What is Baby-Led Breastfeeding?


Have you heard terms like “baby-led breastfeeding,” or “laid back breastfeeding” used to describe certain methods of breastfeeding?  Wondering what they mean?

A new book does a nice job of clarifying these concepts and describing how to use them to make breastfeeding easy and comfortable.

Baby-Led Breastfeeding, by the authors of Baby-Led Weaning (see our podcastwith author Gilll Rapley on this method of introducing solid foods), is a new breastfeeding reference book based on the newest understanding of our babies’ oldest behaviors.

Baby-led breastfeeding is about understanding and following a baby’s innate feeding instincts.  It means working with - and not against - these instincts to make breastfeeding easier and more comfortable for you both.

Some feeding instincts the authors describe include:

”[At birth,] drawn by the unique scent produced by the glands around your nipples (which is similar to the smell of your amniotic fluid), your baby will instinctively press her feet and knees into you and push herself toward your breast.  This instinct fades gradually in the first few weeks.”

“When they are near the breast, babies bob their head around and use their hands in a kneading action to orientate themselves and figure out how to best approach the nipple.  This behavior is a crucial part of the feeding because it allows babies to get to the breast and position themselves so that they can attach easily.”

“When he can feel or smell that he is near the nipple, a baby will naturally start to open his mouth and stretch his tongue forward.  This is known as rooting, and it’s part of his preparation for scooping up the breast to feed.”

”[A lying back position] is the position that will make best use of your baby’s feeding instincts when he is new.”

Some early feeding cues: “moving his eyes under his eyelids; moving his head and stretching his neck; making gentle wriggling, squirming, and waving movements, clenching and unclenching his fists; opening his mouth and making rooting movements; making sucking noises or smacking his lips; murmuring, squeaking, whimpering, or giving little cries; sucking his fists/clothes/blanket or your t-shirt/sweater.”

These concepts are the most useful in establishing comfortable and effective attachment to the breast (latch) and breastfeeding positions.  But they’re also very useful in solving breastfeeding problems, such as refusal to breastfeed, weaning from a nipple shield, and transitioning from bottle to breast.

For more information on Biological Nurturing (Laid Back Breastfeeding) and Baby Led Weaning, see our podcasts: