How to Breastfeed While Lying Down

Breastfeeding often means staying in one position for an extended period of time, multiple times each day and night. Fortunately, some breastfeeding positions allow the mother (or person breastfeeding) to lay down and effectively feed a baby. Not only are these reclining positions potentially more comfortable for the mother, but they can also provide some benefits in other situations, too.

How to Breastfeed While Lying Down

The key to breastfeeding while lying down is finding a position that is comfortable and safe for both you and the baby. Here are two common positions you can use for breastfeeding while lying down:

Laid-Back Breastfeeding. In this position, the mother leans back on a couch or bed to nurse her baby. It is best to not lay all the way flat, but prop yourself up partially with some pillows. Make sure that your head and your back are fully supported so that you can completely relax for the feeding session. Baby can lay across your chest, or lengthwise down your torso. There are plenty of benefits to this position including: 

  • Baby can achieve a deep latch on the breast
  • Relaxing for mother
  • Can be used on all sizes of babies
  • Can be used while feeding twins
  • Gravity can help slow the flow of milk if it is too fast for your baby

Side-lying breastfeeding. This position is when a mother lies on her side next to her baby and nurses. It is easiest to do in bed, on the floor, or a large couch. Keep your head and back in a straight line, and put your head on a pillow or your arm. You may need to lift your breast or nipple to your baby's mouth. Sometimes, it's more comfortable to bend your knees, or even put a pillow between them. 

Benefits of side-lying breastfeeding include:

  • Easily used in bed
  • Allows mother's body to rest
  • Avoids pressure on C-Section stitches or other painful areas during recovery
  • Can be helpful for mothers with large breasts

Why Breastfeed While Lying Down?

After having a baby, breastfeeding lying down can be helpful for many reasons, including:

Continued

Recovery. If a mother is recovering from a C-Section, an episiotomy, or vaginal birth, sitting up for an extended period may be uncomfortable or painful. Nursing while lying down may help to avoid pain while recovering from birth. 

Comfort. Supporting the weight of a nursing baby can be hard on a mother's shoulders, arms, and back. For some women, nursing in a reclining or lying-down position eases the strain on her upper body. 

Sleep. Falling asleep while breastfeeding can be very dangerous for an infant. However, many mothers who co-sleep (defined as baby sleeping in the same room, on a separate and safe sleep surface) find that night feeds are easier while laying down. 

Clogged ducts. It is not uncommon for a breastfeeding woman to experience a clogged milk duct in her breast. Nursing in different positions can help a clog pass, including nursing lying down. 

Is Breastfeeding While Lying Down Safe?

Yes, when done correctly, breastfeeding while lying down is perfectly safe. Follow these tips to make sure your baby is comfortable and safe:

  • Practice during the day before trying to use it at night
  • Ensure that your space is free from excess pillows and bedding
  • Do not fall asleep while nursing in a lying-down position
  • Always pay attention to your baby
  • Always use safe sleep practices for your baby

Side-lying or laid-back nursing can be dangerous if a mother falls asleep; if a baby falls or is smothered by bedding, clothing, or a mother's body, it can be extremely dangerous. But when done correctly, breastfeeding while lying down can be relaxing for both mother and baby.

Ultimately, learning how to utilize a variety of positions for breastfeeding can be very helpful for both mother and baby. Being able to adjust to different situations and locations can make breastfeeding easier and less stressful for both of you. If you have questions or need breastfeeding support, consider reaching out to a lactation consultant or speak to your doctor.  

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 02, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Clogged Milk Ducts."

American Pregnancy Association: "Lactation Consultants."

Breastfeeding USA: "Some Ins and Outs of Laid-Back Breastfeeding."

La Leche League International: "Positioning."

Milkology: "How to Nurse Lying Down."

Milkworks.org: "Side-Lying Breastfeeding."

National Institute for Children's Health Quality: "Better Sleep for Breastfeeding Mothers, Safer Sleep for Babies."

U.S. Department of Agriculture: WIC Breastfeeding Support: "Side-lying Position."

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