The Magic of Upright Breastfeeding Bonding and Comfort - Milk Supply Mama

The Magic of Upright Breastfeeding: Bonding and Comfort

Last Updated: January 8, 2024By 19.3 min read

There’s a vast world out there of motherhood secrets, passed down from generation to generation, shared amongst circles of moms over warm cups of tea, or discovered accidentally during those 3 AM feeds. One such secret I stumbled upon is upright breastfeeding.

Now, if you’re new to this term, you’re probably imagining a mother standing and breastfeeding. But it’s not just that. Upright breastfeeding is a method where the baby is positioned vertically or semi-vertically against the mother’s body during nursing. This can be done while the mother is sitting, standing, or even walking, and it’s a technique that has been embraced across various cultures for generations.

I’ll never forget the day I was introduced to upright breastfeeding. Traditional cradle holds had been a challenge for us. Between reflux and my backaches, breastfeeding was becoming a task rather than a bonding experience. It was during a visit to my grandmother when she shared her own nursing journey from years gone by. “Back in my day, we just held the baby up and fed them like this,” she said, holding her arms upright. Intrigued and, admittedly, a bit desperate, I gave it a try. The difference was immediate. Not only did baby seem more content, but I also felt more at ease.

As with any new discovery, I began diving deep, wanting to know more about this method. And as I unraveled its benefits and nuances, I felt compelled to share it with fellow mothers. But before we delve into the nitty-gritty of upright breastfeeding, let me take you through its essence, its benefits, its challenges, and its incredible potential to reshape your nursing journey.

Article Overview

Why Upright Breastfeeding? The Basics Uncovered

Breastfeeding is as ancient as humanity itself. The act of a mother nourishing her child is ingrained in our biology, our culture, and our instinct. Yet, as with many things in life, the “how-to” of breastfeeding has seen numerous changes, adaptations, and evolutions throughout history. Amidst these variations, upright breastfeeding emerges as a method that aligns closely with our primal instincts and the practices of many cultures.

Natural and Instinctive

When you think about it, many mammals feed their young while in a vertical position. Watch a mother cat or dog nursing her litter, and you’ll see the puppies or kittens approach their mother from beneath, positioning themselves vertically to suckle. This isn’t just a coincidence; it’s nature’s design. Similarly, human babies, when placed on their mother’s chest shortly after birth, exhibit the ‘breast crawl’. This is where they instinctively move towards the breast, navigating primarily in an upright manner.

The beauty of upright breastfeeding is that it mimics this natural instinct. Babies are often calmer and more in tune with the act of feeding when they are positioned vertically. They seem to feel the pull of that ancient rhythm that binds mother and child in the dance of sustenance and love.

Embraced Across Cultures

Tracing back through history, we find that many cultures inherently understood and practiced the art of upright breastfeeding. For instance:

  • African Cultures: Many African tribes, especially those leading a nomadic lifestyle, embraced upright breastfeeding as it allowed mothers to continue their daily tasks while ensuring their babies were fed and content. The vertical baby carrying methods they employed are a testament to this.
  • Asian Traditions: In certain parts of Asia, mothers believed that holding babies upright helped with digestion and prevented ailments like colic. The vertical holds also facilitated warmth and protection in densely populated areas.
  • Indigenous Traditions: From the Amazonian rainforest to the Australian outback, indigenous tribes often preferred holding their babies vertically, either against their chests or backs. This made it easier to carry them while gathering food or traveling.
  • European History: Paintings and literature from ancient and medieval Europe showcase mothers feeding their infants while standing or walking, highlighting the prevalence of upright breastfeeding.

The common thread running through these diverse cultures is the understanding that upright breastfeeding is not just a convenience but a practice deeply rooted in nature, tradition, and the primal bond between mother and child.

As we move forward in our exploration, it becomes evident that this age-old practice, refined by time and enhanced by personal experiences, holds numerous benefits and potentials for the modern-day mom.

