The Side-Lying Breastfeeding Position

Side lying breastfeeding

Verywell / Jiaqi Zhou

You might not realize it, but you don't have to sit up to breastfeed. The side-lying position is one of the breastfeeding positions that allows you to nurse your baby while you're lying down. The side-lying breastfeeding position is also called the reclining or lying down position. 

When you breastfeed in the side-lying position, you lie on your side and place your baby down alongside you on their side. You and your child will be facing each other belly to belly with your baby's head at the level of your breast and their feet toward your feet.

When to Breastfeed in the Side-Lying Position

The side-lying breastfeeding position is an excellent choice whenever you want to feed your baby lying down. It's also a good idea to learn this position since getting comfortable with a few different breastfeeding positions will allow you to alternate through different holds throughout the day.

There are times when lying down to breastfeed is really helpful. You may find that breastfeeding in the side-lying position is a good choice in certain situations. Here are a few times you might want to consider using the position.

In the Hospital

When you're in the hospital, the side-lying and laid-back nursing positions are the perfect way to breastfeed comfortably in your bed. Ask for help learning these two positions right away so that you can lie down and rest while you're nursing. And, don't forget the keep the side rails up on your bed.

After a Cesarean Section

The side-lying position and the football hold are ideal for if you've just had a C-section. These positions can help to make breastfeeding a little more comfortable since your newborn isn't putting pressure on your stomach and your incision site.

At Night

Nighttime feedings are a breeze when you place your little one beside you in your bed to nurse. However, while many families can safely co-sleep, it's important to note that the bed-sharing can be dangerous.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you put your baby back in their crib or bassinet after each feeding during the night. A co-sleeper or sidecar that attaches to your bed is a good option if you want your child at arm's reach, but you're worried about keeping them in the bed. 

With Large Breasts

It can be awkward trying to breastfeed a newborn with very big breasts. It may be easier to get the baby latched on in the side-lying position. If you have large breasts, try the side-lying position, and ask for assistance until you become more comfortable with latching your baby on and breastfeeding on your own.

When Sitting Up Is Uncomfortable

If you've been sitting up for a while and you're uncomfortable, it's nice to be able to lie down to breastfeed. Also, sitting up and breastfeeding for long periods of time can cause strain on your back, neck, and arms. If you're feeling strained, try lying down.

If You're Tired or Sick

Let's face it, it's exhausting to have a new baby. Sometimes you just want to put your head down, your feet up, and relax. This position lets you breastfeed and rest at the same time.

When Baby Is Sleepy

A sleepy baby may stay more alert and breastfeed longer in the side-lying position or the football hold. The cradle hold tends to be more cuddly and sleep-inducing for an already sleepy baby.

How to Breastfeed in the Side-Lying Position

Now that you know what the side-lying breastfeeding position is and when it might be useful, here's how to breastfeed while lying on your side:

  1. Lie down in a comfortable position on your bed, on the couch, or on the floor.
  2. Roll onto your side and place a pillow under your head. You can lean up against the back of the couch or place pillows behind you for support if you need it. For even more comfort, you can put a pillow between your knees.
  3. Try to keep your back and hips in a straight line to prevent back pain later, and bend your knees.
  4. Place your baby next to you on their side facing you. Your baby's head should be toward your breasts, and their feet should be toward your feet.
  5. Take the arm that you're lying on and either place it out of the way under your head or use it to support your baby by placing it under your child's head and around their body. You can also use a pillow behind your baby's back to support them.
  6. Make sure your baby's mouth is lined up with your nipple. If your lower arm is cradling your child, you can pull them in toward your breast with that arm. You can use your free hand from above, to support your breast if you need it.
  7. If your lower arm is under your head and out of the way, you can use your free hand from your upper arm to support your baby's head and lead them to your breast. Remember, you don't want to lean over and bring your breast to your baby, you want to pull your baby in and guide them to your breast.
  8. As you bring your baby toward your breast, make sure that their mouth is open wide and their tongue is down. If your baby's mouth isn't open wide, gently touch their cheek with your finger or your nipple. The stroke of their cheek will stimulate an instinctual newborn rooting reflex, and they will open their mouth wide to get ready to latch on. 
  9. When your baby opens wide, place their mouth on your nipple and allow them to attach to your breast.
  10. Take a second to check for the signs of a good latch.
  11. If the latch isn't right, use your finger to break the suction between the baby's mouth and your breast, and try again. 
  12. If your baby is latched on correctly and actively sucking, then lie back, relax, and continue the feeding. 

Where to Find Help

You can start breastfeeding in the side-lying position right after your baby is born. Ask for help from your nurse or the hospital lactation consultant from the very first breastfeeding

If you didn't learn how to breastfeed in this position while you were in the hospital and you want to learn it now, you can try it on your own, seek help from a breastfeeding group such as La Leche International, call a lactation consultant in private practice, or talk to your doctor. 

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Puapornpong P, Raungrongmorakot K, Manolerdtewan W, Ketsuwan S, Sinutchanan W. The number of infant feeding positions and the 6-month exclusive breastfeeding rates. J Med Assoc Thai. 2015;98(11):1075-81.

  2. Hauck FR, Tanabe KO, McMurry T, Moon RY. Evaluation of bedtime basics for babies: a national crib distribution program to reduce the risk of sleep-related sudden infant deathsJ Community Health. 2015;40(3):457–463. doi:10.1007/s10900-014-9957-0

  3. Lubbe W. Clinicians guide for cue-based transition to oral feeding in preterm infants: An easy-to-use clinical guideJ Eval Clin Pract. 2018;24(1):80–88. doi:10.1111/jep.12721

  4. Puapornpong P, Raungrongmorakot K, Laosooksathit W, Hanprasertpong T, Ketsuwan S. Comparison of breastfeeding outcomes between using the laid-back and side-lying breastfeeding positions in mothers delivering by cesarean section: A randomized controlled trial. Breastfeed Med. 2017;12:233-237. doi:10.1089/bfm.2016.0193

  5. World Health Organization. Infant and Young Child Feeding: Model Chapter for Textbooks for Medical Students and Allied Health Professionals.

Additional Reading

By Donna Murray, RN, BSN
Donna Murray, RN, BSN has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rutgers University and is a current member of Sigma Theta Tau, the Honor Society of Nursing.