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Breastfeeding Techniques & Positions

If there’s one thing we’ve learned as a baby brand and as parents, it’s that feeding a baby is one of the most personal and visceral experiences you’ll have. There’s no one “right” way to feed every baby, as every baby has different needs.

Which is why we’ve compiled a list of the most popular breastfeeding positions and techniques for you to try with your baby, so you two can figure out what works best for you. Please reach out to your IBCLC, feeding specialist or pediatrician if you have any questions regarding information in this article.

Breastfeeding Techniques

Dream Feeding

The definition of dream feeding differs depending on who you ask. If you’re asking British Nurse Tracy Hogg, who first coined the term, dream feeding is a technique that involves feeding baby when they are sleeping. Other well-known names believe that waking baby is necessary to properly dream feed. Still others use dream feeding when describing how they provide a big feed for baby right before bed. Whichever way you do it, the intent is the same: to help baby sleep longer by filling their tummy late at night. While both sleep dream feeding and awake dream feeding suggest timing it between 10 p.m. and midnight, the approach is a little different.

  • Sleep Dream Feeding: Gently place baby in a feeding position, softly stroke baby’s mouth and offer your breast. The hope is baby will be stimulated to root, as babies may be able to do this without fully waking.
  • Awake Dream Feeding: Carefully and gently wake baby from their sleep later at night. Suggestions include light tickling or changing their diaper. Then feed until baby gives full cues.

Though there are some studies showing certain sleep practices improve baby’s sleep at the 8-week period, dream feeding has only been a component. Other practices such as swaddling and limiting stimulation were also part of the effort. Dream feeding can also be used as a bottle-feeding technique and is approached in the same way.

Potential Benefits to Dream Feeding:

  • Helps baby sleep longer
  • Great for babies who wake every few hours to feed
  • Relatively quick feed
  • Easier than early morning feeds

Things to Think About:

  • Creating a habit of nighttime feeding that’s hard to break
  • Not knowing when to stop dream feeding
  • Disrupting natural sleep/wake rhythms
  • Potentially causing baby to wake more frequently

If baby has reflux, some experts don’t recommend doing dream feeding as it can cause baby discomfort. Make sure to speak with your feeding specialist or pediatrician about this technique prior to beginning.

Cluster Feeding

It’s a bit misleading to say that cluster feeding is a technique. It’s more of a baby-led effort, not necessarily something you instill. But it is important to know what it is and means, to prevent worry and stress that something is up with your little one.

Cluster feeding, also known as bunch feeding, is when baby wants to feed multiple times in a short period of time, usually in the evening between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. It can cause moms to worry that their baby is not getting enough milk when in reality, it’s typically just a phase baby goes through. Before going into full-blown panic, if baby is producing similar or more wet and dirty diapers, there’s no issue with your milk supply. Baby may be fussy when in a cluster feeding frenzy, but again, don’t worry. It’s kind of like you when you have a “bottomless stomach” day and can’t stop growling at and eating every piece of food in sight.

Potential Benefits to Cluster Feeding:

  • Sometimes baby will sleep through the night after a bout
  • If you sling baby and feed, you can still move around and get things done while baby is occupied
  • You have a great excuse to binge watch your favorite show when baby’s cluster feeding
  • It’s a phase and this, too, shall pass

Things to Think About:

  • It can be emotionally and physically exhausting to constantly feed for hours every evening
  • It sucks up your evenings to get things done
  • Baby is fussy pretty much the whole time
  • It can cause a big hit to the confidence in your parenting skills

Switch Feeding

Switch feeding is exactly as it sounds; during a breastfeeding session, you switch baby between breasts, going back and forth to each every few minutes. There’s also a more condensed version, where you feed on one breast and when baby slows down and begins to fall asleep, you stimulate them by burping and moving them to the other breast. This is advice you typically hear in the early days of breastfeeding as both you and baby are learning to traverse the world of breastfeeding and your milk is coming in.

Potential Benefits to Switch Feeding:

  • Keeps a sleepy baby awake for a more complete breastfeeding session
  • May help an underweight baby to gain the pounds needed to reach expected milestones
  • Encourages let-down, which may help a low milk supply

Things to Think About:

  • While all breastmilk is good milk, baby may not feed long enough on either breast to get the high-fat, high-calorie hindmilk
  • Babies with sucking issues or who are premature may struggle with this method

Breastfeeding Positions

Side Lying

Side lying breastfeeding is where mom lays on either side and baby is laying down alongside her to breastfeed. It’s good for situations where it hurts mom to sit for too long after a tough birth and when you want to relax while feeding. Sometimes, figuring out where to put your breast and the baby can be confusing, and it obviously doesn’t work for breastfeeding in public. It’s a great position for breastfeeding babies of any age.

Clutch (Football) Hold

The football hold has baby tucked up between the inside of your arm and against your side, with you propped up by a few pillows. You cradle baby’s head as she feeds. Moms who just had a C-section like this position because it keeps baby off their belly. Babies love this position because their legs don’t dangle and it’s really cozy; so cozy, they may just fall asleep. It’s trickier to do in public, too. The clutch hold is great for smaller, younger babies.

Cradle and Cross Cradle Hold

This hold is the more quintessential breastfeeding position, where baby is laid across your body, cradled in your arm or a breastfeeding pillow. The cross/cradle hold feels most natural to a lot of moms, and leaves their other arm free to drink, eat, or change the channel. This hold works well in public feedings, and is great for breastfeeding babies of any age.

Laid Back Hold:

The laid back hold puts mom and baby belly to belly, with mom laying back but still slightly propped with pillows. This position is good for babies who want or need to take the lead when breastfeeding and offers mom and baby some skin-to-skin time. Moms who have more forceful letdowns or too much milk supply like this position as it slows flow. Babies of every age can be fed in the laid-back position.

No matter what approach or position you use to breastfeed, the important thing is that you and baby are in this together. Learning both of your needs – and the options available to you – are the first steps to a Happy Feeding™ experience. Be sure to speak with your lactation consultant, feeding specialist or pediatrician before making any major changes to your feeding routines, and feel free to reach out to Dr. Brown’s with any questions on our Breastfeeding Accessories or other Dr. Brown’s products!

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