Lactation yoga …side-lying nursing without getting up to switch sides

August 29, 2011. Posted in: Breastfeeding Basics

…or side-lying nursing without getting up to switch sides

by Eva Lyford. Reprinted with permission from the author.

If you’ve mastered the art of side-lying to nurse, then the next trick is to be able to nurse off the top breast so that you don’t have to change sides of the bed at night. If you co-sleep and breastfeed, then I’m sure you’ve had an experience like mine at some point. You’re all snuggled in, warmly and cozily cuddled with your baby. You are breastfeeding in the side-lying position and drowse off to sleep. waking a while later to find that baby is hungry again, and unfortunately the most convenient breast is the least full one. Until I figured out this ‘lactation yoga’, I used to have to flip myself over the baby to get myself into position, and then scoot the baby over – that’s no fun! This position is a bit tricky, but if you get it right then it is very easy. Also, using this technique I don’t have to worry about baby falling out of bed – he’s always safely in-between my husband and I in the family bed.

This works best if the baby has drained the bottom breast first; for this discussion let’s assume left side. Trying this when the left side is not drained can be uncomfortable, and might lead to plugged ducts. When nursing a young baby on the ‘bottom’ (left) breast remember that you have to prop baby on baby’s side with a small pillow or rolled towel. (Older babies may do fine without.) To nurse off the ‘top’ (right) breast take the prop away so baby is on their back again, then lean over the baby a bit. Then, the baby should now face upwards, instead of to the side like when nursing on the left breast. Roll forwards a bit so that your shoulders and pelvis are now tipped slightly forward, at about a 60 degree angle or so from the bed. I find it sometimes helpful to put my ‘top’ arm straight out, pointing towards the headboard for balance. Bend and move your right leg out to provide more stability.

For extra support, you can put your right hand down on the other side of the baby, but if you need this you are probably tipped too far forward, or the baby is too little yet. But it can be handy to do this until you find your sweet spot or the baby grows a bit.

Also don’t try to use your left hand to support your head – your left arm should be straight out or bent to pillow your head instead. Your neck should be straight in line with your spinal column; don’t jut your chin out or tuck it in excessively. Doing so can cause back pain afterwards.

When done as I’ve described, my baby does not have trouble breathing and is not actually under me. I’ve found this works better with an older baby (after about 3 months or so) because of their greater muscle control.

Let me note that chiropractors/physical therapists might not like this approach (because the back is twisted for a time), but it works. And, it is essentially the same as positions that I have used while doing yoga for years, except that I’m nursing. If you feel at any time that your baby will not be safe in this position, then don’t do it.