Healthy Kids/ Pregnancy & Birth

The Most Important Post Partum Skill-Nursing Lying Down


One of the most important post partum skills to learn is how to nurse laying down. I remember when Penelope was about 6 months old, a friend had just had a baby and I went over to drop off a meal. While I was there I was able to help her with breastfeeding and taught her how to nurse laying down. The look of relief on her face when she figured it out and realized how much easier it was to nurse like this and be able to get some rest was priceless.

Even if breastfeeding is going well (which if you have been reading my blog a long time, you know it did not go well for us), the sleep deprivation can cause moms to get desperate and ask someone give baby a bottle in the middle of the night so they can get some rest. Co-sleeping and the side lying nursing position will help you get much more sleep, especially in the early weeks of post partum. For us, co-sleeping got to a point where I was not getting as much sleep as I could and night weaned my daughter and got her to sleep in her own room (the whole process was about 6 months and did not involve crying). But we still nurse laying down as part of her bedtime routine.

To get yourself comfortable, put a pillow between your legs and one on the other side of baby to place your arm on, so everything is level and the pressure of your top arm and leg are more evenly distributed and less likely to make you  uncomfortable. Also put a pillow behind you so that you have some support and can kinda lean back a bit, like in this video.  My boobs were so big that I could almost lay flat on my back and my boob was over to the side. I was so happy then because I hated sleeping on my side. I am paying the price now, though, with my little deflated-pancakes-of-boobs. P.S. If anyone told you that breastfeeding doesn’t change your boobs, They. Are. Lying. I totally and completely understand why people get boob jobs after they are done having a babies.

In general, you and baby should be belly to belly, which is one of the yummiest feelings in the world. Feeling your breath and belly moving up and down together is just heaven. Their nose should be at your nipple, so scootch them up or down so that they are right in front of your nipple.

For tiny newborns, it may be easier to start with your body propped up on your elbow, and you sort of drop down on them, nipple first. Get them to latch on while they are on their back and you sort of dangle your boob in their mouth, and then when baby is latched on, move your arm up by your head and lay down, and roll baby towards you into the belly to belly position.

Also for smaller babies, it may be better to not have baby in the crook of your arm and instead have your bottom arm out straight and babies head directly on the mattress, shown in this video. I think this is best, so as not to get their little necks out of alignment.

This is not the best video as far as production goes, but it shows pretty clearly the logistics of how to nurse lying down with an older baby (also shows what I mean by nursing laying down and baby being in the crook of your arm). This is pretty much the exact routine I did with Penelope when she finally learned how to latch on and started nursing to sleep and nursing in her sleep.

Later, when we were better at nursing, I could do a variation on side lying where I leaned toward her and nursed with the “inside or top boob” instead of the one closest to baby in traditional side lying. This was just a nice alternative to laying directly on my side, since pre-Penelope I liked to start out falling asleep on my stomach.

Also, here is a quick article from Dr. Sears on tips for night time feeding. And is a wealth of information on all things breastfeeding.

If you have any questions, please let me know!


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  • Misty
    August 20, 2012 at 8:13 PM

    Thanks for this! I figured it out with baby number three, because I had figured my boobs were just too big. Turns out I was just doing it wrong. Also- “you and baby should be belly to belly, which is one of the yummiest feelings in the world. Feeling your breath and belly moving up and down together is just heaven” is SO TRUE! Perfectly stated. Made me grab my youngest (14 mo) and snuggle her. <3

    • Stephanie
      August 21, 2012 at 1:58 AM

      Glad you finally figured it ou!! So happy for you. 🙂

  • Cheryll
    August 20, 2012 at 8:40 PM

    This is great! I couldn’t figure out how to do this with my first because I thought it was against some kind of nursing “rules” to stick your arm out instead of having baby in the crook of your arm (I know I was dumb) and it just wouldn’t work right with him in my arm so I gave up. I got desperate with #2 because we had some nursing issues and I just couldn’t relax while nursing so I decided to lay down and stick my arm out and not tell anyone (in case I was doing it wrong…lol) and it helped us so much. With #3 and 4 it was a piece of cake by then. I also loved leaning slightly over and letting them nurse on my “top boob” the best (which I’ve also always wondered if anyone else does). It just feels so snuggly and my back hurts less and I used to be a stomach sleeper too before my babies came so I just prefer that way. Thanks for sharing this. I wish I’d have had this info when my ist was born.

