The side-lying breastfeeding position is when you lie on your side and place your baby alongside you on their side. In this position, you face each other with your baby’s head at the level of your breast. Hence, it is also known as the reclining or lying down position.
Experts consider this position comfortable and safe for babies and mothers. You can try this technique when you find positioning or latching the baby difficult in other positions. Regardless of the feeding position you choose, remember to place the baby on their back in the crib for sleeping. For any breastfeeding-related issues, always consult a lactation professional besides doing research.
Read on as we offer insight into the benefits of side-lying breastfeeding and steps to ensure smooth breastfeeding for you and your baby in this position.
When Is The Side-lying Breastfeeding Position A Good Choice?
Side-lying breastfeeding is the right choice when you prefer to breastfeed lying down.Breastfeeding in the side-lying position can be more convenient in the following situations (1).
1. At the hospital
Side-lying and laid back breastfeeding positions can be comfortable feeding positions when you have just delivered and are at the hospital. The position provides rest to the mother while also letting the baby nurse. Always remember to keep the side-rails up when your baby is on the bed.
2. After a cesarean section
Side-lying position and football hold positions are good options for mothers who underwent C-section delivery. Newborns cannot put pressure on the incision site or stomach while feeding on the lying position.
3. Forceful letdown or oversupply
You may choose a side-lying position if you have forceful letdown or oversupply of breastmilk. Babies can manage the flow of milk better in the side-lying position. The flow of milk may also be reduced since the effect of gravity is less in side-lying than sitting position. Babies may also be able to spit up extra milk without aspiration or choking.
4. No need to sit up in the middle of the night
Side-lying breastfeeding can be comfortable during nighttime. Sitting up several times in the night can be tiring for moms. Many mothers prefer to co-sleep safely with babies, especially after night time nursings. However, bed-sharing may not be safe for babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends placing your baby back in their crib or bassinet after nursing to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) due to co-sleeping.
5. Large breasts
Some mothers may find it difficult to latch and breastfeed babies in many positions due to large breasts. A side-lying position can be a more effortless and comfortable option for them. You may seek help from a lactation consultant to learn proper latching and feeding positions during the initial days.
6. When sitting up is a strain
Breastfeeding the baby while sitting can be a strain for many mothers, particularly when feeding newborns who need frequent feedings. Mothers are also likely to be tired after childbirth, making it cumbersome to sit for too long. In such cases, side-lying nursing is the best breastfeeding position.
7. During illness
The side-lying position can be relaxing for mothers who are tired or sick. You may lie down and rest while nursing in this position. Tiredness and illness may cause moms to fall asleep after nursing. Always ensure to keep the baby back in the crib after nursing.
8. The baby is sleepy
Side-lying or football hold position may help you feed a sleepy baby for a longer time. It may help the baby rest and feed well. Place the baby in the crib once the baby is done with the feeding.
Can You Breastfeed A Newborn Lying On Your Side?
Yes, you can breastfeed a baby in a side-lying position right from the first feed. You may use a pillow or blanket to support your newborn while breastfeeding in a side-lying position. Place the pillow or blanket such that it makes it easier for the baby to access the breast. You can roll the towel and place it behind the baby’s back, so their tummy faces you, and they do not turn head to latch.
Remain awake while breastfeeding your newborn since bed-sharing may increase the risk of SIDS (2). Keep the baby back in the crib after the feeding session. While you can feed in a side-lying position, a lying back position is usually preferred to have maximum skin-to-skin contact with the baby right after birth.
How To Breastfeed In The Side-lying Position?
The following steps may help you ensure comfort and proper latch during the side-lying breastfeeding position (3).
- Lie down on the bed, couch, or floor in a comfortable position.
- Turn to the side and place a pillow to support the head. You may add pillows at the back or between the knees for more comfort.
- You may keep your back and hip in a straight line or bend the knees to avoid back pain.
- Place the baby on their side and facing you. Make sure that the baby’s head is towards the breasts and feet toward your feet.