Advantages of Upright Breastfeeding

As a new mother or even a second or third-time mom, the choices we make often center around what’s best for our baby. But the beauty of upright breastfeeding is that it doesn’t just cater to our little ones. It brings with it a range of benefits for mothers too. Here’s a closer look at the remarkable advantages of this nursing position:

Better Latch

One of the primary challenges many mothers face during breastfeeding is ensuring a good latch. A poor latch can lead to sore nipples, inadequate milk transfer, and a frustrated baby. Upright breastfeeding can be a game-changer here. The vertical position naturally encourages the baby’s head to tilt slightly backward, allowing them to take more of the breast into their mouth. This promotes a deeper, asymmetric latch, with more of the areola inside the baby’s mouth and the nipple pointing towards the roof of the baby’s mouth. The result? A more comfortable nursing experience for both mom and baby, with reduced nipple pain and more effective milk flow.

Digestive Benefits

Any mother who has watched her baby grapple with digestive discomfort knows the feeling of helplessness it brings. Upright breastfeeding can be a part of the solution. When babies are held vertically, gravity assists in keeping the milk down, making it harder for it to come back up the esophagus. This can reduce episodes of reflux or spit-ups. Additionally, the upright position can help in releasing trapped gas, making digestion smoother for the baby.

Bonding

Breastfeeding isn’t just about nutrition; it’s also a profound bonding experience. Upright breastfeeding positions allow for more intimate skin-to-skin contact. With the baby’s chest against yours, there’s an increased heart-to-heart connection. Plus, the eye contact possible in this position strengthens the non-verbal communication between mother and child. These moments, filled with soft gazes and gentle touches, help in deepening the bond and increasing the baby’s sense of security.

Comfort for Mom

Breastfeeding can sometimes take a toll on the mother’s body, especially the back and shoulders. Traditional positions often require hunching or leaning, which can exacerbate body aches. With upright breastfeeding, the mother can maintain a more neutral spine, reducing strain on the back and neck. Furthermore, the weight of the baby is more evenly distributed, minimizing the pressure on any particular body part.

Flexibility

Life doesn’t stop when you become a mother, and neither do your responsibilities. Upright breastfeeding offers a flexibility that is truly liberating. Need to walk to the kitchen for a glass of water? Or answer the door? With a little practice, you can breastfeed on-the-go. Plus, it’s adaptable to various carrying positions, whether you’re using a sling, a wrap, or just your arms. This adaptability makes it easier to nurse discreetly in public places or even during social gatherings.

As we dive deeper into the world of upright breastfeeding, it’s evident that its advantages go beyond mere convenience. It’s about enhancing the entire breastfeeding journey, making it more comfortable, enjoyable, and fulfilling for both mother and baby.

Potential Challenges and Their Solutions

Breastfeeding is a deeply intimate, personal experience, and like every journey, it comes with its highs and lows. Venturing into upright breastfeeding, while rewarding, can present its set of unique challenges. Here’s a look at some common hurdles mothers might encounter and how to gracefully navigate them.

Initial Difficulty

Switching to or starting with upright breastfeeding can initially seem a bit like learning a dance. Getting the rhythm, the hold, and the latch just right might take a few attempts.

Solution:

Practice makes perfect. Remember, both you and your baby are learning. Start by trying it out when both you and your little one are calm and relaxed. I used to practice post-feed when my baby was content, just to get the hang of the position without the pressure of ensuring a perfect latch. Remember, every new step with your baby is a learning curve for both of you, so be patient and give yourselves the grace to grow into the process.

Muscle Fatigue

While the benefits are plentiful, holding your baby in an upright position, especially as they grow, can be physically demanding, leading to muscle fatigue.

Solution:

First, ensure you’re seated comfortably. A supportive chair or bed with cushions can make all the difference. Rotate between different breastfeeding positions throughout the day to give your muscles a break. I also found that using a sling or baby carrier helped distribute my baby’s weight, reducing strain on my arms and back. And hey, a little arm toning was a pleasant side benefit for me!

Clothing Concerns

Let’s be real; not every outfit in our wardrobe is breastfeeding-friendly, let alone upright breastfeeding-friendly. The thought of managing your attire while trying to feed discreetly in public might be daunting.

