpful for many reasons, including:
Recovery. If a mother is recovering from a C-Section, an episiotomy, or vaginal birth, sitting up for an extended period may be uncomfortable or painful. Nursing while lying down may help to avoid pain while recovering from birth.
Comfort. Supporting the weight of a nursing baby can be hard on a mother's shoulders, arms, and back. For some women, nursing in a reclining or lying-down position eases the strain on her upper body.
Sleep. Falling asleep while breastfeeding can be very dangerous for an infant. However, many mothers who co-sleep (defined as baby sleeping in the same room, on a separate and safe sleep surface) find that night feeds are easier while laying down.
Clogged ducts. It is not uncommon for a breastfeeding woman to experience a clogged milk duct in her breast. Nursing in different positions can help a clog pass, including nursing lying down.
Is Breastfeeding While Lying Down Safe?
Yes, when done correctly, breastfeeding while lying down is perfectly safe. Follow these tips to make sure your baby is comfortable and safe:
- Practice during the day before trying to use it at night
- Ensure that your space is free from excess pillows and bedding
- Do not fall asleep while nursing in a lying-down position
- Always pay attention to your baby
- Always use safe sleep practices for your baby
Side-lying or laid-back nursing can be dangerous if a mother falls asleep; if a baby falls or is smothered by bedding, clothing, or a mother's body, it can be extremely dangerous. But when done correctly, breastfeeding while lying down can be relaxing for both mother and baby.
Ultimately, learning how to utilize a variety of positions for breastfeeding can be very helpful for both mother and baby. Being able to adjust to different situations and locations can make breastfeeding easier and less stressful for both of you. If you have questions or need breastfeeding support, consider reaching out to a lactation consultant or speak to your doctor.
How and When to Do It
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.
Various breastfeeding positions
Try different breastfeeding positions to find the one that works best for you and your baby. You can see the options in our selection of photos
Share this information
There is no right or wrong way to hold the baby while
feeding, and mom and baby are sure to find their favorite position.
It is important that both you and your child feel comfortable. 1.2 It's good to learn a few different breastfeeding positions and techniques because life's circumstances often require us to be flexible, especially as your baby gets older and you start to leave the house more often.
Whatever position you choose to breastfeed your baby, remember a few simple rules.
- Prepare everything you need before feeding, including drinks, food, mobile phone, TV remote control, book or magazine. And do not forget to go to the toilet - the feeding process can take a long time!
- Make sure your baby is comfortable. Whichever position you choose, it's important to keep your baby strong, level, and provide good support for their head, neck, and spine.
- You should also be comfortable. Don't stress. If necessary, use pillows of different sizes or rolls of towels to support your back or arms.
- Make sure your baby is latching on correctly. Proper grip is the key to comfort when breastfeeding.
- If your baby does not latch on well or you experience pain while feeding, contact a lactation consultant for help. The specialist will also be able to show you how to hold your baby more comfortably.
1. Relaxed feeding or reclining position
The relaxed feeding position, also known as biological feeding, 1 is often the first position for most mothers. If, immediately after birth, the baby is placed on the mother’s chest or stomach, normally, he instinctively reaches for the breast and tries to grab the nipple. This phenomenon is known as the breast seeking reflex. Skin-to-skin contact stimulates the infant's feeding instinct, and gravity helps him to latch onto the breast and maintain balance.
But it's not just newborns that can be fed in the reclining position - this position is great for babies of all ages. It can be especially helpful if your baby does not latch well in other positions or does not like to be touched during feeding, and also if you have too much milk flow or too large breasts. Isabelle, a mother from the UK, shares her experience: “I had large breasts, and the baby was born small - 2.7 kg, so it was not easy to find a comfortable position at first. After a few weeks, it became clear that there was no “correct” posture for me. As a result, I most often fed lying down, putting the baby on my chest. ”
It is more convenient to feed not lying flat on your back, but half-sitting, leaning on pillows. So you will have a back support and you will be able to watch the baby during feeding.
