The Side-Lying Breastfeeding Position

How and When to Breastfeed On Your Side

Woman breastfeeding newborn in side-lying position in hospital bed.
Cristian Baitg/Getty Images

You don't have to sit up to breastfeed. The side-lying position is one of the breastfeeding positions that lets you nurse your baby while you're lying down.

When you breastfeed in the side-lying position, you lie on your side and place your baby down alongside you on his 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 his feet toward your feet.

The side-lying breastfeeding position is also called the reclining or lying down position. 

When Is Breastfeeding in the Side-Lying Position a Good Choice?

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. Of course, 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 when:

You're 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.

You've had a cesarean section: The side-lying position and the football hold are ideal for moms who'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.

You don't want to sit up at night: Nighttime feedings are a breeze when you place your little one beside you in your bed to nurse. However, while many families safely co-sleep, it's important to note that the bed-sharing can be dangerous. The AAP recommends that you put your baby back in her 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 her in the bed. 

You have large breasts: It can be awkward trying to breastfeed a newborn with very big breasts. But, 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.

You're uncomfortable sitting up: 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.

You're tired or not feeling well: Let's face it, it's exhausting to be a new mom. 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.

You have a sleepy baby: A sleepy baby may stay more alert and breastfeed longer in the side-lying position or the football hold. Whereas, the cradle hold tends to be more cuddly and sleep-inducing to an already sleepy child.

How to Breastfeed in the Side-Lying Position: 12 Steps

Now that you know what the side-lying breastfeeding position is and when it might be useful, you may be wondering how it's done. 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 over 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 his side facing you. His head should be toward your breasts, and his 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 his body. You can also use a pillow behind your baby's back to support him. 
  6. Make sure your baby's mouth is lined up with your nipple. If your lower arm is cradling your child, you can pull him in toward your breast with that arm. You can use the 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 him 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 him to your breast.
  8. As you bring your baby toward your breast, make sure that his mouth is open wide and his tongue is down. If his mouth isn't open wide, gently touch his cheek with your finger or your nipple. The stroke of his cheek will stimulate an instinctual newborn rooting reflex, and he'll open his mouth wide to get ready to latch on. 
  9. When he opens wide, place his mouth on your nipple and allow him 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 With the Side-Lying Breastfeeding Position 

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. 

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Article Sources
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