Solution:

When I started upright breastfeeding in public, wrap dresses became my best friend. Easy access, stylish, and versatile. There are also a plethora of nursing tops and dresses available nowadays, designed specifically for ease and discretion. Layering is another trick; wearing a camisole under a regular top means you can lift the outer layer without exposing your midriff. Another personal tip: always have a lightweight scarf or shawl handy. It’s versatile, stylish, and provides an added layer of privacy if you need it.

Personal Tip

The first few times I tried upright breastfeeding outside the comfort of my home, I felt a bit like all eyes were on me. But then I realized something pivotal: most people are too wrapped up in their own worlds to notice. And even if they did, I was doing the most natural thing – nourishing my child. Confidence is key. Once I owned the process, everything else fell into place.

Incorporating a new breastfeeding technique is a journey filled with adjustments, little victories, and fleeting challenges. Remember, it’s okay to take your time, ask for help, and make it your own. Every mom’s experience is unique, and there’s no one-size-fits-all. It’s all about finding what’s comfortable and works best for you and your little one.

My Personal Upright Breastfeeding Journey

Navigating the world of motherhood, I’ve come to realize that each experience, each choice we make, adds a new chapter to our unique story. My venture into upright breastfeeding, though filled with ups and downs, remains one of the most cherished chapters of my motherhood journey. Allow me to share some of those intimate moments with you.

The First Time Trying Upright Breastfeeding

I stumbled upon the concept of upright breastfeeding during one of those late-night internet dives, a quest for solutions to ease my baby’s reflux issues. The next day, armed with determination and a sprinkle of apprehension, I decided to give it a go. I remember holding my little one close, chest to chest, waiting for the magic to happen. And after a few awkward adjustments and repositionings, the magic did happen. The latch was different, deeper. My baby seemed calmer, and I could feel a newfound closeness.

Challenges Faced and How They Were Overcome

Like any new endeavor, our upright breastfeeding journey wasn’t without its challenges. My arms ached during those initial days, and there were times when my baby would wriggle and squirm, making it hard to maintain the position. I won’t deny the moments of doubt that crept in, making me wonder if I was doing it all wrong.

But instead of giving up, I sought help. Joining a local mom’s group introduced me to other mothers who shared their own experiences and tips. Using a nursing pillow and alternating with traditional positions eased the strain on my arms. And every time we faced a hurdle, I reminded myself of the benefits and the reason I started this journey – for the well-being and comfort of my little one.

Most Cherished Moments and Successes

While there were challenges, the moments of pure joy and connection far outweighed them. One of my most cherished memories is nursing my baby in an upright position while walking in our backyard. The sun was setting, casting a golden hue, and the world seemed to pause just for us. I felt an unparalleled bond, a silent conversation between my baby and me, one that words could never capture.

Our reflux issues? They improved significantly, adding to the list of our upright breastfeeding successes. But more than the physical benefits, it was the emotional connection, the silent moments of understanding, the soft gazes exchanged, that made it all worth it.

In this journey, I’ve learned that breastfeeding, in any position, is much more than a way to nourish our babies. It’s a dance, an expression of love, a language in itself. And as we swayed to the rhythm of upright breastfeeding, our bond deepened, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Tips and Techniques for Successful Upright Breastfeeding

Delving into upright breastfeeding, like any new journey, requires a little bit of guidance and a sprinkle of perseverance. It’s not just about positioning but also about ensuring you and your baby are comfortable and relaxed. Here’s a compilation of tips and techniques that I, and many other mothers, have found useful:

Finding Balance

The key to a successful upright breastfeeding session is ensuring your baby is secure and balanced. Here’s how:

  • Support the neck and back: Use your hand to cradle your baby’s neck and upper back, giving them the support they need.
  • Foot positioning: If your baby’s feet dangle, use your thigh or a pillow as a resting spot, making them feel grounded.
  • Stay close: Keep your baby close to your chest, ensuring they feel secure and snug against you.