- You may use the arm on the lying side to support your head or the baby. Pillows can also be placed under your baby to support them.
- If you don’t want to bend to make your baby reach for the nipple, bring them closer to the breast.
- When your baby’s mouth is open and the tongue is down, you may stroke their cheek. This stimulates the rooting reflex in newborns, and they open their mouth wide to latch on.
- Place the nipple in your baby’s mouth when they open it wide and let them latch.
- Feed the baby until they are full. You may maintain eye contact or observe if the baby is feeding well.
- You may place a finger between the baby’s mouth and breast to break the suction if they are not latched well or if they fall asleep while still latched to the breast.
- Place your baby on their crib after the feeding session.
Does A Side-lying Breastfeeding Position Improve The Baby’s Latch?
The side-lying breastfeeding position may help the baby have a better latch in some cases. For instance, mothers with larger breasts may feel that the baby latches better when fed in a side-lying position. You may try a side-lying nursing position if your baby does not latch well or feeds inadequately in other positions.
Although the side-lying position may improve the baby’s latch, you can break the latch easily if the baby bites or hurts your nipple.
It may take multiple attempts and a longer time for mother and baby to find a comfortable feeding position that facilitates a good latch. Do not worry if the initial attempts are unsuccessful. Also, babies learn gradually to latch well.
It is advisable to seek help from a caregiver or family member during the initial days of motherhood. They can place the baby in the crib in case you fall asleep. Although a side-lying breastfeeding position can be comfortable, you may also try other positions.
You may also seek help from a nurse or a board-certified lactation consultant to know more about suitable breastfeeding positions for you and your baby.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is it safe for mothers to sleep while side-lying nursing?
While sleeping on the side during breastfeeding isn’t a matter of concern for mothers, it can raise safety concerns for the baby. When a mother falls asleep while side-lying nursing, there are chances of the baby getting suffocated by the mother’s breast or body (4).
2. Should I burp my baby after breastfeeding while lying down?
Whether feeding in a reclining position or lying, burping the baby is essential to release trapped air from their tummy (5). Generally, there’s no set rule as to when you should burp your baby. Some babies need burping during the feeding and some after (6). The key is to identify the baby’s cues and work accordingly.
3. Does side-lying breastfeeding cause ear infections?
According to experts, babies bottle-fed in a lying position may have a higher risk of otitis media (middle ear) infection than breastfed babies (7).
4. How do I switch sides when lying down breastfeeding?
Some mothers, especially those with large breasts, can roll themselves and their babies over to their other side to feed on the second breast. Alternatively, mothers can lean forward and lower their top breast to help their babies feed on the top breast without changing sides (8). A few mothers may also put their babies on a pillow and raise them to the level of their second breast for comfortable feeding.
Mothers across the globe may prefer a side-lying breastfeeding position because of the ease and comfort it provides mothers. This position may well suit mothers who had a cesarean section as it prevents any load on the incision at the surgical site. Mothers with a fast letdown, oversupply of milk, larger breasts, or those who may have some other issues that do not let them sit for longer hours may find this position very helpful. Ensure you do not sleep while breastfeeding to avoid potentially fatal accidents such as suffocating the baby or SIDS.
- Side-lying breastfeeding position is suitable after delivery, post C-section, and for mothers with large breasts.
- Ensure to lie down in a comfortable position while turning on the side and support the baby’s head with your arm.
- Side-lying position may also improve the baby’s latch.
2. How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained; Healthychildren; The American Academy Of Pediatrics
3. Breastfeeding while lying down; The Australian Breastfeeding Association
4. Samir Nya et al.; (2021); Unexpected death of an infant suffocated in the course of breastfeeding when the mother fell asleep; NCBI
5. Baby basics: How to burp your baby; UNICEF
6. How to breastfeed; NHS
7. Ear infections; Mount Sinai
8. Breastfeeding while lying down; Australian Breastfeeding Association