This site is intended for health professionals only

Getting the best out of breastfeeding

Breastfeeding newborn babies lying down or in a semireclined position may boost the chances of success, according to new research being unveiled at the RCN's 2007 International Research Conference today in Dundee.

Dr Suzanne Colson, senior midwifery lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University, based her research on 40 healthy mothers and their healthy full-term babies, all of whom were breastfeeding at six weeks, as well as 14 bottle-feeding mother-baby pairs. She found that those mothers who breastfed their infants lying down or semireclined in positions that mirrored the feeding positions of other mammals had the greatest success.

She commented: "I wanted to look at whether something called 'biological nurturing' where babies are placed lying close to the mother's breast, for example, while sleeping triggers primitive reflexes seen in many other mammals which encourage feeding. What was interesting to note is that when mothers were lying flat or semireclined babies could find the breast easier and in many cases attach themselves and feed whilst asleep.

"While further research needs to be done in this area, this study does challenge the current wisdom of teaching mothers to breastfeed in a fixed system of positioning and attachment."

Dr Peter Carter, General Secretary of the RCN said: "For many new mothers breastfeeding can be difficult and challenging. Not being able to do something which is supposed to be as simple and as natural as feeding their own child can leave many new mothers feeling disappointed and let down.

"By challenging conventional breastfeeding positions, this new research could go a long way to helping those mothers who are experiencing difficulties feeding their infants by suggesting other easy to adopt positions."