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For so many women, breastfeeding initially feels anything but natural. Even without extenuating medical issues your body has to adjust to the suction, friction, and awkward positioning of nursing.
For me this adjustment was toe-curlingly painful. Still, I stuck to my "Intro to Breastfeeding" training. I tried various "holds" and latching techniques, hoping to find one that would provide relief. My lactation consultant blamed poor posture and urged me to buy a footstool and a new nursing pillow.
With the help of rolled blankets and a special nursing pillow in my dining room chair, with my shoulders rolled back, I did find that my breastfeeding pain to be somewhat less toe-curling, although not enough to seem worth the effort. Too often my propping proved inadequate and my daughter's latch felt worse than ever.
It was at those times – while recovering from blood loss, wearing a diaper, and fighting sleep deprivation – that I thought I might be ready to abandon breastfeeding for good.Thankfully my husband was nearby, furiously Googling. He found a position I hadn't been taught – one that saved my sanity and kept me nursing.
"Laid-back breastfeeding" is exactly what it sounds like. If you've seen a "breast crawl" video, the setup will look familiar. With laid back breastfeeding, you lie back on a sofa or bed, in a relaxed, semi-reclined position, with your back and shoulders and neck totally supported by pillows or cushions. Mother and baby are tummy-to-tummy – no special pillows, chairs or stools required. Gravity encourages a deep latch from baby, while mom gets to recline while nursing. This method uses positioning to complement your baby's natural reflexes to find your breast.
My daughter would often bob her head while latching, frustrating my efforts and complicating feedings. But once we leaned back, the bobbing made sense – she was trying to drop her head on a nipple.
Did the pain go away? No, not initially. But something more significant happened. Once I stopped worrying about latches and holds, I found myself actually looking at my daughter. Our horizontal setup facilitated eye contact, and our shared gaze flipped a switch in my heart. Laid-back breastfeeding allowed me to fall in love with my baby. From then on, everything got easier.
In the end, all the pillows, stools and consultations only proved to obscure this natural option – one so basic in its setup, you'd be excused for considering it obvious.
Still, I'm left wondering why laid-back wasn't included in my standard breastfeeding training – why my husband had to find it online after I'd sought professional help twice. There seems to be a disconnect between breastfeeding rhetoric and reality. I hope that sharing my "magical position" might help to bridge that gap.
This post was originally published in August 2016
Photo from iStock
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.