Jan 13, 2021

The Best Reasons To Teach Laid-Back Breastfeeding

You may know it as laid-back breastfeeding, biological nurturing, or baby-led latch. By any name, this natural, instinctive breastfeeding technique can be a great option, especially for parents of newborns or babies who are having trouble feeding. Why so many names for the same simple position? Here’s a quick look at the terminology:

  • Laid-Back. This reflects the physical position of the nursing parent, comfortably leaning back on a couch or bed with their head, shoulders, arms, and upper and lower back fully supported. Think of it as leaning back on your couch to watch a movie – instead of sitting straight up in a chair. In this position, the baby is held skin-to-skin on the reclining parent’s chest with the baby’s cheek resting near the breasts.
  • Biological Nurturing. This term refers to the scientific theory that explains the effectiveness of this breastfeeding technique. Stated briefly, biological nurturing theory proposes that human babies (like other newborn mammals) are born with the instinct to find and latch on to the breast when given the opportunity. Research suggests that tiny glands on the breast produce a fluid with a smell that is irresistible to a hungry baby, helping them to use their little nose to find the food supply.
  • Baby-Led Latch. This is another way of saying that the focus of this breastfeeding style stays on the baby. Held comfortably near the food source (breasts), the baby will take the lead when hungry, show recognizable feeding cues, and actively seek to latch on to the breast. This allows the breastfeeding parent to relax and focus on cuddling and bonding skin-to-skin with the baby—instead of trying to remember a set of rigid positioning skills to bring the baby to the breast and hope the baby will cooperate.

How It All Works

With the parent comfortably reclining (and bare-chested) the baby is placed skin-to-skin and tummy-to-tummy on the parent’s chest, lying vertically “nose to nipple.” One hand should support the baby’s neck and shoulders while the other hand supports the baby’s hips. Although the parent needs to stay alert, the baby can choose to rest, cuddle, or even sleep. Until they get hungry and it’s time to find food.

When the baby stretches and moves toward the breast, this is often the first sign that they are interested in eating. Other signs to watch for include looking up, trying to make eye contact, squirming, bobbing their head, licking their lips, clenching their fists, or turning to one side. Recognizing these feeding cues, here’s what the breastfeeding parent needs to know:

  • Keep the baby’s body close but let the baby move around and find the nipple on their own
  • Expressing a few drops of milk may help the baby find the food source faster
  • As the breast hangs naturally, the baby’s chin will hit the breast; and the firm pressure will cause the baby’s mouth to open wide and reach up and over the nipple
  • When the baby presses their chin into the breast it allows for a deep latch
  • If the parent feels any nipple pain, pulling the baby’s bottom in closer may tip the baby’s head back and open their jaw wider to help them get a bigger mouthful of breast
  • When the baby pulls away from the first breast, the parent may choose to gently guide them toward the other breast

Advantages of Laid-Back Breastfeeding

This comfortable, low-key breastfeeding position is a great option for new parents who may be tired and sore from childbirth, have a tender cesarean or episiotomy incision, or experience shoulder or back pain. Any of these conditions could make sitting straight up and supporting both the breast and the baby during a feeding uncomfortable or even painful.

Laid-back breastfeeding is also a good option for new babies who are just learning how to latch or who have not taken easily to breastfeeding for some reason. These babies will benefit from being calmly held skin-to-skin until they are ready to feed and allowed to follow their instincts to find the breast and latch on.

Additional benefits include:

  • Helps parents recognize what their baby needs
  • Encourages the baby’s natural feeding instincts
  • Helps parent stay calm and build early confidence
  • Causes less psychological stress when baby takes the lead
  • Encourages production of a healthy milk supply
  • Makes breastfeeding more relaxed and enjoyable
  • Having baby supported by the parent’s body leaves hands free to stroke and touch the baby

A New Tool for Your Toolbox

Every new parent and baby are different. Some will love the laid-back breastfeeding position. And many will find that sitting upright or using another breastfeeding position works just fine. What makes nurses, lactation specialists, and educators special (along with so many other things!) is having a wide range of options available to help parents find early success (and confidence) in their ability to successfully feed their newborn. We hope that the laid-back position will be a valuable addition to your breastfeeding repertoire.

NEW! Introducing Your Guide to Breastfeeding

At CCI, our goal is to provide nurses and educators with up-to-date, evidence-based materials to help you teach parents the essential parenting skills they need to be successful. Your Guide to Breastfeeding is our newest book and we invite you to preview it here.

This new guide features valuable information about all aspects of breastfeeding, plus easy access to helpful videos on the CCI Scan + Play App, a resource list to encourage additional reading, and a glossary to help define any unfamiliar terms.

You can request a complimentary copy of Your Guide to Breastfeeding here or call us with any questions at 800.476.2253. We look forward to connecting with you!

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