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The Breastfeeding Trick That Changed My Life

Photograph by Twenty20

I always hoped to breastfeed my children. I imagined it would be this magical experience, a beautiful and simple way to connect and nourish my baby. I did my research during pregnancy and as I felt my baby kicking, I thought of the months ahead. I planned to rock and cradle my baby in my arms while wearing a pretty nursing robe and then they would quietly fall asleep suckling while I sang sweet lullabies.

Then I actually had children.

Wake-up call! I quickly learned that breastfeeding had quite the learning curve. In those early days, I was often milk-drenched in baggy tees with a baby struggling to latch on my engorged breasts. I held fast to my ideal, especially that serene cradle pose I thought everyone used while breastfeeding. But, after 50 months (and counting) of nursing between my three children, I've tallied up some tricks that make things a little easier.

I could go on and on about nursing each of my three children. The struggles and victories with each have been countless. Which totally makes sense when you consider what Andrea Eastman, MA, CCE, IBCLC, in "The Mother-Baby Dance" writes: "Rules and regulations have no place in the mother-baby relationship. Each mother and baby dyad is different and what works well for one mother and baby may not work well for another mother and baby. The important thing to do is to look at the mother and baby as individuals."

And the greatest victory for me with each of my three children? Learning to nurse while lying down.

Forget the dreaded hunchback pose from cradling and, believe me, there is no need for propping Baby or your arm up with pillows to comfortably match their little mouths to your nipple. Side-lying nursing fixes all of that. Here's a quick step-by-step guide on how to make this magic happen:

  1. Fold a towel in half and lay it down on your bed. This will save your sheets from any milk drips.
  2. Lay down on your side with the breast you plan to nurse from closest to the bed.
  3. Pull your breast up a bit, so your nipple is 1-2 inches off the mattress.
  4. Lay Baby on their side and pull them close to your breast. Let their lips graze your nipple and they'll most likely start to latch.
  5. Gently move baby closer. I usually snug Baby closer to my belly by scooting their bum.

To stay comfortable and keep Baby safe, I always keep my arm closest to the bed stretched straight out and prop a pillow behind my back. No blankets or pillows are around baby. That way, when they're done nursing they can release their latch and turn their head.

It takes a little practice—like every successful nursing position—but cross my heart, learning to breastfeed while lying down has been a game-changer for us! I get more rest at night, I can actually relax during our nursing sessions, and I don't sabotage my posture. And what mom wouldn't want any one of those things?

For more tips on the side-lying position, see what Dr. Sears, Natural Parents Network and La Leche League have to say.

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