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.
If you have any questions, please let me know!