Turns out, we've been breastfeeding the wrong way.

Take a moment to picture a mother breastfeeding her child. What comes to mind?

Chances are, like me you imagined a woman sitting up in a chair holding her baby up to her breast.

The way we imagine breastfeeding. Image via iStock.

Maybe you pictured a woman with a cloth draped over her chest so you couldn't even see how baby was latched.

It's not so surprising that this is the way we imagine breastfeeding. This is the way breastfeeding is often depicted.

It's also often the way mothers are taught to breastfeed in pre-natal classes and in the post-natal ward after baby arrives.

But could these images be part of the reason so many women stop breastfeeding their babies so early, earlier than they might have otherwise chosen for themselves?

Do we need to revisit the way we teach women to breastfeed?

In an article for Holistic Parenting Magazine Lactation Consultant and author Nancy Mohrbacher suggests that these images are counter-productive for women learning to breastfeed, and that holding a baby and sitting upright may contribute to the issues many women face when they start breastfeeding.


"Sitting straight up with your weight resting on your bottom after having a baby is painful. Holding baby close–so there are no gaps between you – quickly tires your arms, causing head, neck, and back strain. Baby suckling with pursed lips quickly leads to sore nipples," Mohrbacher writes.

Instead, she suggests that baby will breastfeed better and with less problems if baby is lying on its tummy on the mother skin-to-skin, a position called 'Natural Breastfeeding'. Mohrbacher says this full frontal contact activates baby's in-built GPS to find the breast and latch on.

Nancy with mum and baby show us Natural Breastfeeding in action. Post continues after video...

"Natural Breastfeeding makes it possible for babies to be the active breastfeeding partners that nature intended. But it’s not just good for babies. Mothers can relax completely and rest while baby feeds, often with both hands free. And gravity helps baby take the breast deeply, so there’s no need to micromanage baby’s latch."

The Australian Breastfeeding Association also discusses the benefits of this kind of position. "In a semi-reclined position, it is easier for a baby to make his own way to his mother’s breasts, gently supported by his mother. It can also help to minimise nipple trauma, as it reduces the drag on a mother’s nipple that may occur when a mother is sitting upright."

At The Motherish we're firmly of the view that mothers should be supported, without pressure, to make whatever feeding choice they wish. However, a lot of research suggests that many women do not continue breastfeeding after the first few weeks despite originally intending to breastfeed to six months.

Is it time to revisit the way we teach women to breastfeed?

How were you taught to breastfeed?