    • Stephanie
      August 21, 2012 at 2:00 AM

      Is it horrible, this made me laugh? It’s so funny what we get paranoid about it. The breastfeeding police coming to get us, for putting our arm in an possible incorrect position. So cute. Glad you decided to break the rules. Go you.

    • Lenore
      August 22, 2012 at 6:04 AM

      I did this too! roll over slightly onto my tummy and feed from my top boob!
      I remember always struggling and making myself sit up in bed in the middle of the night to feed my first cause I didn’t think you were allowed to feed lying down, and my boobs were so HUGE and full that it was really hard to not drown her! It was almost routine for my hubby to wake me up with both Lani and I sleeping with our necks in really uncomfortable (and for the brand new baby, probably dangerous!) positions! I finally learnt to feed on my side and things went so much better! Or lying back in a recliner chair (always with one of my legs hooked over the arm of the chair to help support the baby!!! lol)
      Now with baby number five my boobs are still huge, but more like pancakes :-S and lying on my side helps support my poor old droopy things too!

      • Stephanie
        August 22, 2012 at 11:21 AM

        Gotta love pancake boobs. Post-motherhood, they are all either pancakes or as my friend says: tube socks with lemons at the bottom. 😉

  • Loretta E
    August 20, 2012 at 9:04 PM

    I had to get some tips from an IBCLC in the first few days, but the advice that I’m still grateful for is from my midwife. She said, learn to nurse laying down so you can sleep. I hated it at first because it didn’t come easy to me, but it sure beat trying to nurse sitting up and falling asleep that way! I still tell this to everybody I can. Even if they don’t sleep with their babies (or plan on it), we all know it happens! I did on purpose, but not everybody plans to.

    • Stephanie
      August 21, 2012 at 2:00 AM

      Totally, it’s impossible to really sleep in a chair.

  • Amy Akers
    August 20, 2012 at 10:30 PM

    I just wanted to say that I appreciate you sharing so openly your experience and thoughts, feeding my children from my breast was the best choice I ever made, I loved it and so did they 🙂 The picture you have of you and your daughter is absolutely beautiful and warms my heart!

    • Stephanie
      August 21, 2012 at 2:01 AM

      Thank you so much!!

  • Jessica
    August 21, 2012 at 2:33 AM

    I learned to nurse lying down by accident. When my son was about 3 weeks old, I noticed he was flailing around a lot in his sleep one night and waking himself up (he was in a co-sleeper right next to my bed). So I brought him into bed and snuggled him up next to me to keep him secure. I had been planning to put him back in the co-sleeper once he was asleep, but I ended up falling asleep and when I woke up a few hours later, he was rooting around for my nipple. I took it out for him and the rest was history!

    • Stephanie
      August 21, 2012 at 1:10 PM


  • Halle
    August 22, 2012 at 12:34 AM

    Side-lying nursing while reading your blog. How apropos 😉
    Love that beautiful picture. My nursing pictures are some of the ones I treasure most…

  • Kendra
    August 22, 2012 at 4:34 PM

    I do have a kind of silly question… What about diaper changes? In the very beginning my son started sleeping too long and we were told to wake him up after four hours. We used the diaper change as a way to get him alert and by taking off his clothes down to the diaper he was ready to go. If you are co-sleeping or nursing lying down do you not worry about diaper changes, unless they are a doozy? I’m assuming the nursing lying down is best for the middle of the night when you and baby are both practically asleep while doing it? BF didn’t go so well for me and my son either, I had to exclusively pump, so now that #2 is on the way I am crossing my fingers (and my boobs because Lord know they are large enough) that things go better this time around! Thank you for your help!

