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The Secret Breastfeeding Position No One Talks About

It’s time.

Time to break the silence about TLR and rave about a breastfeeding position that can make a huge difference in your breastfeeding success.  And, strangely, it’s the position that no one ever talks about!

You can read all KINDS of articles about the Football Hold, the Side Laying Hold, the Cradle Hold, the Cross Cradle Hold, and the Cats Cradle Hold pretty much anywhere.  (Okay, probably not the Cats Cradle Hold…)

But this breastfeeding position?

I can neither CONFIRM NOR DENY the existence of the Diva Breastfeeding Position.

HOWEVER.

If someone were to share the details of this position, IF I tell you, it would have to be posted on some little website in the Great Nothingness of the Internet.

Perhaps on a website we’ll just call….Schmighty Schmoms.  (We can’t be too careful…)

Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me About This?

I have three daughters, all of whom I breastfed (not exclusively, but breastfed is breastfed, right?). Both my eldest (Lauren) and youngest (Isabella) were fairly easy breastfeeders.  We would hit our stride around the fourth week, and sail smoothly until weaning around 10 months.

…but that middle child.  That precious Elena.

For reasons unknown to me at the time (and I’ll share with you in a moment), nursing her was an uphill battle.  Latching was awful.  Within three days my nipples were bruised, cracked, and bleeding.

Eventually my lactation consultant gave me some nipple therapy tips that helped me heal quickly enough to keep going.

We made it, but barely.

When I started writing online about babies online in 2007, I began delving deeper into the subject of breastfeeding. I was shocked at what I didn’t know.  

Here I was: breastfed three babies, attended nursing classes, had a lactation consultant…and I never heard about the breastfeeding position that could have fixed my problems with Elena so easily.

Well, friend, it’s time to pay it forward.

BTW friend, if you’re struggling and think your breasts could use a break, I highly recommend signing up here for a free high-quality breast pump. Aeroflow will do all the hassle work involved to get your insurance company to cover it at no charge to you. (So awesome.)

The Fatal Flaws in Your Typical Breastfeeding Position

There are three potential flaws in the typical positions that could kill your breastfeeding dreams.

  • The baby’s weight is supported by the hand, wrist, and forearm.  This leads to aching arms and wrists.  (The Side Laying breast feeding position is an exception to this.)
  • They rely too much on pillows.  Pillows stuffed behind the back, under the arms…even fancy schmancy nursing pillows (of which I owned three) can shift around, leaving mothers huddled over a nursing babe like Quasimodo and wishing for a spinal tap.
  • If your infant was born using a forceps or vacuum, he has sore spots on the side of his head.  Touching his head while positioning may cause him pain.

A Quick “Don’t Hate Me” Disclaimer

To avoid getting angry emails accusing me of being Anti-Football Position or a Cross-Cradle Hater, let me shout a disclaimer:

Some babies thrive with the traditional breastfeeding positions. By all means, shop your breastfeeding position around to see what works best for your infant!

I’m an equal opportunity positionist.

What Makes Some Babies Harder to Nurse

There are two major reasons some babies are harder to nurse than others.

Personality

You can start seeing the clues of your infant’s personality within just a few hours of birth. (Even if you don’t know you’re seeing them until later.)

Since every child is different, it makes sense that every baby has a particular way of nursing.  Those “styles” don’t always jive with Mama.  Discover what your newborn’s nursing style is in my post, The Muppets Solve Your Breastfeeding Problems.

Skin Sensitivity

Elena was blessed with a particular Taylor family curse: extremely sensitive skin.  Now I, having never  been born a Taylor (I only married into the curse), had no inkling of how terrible sensitive skin really was.

“Ants. Constantly crawling all over your body,” is how it was explained to me. Your skin literally feels everything.

What does skin sensitivity have to do with your breastfeeding position?  Three little words.

Tonic.

Labyrinthine.

Reflex.

Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex is the reason the usual breastfeeding positions were sabotaging my breastfeeding success with Elena.

Destroying Your Breastfeeding Dreams

The Tonic Labryinthine Reflex (which I’ll now call TLR because it’s a nightmare to spell) is a reflex that appears when he’s still in the womb and sticks around a few months after birth.

Basically, in TLR the body automatically responds to the direction the head is touched.  For example, if you touch your newborn’s forehead (or the floor does in tummy time), he will draw his arms and legs inward like a turtle.

On the other hand, if you touch the back of his head, he will push his head backwards towards your hand and arch his back, pushing his arms and legs out.

If this reflex is still showing up after 3 months, speak to your doctor.  It could be a sign of some developmental delays.

Where other babies may not be as TLR responsive and nurse just fine with standard positions, the personality-driven sensitive-skinned infant will have to battle it out between two reflexes.