Clothing Choices

Dressing for breastfeeding shouldn’t mean compromising on style. Here are a few recommendations:

  • Wrap dresses/tops: These allow easy access without much hassle. Plus, they’re always in vogue!
  • Button-down shirts: Not only stylish, but they also offer easy access without much rearranging.
  • Nursing tanks: These versatile pieces can be layered under regular tops, giving you more clothing options.

Incorporating Carriers

Slings and carriers can be game-changers, especially if you’re on the move or have other children to attend to.

  • Ring slings: These are adjustable and allow you to snugly position your baby upright against your chest.
  • Ergonomic carriers with newborn inserts: These offer excellent support for your baby’s neck and back, and many are designed with breastfeeding in mind. Just adjust the straps for the correct height, and you’re good to go!

Staying Relaxed

Your baby can sense your emotions. The more relaxed you are, the smoother the feeding session will be.

  • Choose a comfortable spot: Whether it’s a cozy corner of your couch, a park bench, or your favorite armchair, make sure you’re comfy.
  • Deep breathing: Feeling a little tense? Take a few deep breaths. It can work wonders to calm both you and your baby.
  • Distraction: Sometimes, having some soft music or a gentle lullaby can make the world of difference.

Seeking Support

You don’t have to do this alone. There’s a whole community out there ready to lend a helping hand.

  • Mom groups: These can be a treasure trove of information and support. Not only can you learn from others’ experiences, but sharing your journey can also be therapeutic.
  • Lactation consultants: If you’re facing challenges, these professionals can provide tailored advice and solutions.
  • Online communities: Can’t find local groups? The internet is full of forums, blogs, and communities where mothers share their tips, tricks, and stories related to upright breastfeeding.

While the path of upright breastfeeding can seem a tad overwhelming initially, remember that it’s a journey of discovery for both you and your little one. With the right techniques and a sprinkle of patience, you’ll find your rhythm, making the experience both enriching and rewarding. Happy nursing!

When Upright Breastfeeding Might Not Be Ideal

While the benefits of upright breastfeeding are numerous and its proponents many, it’s essential to understand that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach in the realm of motherhood. Certain situations or conditions might make this breastfeeding position less than ideal. Recognizing these scenarios will help you make informed choices that prioritize both your comfort and your baby’s well-being.

Cases Where Upright Breastfeeding Might Pose Challenges

1. Certain Medical Conditions:

If your baby has specific medical conditions, such as certain types of neck or spinal issues, it might be best to consult with a pediatrician before trying the upright position. The same goes for mothers with certain health concerns or physical limitations that might make holding a baby in this manner challenging.

2. Post-Surgical Concerns:

Moms who’ve had a cesarean section might find holding their baby upright against their chest uncomfortable or even painful, especially in the early days post-surgery. Similarly, if you’ve had surgeries or procedures involving the breasts, this position might exert unwanted pressure or be uncomfortable.

3. Premature Babies:

Premature babies often have different needs when it comes to feeding. Their muscle strength, latch capability, and ability to regulate their breath while feeding might require specialized positions or feeding techniques.

4. Babies with Latching Difficulties:

While upright breastfeeding can sometimes aid in achieving a better latch, for some babies, especially those with tongue ties or other oral anatomical concerns, a different position might be more conducive.

Discerning if Upright Breastfeeding is Right for You and Your Baby

1. Observe Your Baby:

If your baby seems restless, uncomfortable, or isn’t latching well in the upright position, it might be worth exploring other breastfeeding techniques.

2. Listen to Your Body:

Your comfort is paramount. If you feel strain, pain, or discomfort beyond the initial learning curve, take a step back and assess.

3. Seek Expert Advice:

When in doubt, consult. Lactation consultants, pediatricians, and other healthcare professionals can provide valuable insights tailored to your specific situation.

4. Trust Your Instincts:

Motherhood comes equipped with a heightened sense of intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to trust your instincts and adjust your approach.

