Hold Your Head Up High: Why Upright Breastfeeding is Best for Reflux Babies

Most mamas don’t realize when they bring home their little bundle that babies are complicated. And not in the way they think!

You probably thought of all the other things that make raising a baby a challenge, but what you don’t know is that babies are still developing outside the womb. That’s why it’s called the 4th trimester in those first few months of life.

One of the things that aren’t completely developed is the digestive system.

Some babies are easier while others have a rougher time dealing with things like reflux, for example. If you have a baby with reflux, you want to try to help them keep things down and be comfortable. You probably also want to avoid being covered in spit-up and smelling like old cheese everywhere you go, right? Of course!

That’s why I’m here to tell you that upright breastfeeding positions are the best way to help your baby with reflux.

How Upright Positions in Breastfeeding Benefit Reflux

As mentioned, some of our little cherubs need a little extra help until things develop more for them in their digestive systems. When you hold your baby’s head higher than their belly, you use gravity to help them digest naturally.

But don’t go putting baby down in the crib right after that!

You should keep that baby upright after those feedings and make sure you burp her too, both when switching sides during the feeding and right after the feeding.

What Positions Work for Upright Breastfeeding?

Using the football hold with your baby in a sitting position is one of the most ideal ways to handle a baby with reflux when nursing. The position allows gravity to keep your breastmilk down in that stomach where it belongs.

illustration of football hold

The straddle position also works, as does the koala, though you need to provide more head support. You can read more about the koala position and how to do it here.

Honestly, any position that 1) keeps the head above the belly and 2) allows you to properly support your baby’s head/neck/back while doing it is the right way to breastfeed a reflux baby.

If you need more proof, just think about the end of your pregnancy and how dang uncomfortable it was. I was recently reminded of mine (thanks, Facebook memories!) and how I had to prop myself up in bed each night or else the reflux would get me. That’s what’s happening to your baby, so let gravity do its thing and come to the rescue here for those tiny tummies.

What Does an Upright Breastfeeding Position Help With?

In addition to helping with reflux, an upright breastfeeding position can benefit several things. Let’s discuss!

  • Reducing nipple pain

Because some babies naturally seem to latch very easily in upright positions, this is one to try if you find your nipples are sore. It can reduce the damage to a specific area they may have injured.

  • Help with strong letdown

Does your milk tend to overflow? If so, you can help your little one in an upright breastfeeding position because it will slow down that flow a little. For babies that seem to choke and sputter from a fast flow of milk, give this one a try so they can drink it at a pace that works for them.

  • Gassy and colicky babies

Like reflux, keeping the baby upright will use gravity to keep the milk in the belly after your baby swallows it instead of coming right back up. They can burp easier this way too.

  • Relieves strain on you

Even as you move out of the newborn phase and into another one, you will find the baby grows quite quickly and gets heavier. This can add strain to your neck, back, and shoulders. Sitting them upright makes it easier on you too!

  • Assists with blocked ducts

Got clogged up ducts? Try an upright nursing position. It helps drain the milk from the lower portion of your breast, which can help relieve these blocks or mastitis.

  • Better for colds, deformities, or other challenges

If your baby is sick with a runny nose, stuffy ears, or anything like that, upright breastfeeding will be the easiest way for them to eat. Additionally, those with a cleft palate, issues with swallowing, or breathing struggles will have an easier time of nursing when positioned upright.

Pro-tip for upright breastfeeding

I’ll leave you with one last thing that can help as you try to feed your baby in an upright position…let your sling help you. Wearing your baby upright will get them in the correct position, and the sling will keep you from having to use your hands. So it’s a win-win! Just don’t forget to burp them afterward!

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