Sunday, December 27, 2009

Laid Back Breastfeeding

bbbbbbbbbbbCopyright © Sierra Lactation

Three years ago, just after the birth of my oldest son, I was nursing him in my rocking chair with my Boppy pillow on my lap. My mother, an experienced breastfeeding mother of 4 children, was sitting beside me. I remember rhetorically asking her "how did you breastfeed before the Boppy pillow was invented?" Women, of course, have been breastfeeding well before the invention of nursing pillows such as the Boppy and My Brest Friend. I, however, was so reliant on this new invention that I could not fathom nursing without it at that early point in my nursing career.

Since then, I have become a Certified Lactation Counselor and I am well aware that many lactation counselors and lactation consultants abhor the Boppy. They claim that it sags in the middle and fails to provide the proper support that the Brest Friend provides if using the oft-recommended cross-cradle hold. I, however, found that the Boppy gave my arms the support they needed while holding my son in a traditional cradle hold.

Cradle hold bbbbbbbbbbbbbb Cross-cradle hold

Copyright U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health

This entire story would sound absurd to anyone who was not born in this generation. Calling breastfeeding positions by names that sound like they would be better used on the playing field, using pillows specially designed for nursing, professionals who are certified in helping women breastfeed! This all would sound ludicrous to a prior generation of mothers. However, these were all developed after a few decades during which breastfeeding fell out of favor for many reasons including the heavy marketing of infant formula. Did we forget how to breastfeed? Groups such as La Leche league were formed to provide the necessary social support, training programs for lactation professionals followed suite, and researchers got to work.

The result is a textbook approach to what should be a very natural event: Sit up straight, hold your baby "belly to belly", hold your breasts if necessary "using a C-hold", encourage your baby to open his mouth wide enough and off-center enough to latch onto a sufficient amount of areola ("more from the bottom than the top"), encourage the baby from their shoulders not their head, allowing the head to fall back slightly to encourage a wide gape. Then you observe the baby's lips, mouth and cheek, observe his affect, watch and listen for swallowing, notice any pain (there shouldn't be), notice the shape of your nipple upon detaching, feel if your breasts became softer, and watch the baby for signs of satiety and number of wet/dirty diapers. That is a lot to remember for a woman who just went through labor!

Breastfeeding has become more like science than like mothering.

And while all of this may have helped countless women breastfeed successfully, I was sure there was a better way... and then I discovered Dr. Suzanne Colson.

Dr. Suzanne Colson has coined the term "biological nurturing," a non-prescriptive recipe for breastfeeding. This is also known as laid back breastfeeding. I love the double entendre.

Now, it does seem rather odd that we are in 2009 and we are still coming up with new breastfeeding positions, but bear with me, you'll like this one. This position is so easy to learn that I think all pregnant women should see a picture of it before their baby is born, and try it out in the delivery room right away! I think it will prevent many of the breastfeeding problems that we currently see, such as nipple pain, poor latch, poor weight gain, and fussiness at the breast. Dr. Colson finds that this position elicits innate feeding behaviors, wide mouths, relaxed hands, and even maternal stroking.

I highly encourage you to look at her website, this article, and this leaflet. I will also describe it here:

Instead of sitting upright, lean back supported in a reclining chair or bed and use your body to support the baby in any position you like. That's it. The baby can be parallel to your body, perpendicular, or anything in between. One arm can support the baby in any way that feels comfortable. Most babies will start to cuddle and mold into your body, then open wide and latch on.

After learning about this position from a colleague and Dr. Colson's DVD, I taught the position to patients and have recommended it to women having breastfeeding difficulties, all with good results. But I had not yet used it on my own until now.

I am now nursing my second child, who is 8 weeks old, and I am so grateful for this position. I do not use it exclusively because it is not always practical, but I try to use it whenever I can be in a comfortable chair and I use it exclusively at night because it allows me and my baby to practically sleep through a nursing and still have a great feeding. When I do use it, I am in awe at the comfort of it, the amount of swallowing I hear, the reduced length of feeding time, and the use of neck muscles in my baby (Does this count as tummy time?!). I even think that he spits up less after being fed in this position.

I highly encourage you to read more about at Dr. Colson's site, as this is her research not mine.

Update Feb 21, 2010: Pictures to come soon!


  1. Hey, welcome back! And congratulations on your little one :-)

    Out of mere survival, I have done these positions myself. Once, my son would not nurse in a regular side-lying position, but when I placed him in the opposite direction (feet toward my head), he did just fine. I guess he was bored, lol!

    This post was timely. Happy new year!

  2. Thanks Renata! And congrats on your little one too! I am not sure we are talking about the same position (I guess I should post some pictures) but I have heard that your "upside down position" that you are referring to is good for clogged milk ducts on the upper half of the breast.

  3. Hello
    Just read your post on biological nurturing - it's great.

    As a fellow blogger, I thought you would like to know that the 'article' and 'leaflet' links don't work because 'biological' is misspelt.
    Cheers, Julieanne Hensby, Lactation Consultant, IBCLC

  4. congrats!
    I also have a baby, i can nursing him withought a pillow. i think this is unnecessary. perhap if having a boppy pillow, the nursing came easier for new mommy

  5. Thank you for suggesting a nursing pillow! I had a baby and he did not need any pillow. However, my husband took a new nursing pillow after the birth of second son. And this is really helpful! It reduces the risk and gives a comfortable surface for the baby!

  6. I think, this is a good way for Breastfeeding nowadays. My wife is pregnant and I will surely for one for her! This will really help her to feed the kid. What is the price of the best Breastfeeding pillow?