    • Stephanie
      August 22, 2012 at 5:57 PM

      I say never wake a sleeping baby. If they wake and need a change, sure then go ahead and change them. But if they sleep through the night, then just change diapers immediately upon waking.

  • Sara
    August 25, 2012 at 8:03 PM

    Your post caught my eye, even though I am LONG past baby days! My sister is enjoying her first two grandchildren, and I spent time with all of them this summer. My conclusion is that it is a miracle that my children lived past ONE, because EVERYTHING I did is now completely UNACCEPTABLE! One of them is breastfeeding while lying down. According to my sister and the 2 mothers and their pediatrician, the leading cause of infant death today is babies being smothered while sleeping with their parents. I didn’t do any research, but just shut-up for the rest of the weekend. I thought this was a wonderful bonding experience and loved cuddling with my kids until they told me they were too old. Regardless, I still force a few cuddles on the sofa – my 21 yo son is a great cuddler. Some day his wife will thank me!
    #2 – My nieces feed their children a precise amount of food and supplemental formula. One does not feed until the child is full. This causes childhood obesity. Their babies NEVER sleep through the night. The night I babysat, I sneaked Kasper 3 extra ounces and he slept through the night! I think he wakes up hungry. I am the evil great-aunt.
    #3 – CHildren are not allowed ANY screen time until they are three year old. Also causes child hood obesity and ADHD. Now I really can’t speak up on this one since I have a son with ADHD. He is in graduate school now, so I didn’t do too badly with him. But this screen time thing is a real big deal for them! Not only can the kids not play with a device with a screen, but they cannot be in a room with any screen. Smart phones, iPads, PCs, TVs, games with screens, toys with screens. No usage around these babies for three years. Went out to dinner and tried three restaurants until we found one that did not have any TVs or computers used for seating charts or handhelds for ordering. God help them, it would drive me crazy. Not that I used TV for constant babysitting, but I would have struggled with midnight feedings without the help of late night reruns. I’d love to hear what others think of these issues. Not that I’ll speak up, but maybe I’ll get to be a grandma someday too! And I’ll need to know. My mom used the great technique of “What worked for me …” while raising her 6 children – and I never took offense to her advice!

    • Lily
      October 15, 2012 at 2:36 AM

      I have a one year old whom I am breast feeding and co-sleeping with. I have no prior experience with babies and my mother has passed, but I always knew that we are instinctual creatures and that we know what is best for our babies, if we only learn to listen and trust ourselves.

  • Summer
    April 7, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    I wish I could get the hang of nursing lying down. I am cosleeping with my 3 week old and trying to nurse this way, but he seems to hate it. He grunts and fusses until I’m forced to sit up. Any idea what I could be doing wrong?

    • Stephanie
      April 8, 2013 at 2:11 PM

      There is def a learning curve, so don’t feel like you are the only one. You may want to try the cross lateral version of it. So for example, you are laying on your left side but you offer the right boob. So you would be propped up on your left elbow to get a good latch established and then you can slowly lower you arm down to a relaxed laying down position once baby is on. Also, does he have a good latch while sitting up? He may just not have the hang of breastfeeding yet and sitting up is the only way he knows how right now. Holler, if you have any more questions, always happy to help. 😉

  • Princess
    January 15, 2014 at 7:43 AM

    Am so haPpy to have come across your site this morning. I wasn’t too sure that my baby was old enough for the lying down nursing as she is 4wks n 1day. Immediately I entered your site, I tried it, and it worked well. Am so loving it. Right now, I am nursing while lying and typing. Its so cool. My baby got the scope instantly even though its our first time.

    • Stephanie
      January 15, 2014 at 6:13 PM

      Awesome!! Congrats on your new baby!

  • Rebecca McAuley
    August 6, 2014 at 12:36 PM

    What do you do about burping the baby when you are doing lye down feeds?

    • Stephanie
      August 7, 2014 at 4:50 PM

      I never burped her at night, and hardly during the day too. If you are eating well and making easily digestable breastmilk, that will help. But if you really need to burb, just scootch your self up to a half sitting/half laying down position.