AND IN THIS CORNER…

…the TLR pushes the head back in response to the touch on the nape of her neck as you try to position her on the breast.

AND IN THE OTHER CORNER…

…the rooting reflex causes her to open his mouth and try to latch onto the nipple, but from the wrong angle.

The result is on-and-off latching.  (That’s a recipe for tearfully sore nipples.)

Poor baby! What’s an infant to do?

Scream in frustration. 

LOUDLY.

How to Use the Diva Breastfeeding Position

The gold medal winner for avoiding the TLR is the Laid-Back Breastfeeding Position.  (That term is way to boring for me, though, so I’ve renamed it the Diva Breastfeeding Position.  Isn’t that so much better?!)

Here’s how:

  1. Lean back slightly against the side of a couch or bed, inclining like Greek goddess.  “Husband slave! Bring me my grapes!”
  2. Lay your newborn across your tummy, with his cheek near the upper-side of your nipple.
  3. Let gravity, not your arms or a mountain of pillows, hold your baby in place.  (Obviously, if gravity is winning you need to lean back more.)
  4. By all means, use your hand to hold your breast.  But avoid touching the back of your baby’s head.

Still not seeing it?  Watch a demonstration in this excellent video or read through this short checklist from La Leche League.

Spread the Non-Secret Secret!

Now that this breastfeeding position has been officially declassified by moi, it’s time to start spreading the good news!  By sharing this information with your friends, you’re giving suffering breastfeeders a new “don’t give up option” to try. (Which is definitely worth a share!)

Just that little hope of a new breastfeeding technique to try could mean the difference between a formula pickup and months of happy nursing.

Have you used this position with your nursing babe?  Which position seems to work for you best?

Related Articles:

We
Citations

http://www.llli.org/faq/positioning.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonic_labyrinthine_reflex
http://www.nancymohrbacher.com/blog/2010/10/11/some-ins-and-outs-of-laid-back-breastfeeding.html
http://www.cradlehold.com/Site/Problems_from_the_Cross_Cradle,_Football,_and_Log_Holds.html
http://media.clinicallaction.org/fall10/CLGenna.pdf
http://www.fhea.com/Newsletter/fheanews_volume11_issue1.pdf

17 thoughts on “The Secret Breastfeeding Position No One Talks About

  1. Hi Heather,

    I dont know if you’re responding to comments still, but i truly LOVE this website, so I decided i would rather ask you instead of just listening to my mum and mum in law… (who by the way, have the exact opposite opinions!).. Me and my baby both have been laying on our sides for night time feeds when I’m too exhausted, i hear that causes some kind of ear infections… What do you think? Now my 10 week old baby wont sleep without feeding like that.. (that may be because she’s constipated :()

    1. Huma,

      It is possible for the milk to irritate the Eustachian tube which can lead to ear infections.

      I would recommend you follow your mommy instincts on this one. If you haven’t had any trouble it might not turn into an issue for your little one. I couldn’t tell from your post if you are doing every feeding laying down or only the nighttime feedings. I would recommend trying other positions during the day so your little one doesn’t get into a habit. Hope this helps!

  2. Funny thing is…as I sat & read this, excited at the possibility of exploring a new breastfeeding position…I am leaning back with my little man tummy to tummy against me, and his head cradled sideways in the crook of my arm. I guess it would appear we’ve already mastered this one, and to be honest…it was brought about by sheer exhaustion & comfort. I always figured that I’d probably get my ear chewed off by my Lactation Consultants for my “lazy” positioning if they ever saw us like this! Haha!

    1. LOL! See what a natural you are Pamela! Sometimes we get so caught up in doing things “right” that we forget that sometimes what works isn’t what the textbooks say, but what our baby naturally does! And if it means we have to lounge like a queen and relax semi-sleeping with a nursing baby…so be it. 🙂

  3. I love this secret nursing position! I wish I would have known about it when my baby was a newborn. Thank you for sharing this awesome post, I don’t think many mommies know about this position and its great to share information and support! 🙂

  4. Hi Heather, its refreshing to read your writing with that wicked sense of humor..My bub prefers the side by side position, but not tummy to tummy, he likes to lie on his back and feed with his head from either left or right..I tried to position him tummy to my tummy on the side, but he settles on his back after our tug of war..sigh, I dont know if that’s ok, but he is thriving weight wise.

    1. Thanks Taryna! It’s glad to know I amuse at least one person other than myself (and my mother). Glad your little man found a position that works for him! That’s the most important thing. As long as he’s thriving…even if he preferred breastfeeding over your shoulder and upside down…I’d say go for it! 😉

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