Overcoming Breastfeeding and Chestfeeding Struggles
Many people are taught to nurse in an upright position, in a chair with a pillow under their baby and a stool under their feet.
There is nothing wrong with this position if it works and feels comfortable, but often I find people struggle to latch their babies in this position, leading to tension in both the nursing parent and baby.
As a lactation consultant, I find nursing works best when it comes from the heart, rather than the head. I encourage parents not to look at the latch to determine if it is deep enough, but rather, to feel it. I encourage them to feel if their baby is swallowing rather than trying to see every jaw drop. When I meet a parent that is struggling with pain, difficulty latching, or trying to remember the instructions they were given on how to nurse “properly,” the first thing I ask them to do is recline and try laid-back breastfeeding or chestfeeding.
Discover the Magic of Laid-back Breastfeeding (a.k.a Biological Nurturing)
Laid-back breastfeeding (a.k.a. Biological Nurturing) is a term coined by Suzanne Colson (2008). This position
encourages nursing parents to lean back with their baby on top of them, tummy-to-tummy, so that the baby’s whole body is in contact with theirs.
The simple act of leaning back offers the following benefits:
1. Your baby’s feeding reflexes become more pronounced (ex. crawling, rooting, grasping, mouth opening) and help them crawl to the breast and latch much more deeply.
2. It takes the pressure off of the nursing parent – you are creating a responsive and supportive feeding environment, but your baby is doing to work of latching and nursing.
3. Gravity supports your baby, so your wrists don’t ache.
4. It promotes relaxation, which aids in oxytocin release and helps more milk flow to the baby.
5. It makes breastfeeding more intuitive and responsive.
A recipe for a much more enjoyable experience!
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Laid-back breastfeeding or chestfeeding activates essential feeding reflexes in your baby
What do I mean by feeding reflexes?
Your baby is not helpless! She has reflexes that help her make her way to the breast or chest, latch-on and drink.
Colson’s research found that the act of reclining actually releases 20 primitive neonatal reflexes that help
stimulate the baby to nurse.
When we sit upright, these reflexes not only become unhelpful, but they may even be combative. Have you ever tried to nurse your baby in an upright position and find his hands are always in the way? Is he thrashing, scratching, kicking and pulling away from you? These counterproductive movements switch to helpful feeding reflexes when we recline in the laid-back breastfeeding or chestfeeding position.
Suddenly your baby who was once fighting against nursing is now crawling his way towards the breast or chest.
Breastfeeding or chestfeeding is no longer something that you do for your baby, it is something your baby is doing for himself – you are just providing support and guidance.
Laid-back nursing helps with latch
Not only does reclining help with the approach to the breast or chest, but it can help with the latch as well. When your baby is making her way to the breast on her own, she intends to feed, and thus will tend to open her mouth much wider. Additionally, gravity is pushing her deeper onto the breast, so she gets more stability and the nipple is likely to reach farther back in her mouth. Think about how sometimes through the course of a feed (especially as your little one grows and gets heavier) your baby starts to fall away from you a little bit. That distance causes a shallow latch and can cause more pain. If you recline, you can prevent this, plus you take the pressure off your wrists, neck and shoulders. It’s a win-win
The most amazing thing about laid-back nursing is that there is no series of steps and instructions for you to memorize and execute. This means you can nurse intuitively, from the heart, which helps build your confidence and helps you along your nursing journey.
Laid-Back Breastfeeding Video Demonstration
If you’d like to see how to position yourself for laid-back breastfeeding, check out the following video:
Colson, S.D. (2012). Biological Nurturing: the laid-back breastfeeding revolution. Midwifery Today, 101, 9-66.
Colson, S.D., Meek, J.H. and Hawdon, J.M. (2008). Optimal positions for the release of primitive neonatal
reflexes stimulating breastfeeding. Early Human Development, 84(7): 441-9. doi:
Colson, S.D. (2008). https://www.biologicalnurturing.com/
Image: Wiessinger, D., West, D. and Pitman, T. (2010). The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. New York: Ballantine Books.
For more information about her work you can go to: ruminalactation.com or check out her Facebook page at: facebook.com/ruminalactationTO