Date Published: 2 May 2007

New breastfeeding research challenges traditional feeding positions

Breastfeeding newborn babies lying down or in a semi-reclined position may boost the chances of success, according to new research being unveiled at the Royal College of Nursing's 2007 International Research Conference today.

Dr Suzanne Colson, senior midwifery lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University, based her research on 40 healthy mothers and their healthy full-term babies, all of whom were breastfeeding at six weeks, as well as 14 bottle feeding mother-baby pairs. She found that those mothers who breastfed their infants lying down or semi-reclined in positions that mirrored the feeding positions of other mammals had the greatest success.

She said:

I wanted to look at whether something called 'biological nurturing' where babies are placed lying close to the mother's breast, for example, while sleeping triggers primitive reflexes seen in many other mammals which encourage feeding. What was interesting to note is that when mothers were lying flat or semi-reclined babies could find the breast easier and in many cases attach themselves and feed whilst asleep.

_ While further research needs to be done in this area, this study does challenge the current wisdom of teaching mothers to breastfeed in a fixed system of positioning and attachment.

Dr Peter Carter, General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said:

For many new mothers breastfeeding can be difficult and challenging. Not being able to do something which is supposed to be as simple and as natural as feeding their own child can leave many new mothers feeling disappointed and let down.

_ By challenging conventional breastfeeding positions, this new research could go a long way to helping those mothers who are experiencing difficulties feeding their infants by suggesting other easy to adopt positions.

Dr Colson will be presented with the first Justus Akinsanya Award for Innovation in Doctoral Studies in Nursing for her research “The Mechanisms of Biological Nuturing”. Professor Martin Johnson, from the University of Salford and a member of the Akinsanya Award Judging Panel will present Suzanne with a certificate and cheque for £250 at a ceremony later today.

Source: Royal College of Nursing (RCN), UK.
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