2. Cradle position
This is the classic
first thought of breastfeeding. Mom sits straight
, and the baby lies on her side on her arm, pressing his stomach against her stomach. 3 Although this is a very popular position, it is not always easy to master with newborns because it gives the baby less support. Try putting a pillow under your back, and put a special breastfeeding pillow on your knees and lean on it with your hands. So you can more reliably support the child, without overstraining your back and shoulders. Just make sure that the baby does not lie too high on the pillow for feeding. The breast should remain at a natural level so that the baby can grab it without effort, otherwise sore nipples cannot be avoided.
“I breastfed in the cradle position because it suited me perfectly! It was comfortable and I loved just sitting and looking at my little one,” recalls Rachel, a mother of two from Italy.
3. Cross Cradle
This breastfeeding position looks almost the same as Cradle, but the baby is on the other arm. 3 This gives your baby support around the neck and shoulders so he can tilt his head to latch on. This position is great for breastfeeding newborns and small babies, as well as for babies who do not latch well. Since the baby lies completely on the other hand, it becomes easier to control his position and you can adjust the chest with your free hand.
Julie, a UK mother of two, finds this position very practical: “I usually breastfeed my youngest in the cross cradle position. So I have a free second hand, and I can take care of an older baby at the same time. ”
Do not hold the baby's head at first, otherwise you may inadvertently press his chin against his chest. Because of this, the child will not be able to take the breast deeply, because the nipple will rest against the base of the tongue, and not against the palate, which will lead to inflammation of the nipples. As the child grows, this position becomes more comfortable, and he can rest his head on your palm (as shown in the photo above).
4. Underarm breastfeeding
In this position, also known as the “ball grip”, the mother sits with the baby lying along her arm at the side, legs towards the back of the chair (or any other seat). 3 Another comfortable position for newborn breastfeeding, you can give your baby good support, full control of his position and a good view of his face. And the baby feels safe in close contact with the mother's body. This position is especially good for those who have had a caesarean section or a premature birth, as well as mothers of twins and women with large breasts.
“When I breastfed my first daughter, I had very large K-sized breasts—twice the size of her head,” recalls Amy, an Australian mother of two. - I put rolls of towels under each breast, because they were very heavy, and fed my daughter in a pose from under the arm, but only sitting straighter so as not to crush her. This position was also convenient because I had a caesarean section and could not put the baby on my stomach.”
5. Side-lying position
The side-lying position is ideal for a relaxed
nighttime feeding in bed or on the couch. If you had a
caesarean section or ruptures during childbirth, this position may be more comfortable than sitting down. 3 In this position, mother and baby lie side by side, tummy to tummy.
“It was difficult for me to sit during endless night feedings, firstly because of the caesarean section, and secondly because of lack of sleep,” recalls Francesca, a mother from the UK. “And then I discovered that you can feed your baby lying on your side and rest at the same time.”
“Because of the short tongue frenulum, Maisie could only properly latch on to her breasts while lying on her side. The lactation consultant showed me how it's done. In this position, the flow of milk was optimal for my daughter, and it was easier for her to keep the nipple in her mouth. As she got older, she became much better at grabbing her breasts in normal positions,” says Sarah, mother of two from Australia.
6. Relaxed breastfeeding after caesarean section
If you can't find a comfortable position for breastfeeding after caesarean section, 3 try holding the baby on your shoulder in a reclining position – this does not stress the postoperative suture and allows you to breastfeed your baby comfortably. You can also try side feeding.
7. Sitting upright breastfeeding or “koala pose”
When breastfeeding in an upright position or “koala pose”, the baby sits with a straight back and a raised head on the mother's hip. 4 This position can be tried even with a newborn if it is well supported, but it is especially convenient for feeding a grown child who can already sit up by himself. The upright sitting position, or “koala pose,” is great for toddlers who suffer from reflux or ear infections and feel better sitting. In addition, this pose may be suitable for children with a shortened frenulum of the tongue or reduced muscle tone.
“When my daughter got a little older, I would often feed her in an upright position, which was more comfortable for both of us, and I could still hold her close,” recalls Peggy, a mother from Switzerland. “Besides, it was possible to discreetly breastfeed her in public places.”