While upright breastfeeding offers myriad benefits, it’s crucial to approach it as one of many tools in your parenting toolkit. The best breastfeeding position is the one where both mother and baby are comfortable, content, and connected. Remember, every mother-baby duo is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. The goal is a happy, nourishing bond – regardless of the position you choose.

FAQ Section about Upright Breastfeeding

Embarking on the journey of upright breastfeeding can come with a myriad of questions. Let’s address some of the most commonly asked queries:

Q1: How do I ensure a proper latch in an upright position?

A: Achieving a proper latch is key, regardless of the position. When trying the upright method:

  • Ensure your baby’s mouth is wide open before attempting to latch.
  • Aim your nipple towards the roof of their mouth, ensuring that they take a large portion of the breast tissue, not just the nipple.
  • Observe for signs of a good latch: rhythmic sucking, audible swallowing, and a comfortable, pain-free sensation for you. If you experience pain or discomfort, break the suction by inserting your little finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth and try latching again.

Q2: Can I use a nursing pillow with upright breastfeeding?

A: Absolutely! While it might take a little adjustment to find the most comfortable position, a nursing pillow can provide added support, reducing arm or back strain. Some moms find it useful to prop the pillow on their laps to support the baby’s weight while keeping them in the upright position.

Q3: What if my baby falls asleep while breastfeeding upright?

A: It’s common for babies to doze off during feedings, especially when they’re feeling cozy and close to mom. If your baby falls asleep but hasn’t finished feeding, you can try gentle stimulations, like stroking their back or cheek, to rouse them. If you believe they’ve had enough, carefully transition them to a safe sleeping position, always ensuring they’re on their back, in a safe environment.

Q4: How can I discreetly breastfeed upright in public?

A: Discretion while breastfeeding comes down to your comfort and personal preference. Some strategies include:

  • Using nursing-specific attire that allows easy access without exposing much skin.
  • Employing a lightweight scarf or nursing cover.
  • Utilizing baby carriers or slings, which can naturally offer some coverage.
  • Choosing seating areas with a bit more privacy, like corner seats in cafes or parks.

Q5: Is upright breastfeeding suitable for premature babies?

A: Upright breastfeeding can sometimes be used with premature babies, but it depends on the baby’s specific needs and development. Premature infants may have challenges with muscle tone, latching, or breathing coordination, which could necessitate specialized positions or techniques. It’s essential to consult with neonatal care specialists or lactation consultants familiar with premature infants before trying upright breastfeeding with a preemie.

Remember, every breastfeeding journey is unique. While these answers offer general guidance, always consider your personal circumstances and feel free to seek expert advice tailored to your situation.

Wapping It Up – Upright Breastfeeding

As we wrap up this comprehensive look into upright breastfeeding, it’s evident that like most things in motherhood, it presents a blend of challenges and rewards. The advantages, from promoting a more secure latch to fostering closer bonding, make it an appealing choice for many. Yet, it’s essential to remember that it might not be the ideal fit for everyone.

The journey of breastfeeding, much like the broader voyage of motherhood, is deeply personal. There’s no universal playbook that spells out the perfect method. Instead, it’s a series of trials, learnings, and beautiful moments that shape our unique experiences. Upright breastfeeding is just one of many techniques out there, and its effectiveness truly depends on the unique duo of mother and baby.

If there’s one thing I’d love for you to take away, it’s the encouragement to explore. Just as we try on different hats in life, don’t be afraid to try various breastfeeding positions, techniques, and supports. Some might fit perfectly, while others might not, and that’s entirely okay. What’s most important is finding what makes both you and your baby comfortable and content.

In closing, motherhood is a dance of both grace and grit. Through sleepless nights, moments of doubt, and unparalleled joys, remember that you’re doing wonderfully. Whether you choose upright breastfeeding or another method, the love, care, and nourishment you offer your little one are beyond measure. Embrace each moment, seek support when needed, and know that you’re not alone on this beautiful journey. Here’s to every mother, navigating the intricate paths of motherhood with love and determination. You’ve got this!

Further Reading

Of course! Here are three reputable websites that provide valuable information on breastfeeding, including different positions such as the upright method:

 

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