Avoid Lying down to breastfeed Babies – Paediatrician

A Paediatrician, Dr. Faidat Yusuf, has cautioned nursing mothers against laying flat on their backs while breastfeeding their babies, noting that doing so could result in harmful health effects.

The expert warned that breastfeeding in this position is inappropriate, adding that it puts the infant at risk of major health problems such as aspiration, lung infections, ear infections as well as sudden infant death syndrome.

According to the child care expert, a baby is supposed to be propped up while being breastfed and not laid flat on their back.

She further added that a mother should rather sit comfortably in a chair, and carry the child in a propped-up position.

The mother, she explained, can use a pillow for support and tilt the baby towards the breast to feed to avoid putting the child’s health at risk.

Speaking with PUNCH Healthwise in an interview, Dr. Yusuf who works at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital explained saying, “It is very common to see a mother feeding her child while laying down because it is convenient for them that way.

Read Also: ‘Over 70% of infants in Nigeria denied exclusive breastfeeding’

“However, feeding the child in that position though convenient for the mother can sometimes be at a disadvantage and can be detrimental to the health of the child.

“The major problem that could occur from this would be the risk of aspiration. Aspiration means the food leaving the stomach, flowing through the gullet, and then going back into the lungs, this then results in breast milk being present in the lungs.

Breastfeeding while lying down

“The main function of the lungs is the exchange of oxygen and when breast milk is present there, it will impair its function, resulting in difficulty in breathing and also exposing the child to lung infections.”

“Newborns’ gastrointestinal tracts are relatively immature, so it is very easy for them to aspirate the content of their stomach when they are laying down flat, So we do not usually recommend that a child is breastfed while laying down, “she stressed.

Dr. Yusuf further added that another major health disadvantage an infant could experience is the increased risk of ear infections.

She said, “Children that are breastfed while laying down have a high risk of having ear infections. It is called otitis media which is an infection of the midway air.

“They can develop a mid-way ear infection, have a fever and sometimes, discharge may come out of their ears which could be detrimental to them.”

The health expert also stressed that there is the possibility of the mother falling asleep while breastfeeding which could result in sudden infant death syndrome.

“When a mother is asleep, the child is unsupervised. The mother could accidentally roll over and unknowingly suffocate the child, as a result of this, it is advisable to avoid breastfeeding a child while laying down as much as possible,” she warned.

Dr. Yusuf further highlighted the importance of society, as well as both the immediate and extended family to render support and help to breastfeeding mothers, noting that they are always exhausted, noting that the exhaustion could lead to them breastfeeding inappropriately.

She stated, “If they are supported and people help them manage their stress, that way they’re healthier, happier and they have more energy and time to commit to breastfeeding their child the appropriate way to avoid problems.”

The paediatrician added, “The recommended position for mothers is to sit in a comfortable chair, lean back and then sometimes use a pillow for support and hold up the child in a propped up position, carry the child towards the breast and feed the child that way.

“When the child is propped up, you are preventing the risk of aspiration and it is comfortable for the mother because she can rest her back and relax, and then she is less likely to sleep off while breastfeeding.

“It will also reduce the risk of SIDS and ear infections occurring to the child,” she said.

According to a study titled ‘Breast Feeding Practice: Positioning and Attachment during Breast Feeding Health Facility in Areka Town, Southern Ethiopia’, the positioning of the baby’s body is important for maintaining good attachment and successful breastfeeding.

The study conducted in 2017 but published in 2019 in the International Journal of Pediatrics used an observational checklist adopted from the World Health Organisation breastfeeding observation form.

The study authors in their findings said mothers, especially young mothers, and those who had no formal education deserve more attention, support, and direction to make sure that they can effectively breastfeed their baby.

“Healthcare facilities should stress the need for updated training for healthcare providers to improve their skills of providing breastfeeding counseling and education during antenatal and postnatal follow-up.

“It would also be better if mothers are demonstrated with skills of proper attachment and positioning then observed by the healthcare provider while they breastfeed their baby on immediate postnatal care and given feedback on their performance to achieve proper attachment and positioning,” the study authors wrote.

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