8. Overhanging position
In this position, the baby lies on his back, and the mother bends over him
on all fours so that the nipple falls directly into his mouth. 4 Some moms say this breastfeeding position is good to use occasionally for mastitis, when touching the breasts is especially unpleasant. Some say that this breastfeeding position helps with blockage of the milk ducts, although there is no scientific evidence for this yet. You can also feed in the “overhanging” position while sitting, kneeling over the baby on a bed or sofa, as well as reclining on your stomach with support on your elbows. Pillows of various sizes that you can lean on will help you avoid back and shoulder strain.
“I have breastfed several times in the 'overhang' position for clogged milk ducts when no other means of dissolving the blockage worked. And this pose seems to have helped. I think it's because of gravity, and also because the breasts were at a completely different angle than with normal feeding, and my daughter sucked her differently, ”says Ellie, a mother of two from the UK.
Feeding in the "overhanging" position is unlikely to be practiced regularly, but in some cases this position may be useful.
“I used to breastfeed in the overhang position when my baby was having trouble latch-on,” says Lorna, mother of two in the UK. - This, of course, is not the most convenient way, but then I was ready for anything, if only he could capture the chest. We succeeded and have been breastfeeding for eight months now!”
9. Breastfeeding in a sling or in a sling
Breastfeeding in a sling takes some practice, but it can be used to go out, look after older children, or even do a little household chores.
The sling is also useful if the baby does not like to lie down or is often attached to the breast. Lindsey, a mother of two in the US, notes: “I used the carrier frequently for both of my children. When we were out, I tied the sarong around my neck and covered the carrier with it. Under such a cape, the baby can eat as much as he wants until he falls asleep.
This breastfeeding position is best when the baby is already good at breastfeeding and can hold his head up by himself. Any slings are suitable for breastfeeding, including elastic and rings, as well as carrying bags. Whatever option you choose, the main thing is that you can always see the face of the child, and his chin does not rest against his chest.
10. Double hand-held breastfeeding
Double hand-held breastfeeding (or “double-ball grab”) is great for mothers of twins—you can breastfeed both at the same time and keep your arms relatively free. 4 When feeding in this position, it is advisable to use a special pillow for breastfeeding twins, especially at first. It will provide extra support and help keep both babies in the correct position, as well as reduce the burden on the abdomen if you had a caesarean section. In addition, the hands are freer, and if necessary, you can deal with one child without interfering with the second.
“My twins were born very tiny and had to be fed every two hours at any time of the day or night. Very soon it became clear: if I want to do anything besides feeding, I need to feed them both at the same time, - says Emma, mother of two children from the UK. “I breastfed them two by hand using a breastfeeding pillow.”
Other good positions for breastfeeding twins are two criss-cross cradles, one baby in the cradle and the other close at hand, reclining feeding, or sitting upright (one baby on one side, the other on the other).
11. Breastfeeding in the "hand-supported" or "dancer's hand" position
muscle tone (which is typical for premature babies, children suffering from various diseases or Down syndrome), try supporting his head and your chest at the same time. 4 Grasp your chest with your palm underneath so that your thumb is on one side and all the others are on the other. Move your hand slightly forward so that your thumb and forefinger form a "U" just in front of your chest. With the other three fingers, continue to support the chest. With your thumb and forefinger, hold the baby's head while feeding so that his chin rests on the part of the palm between them, your thumb gently holds the baby on one cheek, and your index finger on the other. So the baby gets excellent support, and you can control his position and see if he is holding his breast.
1 Colson SD et al. Optimal positions for the release of primitive neonatal reflexes stimulating breastfeeding. Early Hum Dev . 2008;84(7):441-449. - Colson S.D. et al., "Optimal Positions for Provoking Primitive Innate Reflexes to Induce Breastfeeding." Early Hume Dev. 2008;84(7):441-449.
2 UNICEF UK BFHI [ Internet ]. Off to the best start ; 2015 [ cited 2018 Feb ]. - UNICEF UK, Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, Start the Best You Can [Internet]. 2015 [cited February 2018].
3 Cadwell K. Latching - On and Suckling of the Healthy Term Neonate: Breastfeeding Assessment. J Midwifery & Women's Health. 2007;52(6):638-642. — Cadwell, K., "Latching and sucking in healthy newborns: evaluation of breastfeeding." F Midwifery Women Health. 2007;52(6):638-642.
4 Wambach K, Riordan J, editors. Breastfeeding and human lactation. Jones & Bartlett Learning ; 2014. 966 p . - Wambach K., Riordan J., "Breastfeeding and female lactation". Burlington, MA: Publishing House Jones & Bartlett Learning ; 2014. Pp. 966.
How to apply the baby while breastfeeding
First of all, you need to correctly position the baby at the chest. Take him in your arms so that he is turned to his mother with his whole body, the child's face should be close to the chest, his mouth is wide open. In case of an incorrect position, the baby's body is deviated from the mother's, the chin does not touch the chest, the lips are extended forward. This is an important point, because if the baby starts sucking the breast incorrectly, he will not receive enough milk, the baby will begin to throw and grab the breast again, and sometimes even refuse it.
Now you need to correctly insert the breast into the baby's mouth. In general, every healthy newborn has reflexes that help him eat. But the baby does not have a reflex that would help him keep his mother's breast in his mouth, and the baby cannot properly grasp the nipple himself. Therefore, the child needs help - put the breast into the crumbs' mouth so that it captures not only the nipple, but also the areola. If the baby grabs only the nipple, then the pressure on the ducts of the mammary gland will be weak and the milk will flow poorly from the breast. In addition, if a child suckles only the nipple, his skin is often damaged and cracks appear on the nipple. Sometimes, in order to give a breast to a child, a mother pinches the nipple and areola with her fingers and tries to push them into the baby's mouth. You don’t need to do this, it’s much easier to just touch the nipple to the baby’s lips (stimulate the capture reflex), wait until the baby opens her mouth wide, and quickly give him the breast.
Immediately after delivery, especially if there was a caesarean section or an episiotomy (or just want to lie down), you can feed the baby lying on its side . You lie in bed, put the baby next to you, bend your lower arm at the elbow, and support the back of the child with your upper palm. The baby should lie on the bed parallel to your body, his mouth should be at the same level and very close to your nipple.
The second easiest position for feeding - sitting position . To do this, take the baby in your arms, bend your arm at the elbow from the side of the breast with which you will feed the baby. At the same time, the baby's head lies on a bent arm. To make it more convenient for you, put a pillow under your elbow (regular or special for feeding), you can also put something under your legs.
We have mastered simple poses - now you can try to feed the baby from other positions, for example, in position "jack" : mother and baby lie on their side parallel to each other, but now their legs and head are looking in different directions. There is also such a position - "chest on top" : the baby lies on its side, and the mother seems to hang over him. In this position, it is easier for milk to go down the ducts, and it is easier for the child to get it. To make everyone comfortable, the baby should be put on some kind of elevation (for example, on a pillow).
Prevention of lactostasis
Laxtostasis, or stagnation of milk, is a very unpleasant thing. It occurs when any lobule of the mammary gland is not emptied of milk to the end. To prevent it or if it has already occurred, you need to feed the baby from under of the arm (from under the arm). In general, if you feed in this position at least once a day, then the lower and lateral lobes of the breast (the most frequent places of lactostasis) will be better emptied.
In this position, you put the baby on the pillow, the baby's head is located at your chest, and the body and legs are behind you (facing towards your armpit). Here's the important thing: the baby's mouth should be at the level of the nipple, then your back will not get tired during feeding.
The child likes it
If your milk flows out too quickly and the baby does not have time to swallow it, then you can feed the baby in position "baby on top" . You lie on your back (with your head on the pillow), and the baby is applied from above. Grown up children still love this pose because it is more convenient for them to observe the world around them “from above”.
The second favorite position of older children is that the baby sits or stands while feeding . Children like that they can eat and look at their mother, and at any time they can kiss the breast on their own.
So learn how to properly breastfeed your baby, master different positions, and then you can feed for a long time and with pleasure!
When the baby suckles the breast incorrectly, the skin in some areas of the nipple is constantly irritated and rubbed, cracks appear. With each feeding, the condition worsens, the cracks become deeper and longer, and the pain intensifies.
Insert the breast into the baby's mouth so that the baby captures not only the nipple, but also the areola. If the baby grabs only the nipple, then the pressure on the ducts of the mammary gland will be weak and the milk will flow poorly from the breast.