Natural Breastfeeding, What Is It?

August 13, 2015

Body

breastfeeding

You may have heard of the term “natural breastfeeding” recently and wondered, what is that? Of course breastfeeding is a natural way for babies to receive nutrition throughout their first year and continues to provide health benefits past the first year.  But learning the process may not always feel natural for a new mom, especially in the early days of her breastfeeding journey. 

Natural breastfeeding, also called “laid-back breastfeeding,” is a technique that allows babies to find and attach to the breast using instincts and reflexes they are born with. This can make the process more relaxed for both mom and baby and lead to more successful breastfeeding. It’s a way to position mother and baby for effective breastfeeding and is different than traditional positions.

Below are a few tips that can help you work with your baby’s natural instincts to help you get started.

Laid-back breastfeeding tip #1:  Babies are tummy feeders

When babies are born, they are designed to come right to their mother’s abdomen. They have reflexes that will help them find the breast all on their own and attach with no help at all! (google search “UNICEF Breast Crawl Video” to see for yourself).

What does this mean for you?

Here is how to begin this position:

  • Sit in a comfortable, semi-reclined position, at an approximate 45 degree angle. Use pillows to support your arms. Your chest area should be bare from the waist up.
  • Have baby unwrapped, ideally in just a diaper and no mittens on the hands. Babies use their hands to search and attach to the breast.
  • Place baby on mother’s chest, on his stomach with his head just below or around the breasts.

Laid-back breastfeeding tip #2: Trust the instincts

Healthy, full term babies are born with a host of feeding reflexes that will guide them to   the breast without much help at all! When your baby is on his tummy, on your chest, this position will trigger those natural feeding reflexes.

What does this mean for you?

Now that you have your baby in position on your chest, watch what happens next!

  • Don’t be surprised if your baby decides to cat-nap for 10-15 minutes before waking up and deciding to breastfeed. This is very common.
  • You may first see the stepping reflex- his little feet will push him in the direction he wants to go, and he will actually choose a breast!
  • Then he will use his hands and touch your nipple, or breast, and then his mouth and move in that direction. Always keep baby’s hands uncovered when breastfeeding, no matter the position you use.
  • Once he arrives to the destination you will notice the “head bob” as he rears his head back repeatedly to latch on.

Laid-back breastfeeding tip #3: Your baby can breathe in this position

Once baby is latched on, one of the most common concerns mothers may have is whether their baby breathe properly in this position. Babies are designed with nostrils that flare to the side and flatter noses that are intended to be up against a breast.

What does this mean for you?

Once your baby is attached to the breast and feeding, watch for the following signs:

  • Watch for his chin to be deeply in the breast and his nose just touching the breast. This will allow more than enough room to breathe.
  • Have another person check if you are unable to see. If they can see the sides of the nostrils, then your baby can breathe.
  • Do not block the back of your baby’s head. Your baby will always pull away from the breast if their nose becomes blocked, in any position. Allow them to do so freely.

For any questions about this positioning technique or any breastfeeding needs, please contact the lactation support team at Texas Children’s Hospital. We are available 7 days/week from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. by calling 832-824-6120. We also have outpatient appointments available in our clinic for mothers having challenges, ask to schedule an appointment. You can also email us with questions at breastfeeding@texaschildrens.org.

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