Laid Back Position vs Baby-led

Laid back position, biological nurturing, natural breastfeeding, baby-led positioning. All the same thing, right?

Something crystallised for me recently and I wanted to share it in case it creates a similar shift for anyone else. I love Aha! moments and this one was really powerful for me.


When I was working as an Infant Feeding Support Worker I was aware of the 'laid back position'. I taught about it in classes, knew it often got used straight after the birth but actually secretly kind of hated it. It never seemed to work. I couldn't get the babies to latch any better using it. Families found it restrictive and faffy. I knew some people raved about it but I thought they were exaggerating or mistaken, maybe dealing with babies at a different stage to me (I was mainly dealing with newborns).

Then during my IBCLC training I watched a presentation by Nancy Mohrbacher at a conference, she explained and showed her Natural Breastfeeding approach and talked about it being 'baby-led' rather than 'mother-led' . In my head it was the just the same old thing so I left mildly unimpressed, convinced it wouldn't work for most dyads. But something about it wouldn't let me let go, it kept niggling at me and nudging me. These were extremely experienced lactation professionals, surely they knew what they were talking about? I felt I had to give it a really good 'go' to make sure I wasn't missing out on something.



So, with my next 10 patients I decided to use what Nancy had described as my first go-to. I thought that it would at least improve my skills a little even if it didn't work for most (if any) of the families. I had very low expectations.


I was wrong. It worked. Every. Damn. Time.

I was wrong. It worked. Every. Damn. Time.

I felt almost humiliated! I'd been sooo sceptical about it (and loudly so) and yet I had been completely wrong all along. It seemed almost like magic- babies latching where they had been refusing, drinking deeply where they had been 'nibbling', nipples rounded and comfortable rather than pinched, painful and damaged.


I swallowed my pride, learned an important lesson, and carried on using it. I learned more about it, taught about it and became more and more convinced and passionate about it (as anyone who has worked with me will know 😂). I still didn't know what had made the difference, maybe Nancy had sprinkled some kind of magic into the audience. Maybe watching a video of it happening clarified something. I couldn't work it out ... but it didn't really matter. The approach worked.



Then recently I was talking to another professional about breastfeeding support and the baby-led approach and suddenly something clicked in my head! I realised that what I had been doing at the start really was just a 'laid back POSITION'. I had got the mother to recline and then continued what I did with every other position - got them to plonk the baby on the boob and try do the whole 'wait for the wide mouth, asymmetric latch, flipple' thing. Wondering why it didn't work. I thought the key to it was the mother's position being reclined - when actually I should have been thinking about what the BABY was doing.


It is what the BABY is doing, not the position of the parent that makes the difference.

What a reclined position does is give the baby positional stability (using gravity) allowing them to use their own skills to manoeuvre, latch and adjust if needed. THAT is what makes the difference. Us supporting a baby to do what it is hard-wired to do instead of us trying to do it for them and actually just getting in the way. THAT is what changed for me as a result of Nancy's talk deepening my understanding. It must have happened on a subconscious level at the time but recognising it consciously now is a lightbulb moment. It seems so obvious!


I think it is a lesson that we are learning in so many ways across the childbirth profession (and presumably beyond into wider positive health (rather than illness) issues. The more we interfere when things are following a 'normal' path, the more difficulties we create. The more attuned we are to what out bodies have evolved to do and cope with, the better the outcomes tend to be. Obviously there ARE cases in which intervention is definitely the right course of action but assuming that should be the case across the board I feel is very dangerous.



I know there is oceans of work out there on this approach (Suzanne Colson etc) but on my personal journey it was Nancy Mohrbacher that I was exposed to at that crucial time and in a way that changed something for me fundamentally. So I thank her on behalf of my personal growth.


  • If you would like a free resource to share with families to help them learn about a baby-led approach to breastfeeding and chestfeeding try: https://www.naturalbreastfeeding.com/

  • If you would like some introductory training to understand how our understanding around positioning has evolved I strongly recommend this free course: https://www.lcgb-owl.org/courses/a-history-of-positioning-and-attachment

  • If you would like some more specific and in-depth training around infant feeding please feel free to get in touch with us at info@nutritionandnurture.co.uk

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