Uh-Oh. Your baby is breech. During the day, you’re doing everything you can to turn her. But what about at night? Is there a best sleep position to turn a breech baby?
In this post, we’re exploring what the experts say, as well as best practices for sleep and daytime posture.
When I was 36 weeks pregnant, my midwife discovered that my baby was breech. The news just about broke me. Until that point, I had planned a perfectly natural childbirth. My midwife was frank (no pun intended); while we had options, turning a breech baby after 36 weeks can be a challenge.
One of her suggestions was to adjust my sleeping habits.
I’m happy to say that my daughter did turn (while I was sleeping, in fact) and I went on to have a vaginal birth. When my second daughter turned out to be breech as well, I remembered the advice my midwife gave and implemented some new tips as well.
I absolutely do believe that changing my sleep habits while practicing a few key exercises was critical to both of my babies turning. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve written about this subject, so I thought in this post we’d talk about the best sleeping positions to turn a breech baby.
To be clear, I’m not a medical provider. I’m just a proud mom of two stubborn breeches, who managed to turn them. This is anecdotal information, but my hope is that these resources and techniques will help you as well.
What You Should Know About a Breech Position
This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of the links I will make a small commission at no charge to you. Blunders in Babyland does not diagnose, treat, or give out any professional advice for any medical conditions.
Before we start, I just want to encourage you. I know a breech presentation is stressful. Believe me, both times I felt exhausted from worry. I wish I hadn’t. Because the truth is, whether your baby turns or you end up having a caesarean, your birth story will be beautiful.
What is a Breech Position?
Your baby is breech when his feet or bottom is first in the uterus instead of his head.
There are different types of breech positions: complete breech, footling (aka incomplete) breech, and frank breech. Then there’s transverse, but that’s incredibly rare.
This presentation complicates the birthing process for a couple reasons. Firstly, your baby’s head is the largest part of his body. During birth, it widens the birth canal, paving the way for the rest of him. Coming from experience, I can attest that the head is–by far–the most difficult part of the birthing process. But once that’s out, it’s smooth sailing.
Now, imagine if your baby’s feet go through first. Then his butt. And finally, the biggest part of him. Ouch. Your baby’s head or shoulders can actually get stuck in the pelvic cradle. This video actually explains the process very well!
Finally, the pressure of your baby’s head actually prepares your cervix for labor.
What Causes a Baby to Be Breech?
When my babies were breech, I scoured the internet to answer this single question: what causes a baby to be breech.
There are theories, but no one knows for sure. However, I think discussing these theories briefly will give you a better understanding of why sleep positions are important.
- Age: If your baby is less than 36 weeks old, don’t worry about it. Babies are fluid during this time. They usually have plenty of room to scoot around. This was certainly the case for my daughters. They were both very active babies who loved to flip and somersault. Maybe your little one is the same.
- Multiple pregnancies: If there is more than one baby in the uterus, he may not have enough room to turn head-down.
- Low amniotic fluid: If there is not enough amniotic fluid in the uterus, the baby may not be able to turn head down.
- Abnormal uterus shape: Let’s say you have a placenta previa, an atypical uterus shape, or uterine fibroids. All of that could cause a breech presentation.
- Maternal pelvis deformity: When your pelvis isn’t in complete alignment, your baby’s movement can be hindered. In college, I was in a car accident, resulting in a torqued pelvis. My chiropractor and doctor both believed this was the reason for my babies positioning. Do you have hip or pelvic issues? What about a spinal misalignment? I would talk to your doctor about getting chiropractic treatments immediately.
- You’ve had a breech presentation before: One study found that you’re three times more likely to have a breech presentation on your next pregnancy. That number bumps up to fourteen times with the third pregnancy.
Best Sleeping Positions for a Breech
I think most doctors will agree that there is not a single sleeping position that will magically turn your baby. However, great sleeping positions can help open your pelvis and create an environment that allows your baby to move when she makes an attempt to turn.
Also, there are sleeping positions that will actively make it harder for your baby to turn.
First of all, sleeping on your back is out. As is sleeping on your belly. Which leaves us with lying on your side. Now, how you lie on your side is very important.
After experiencing breech pregnancies myself, I truly believe a combination of day time exercises and techniques (I wrote a whole article on the techniques I’m talking about), combined with healthy sleeping positions finally helped my babies turn.
- Widening your pelvic cage will give your baby as much room as she needs.
- Gravity. Remember, your baby’s head is the heaviest part of his body. Gravity will encourage him into the correct position.
The Supported Side-Lie
Don’t sleep without support. My midwife told me this over and over again. When you sleep on your side “the normal way,” you pelvis is bending and your spine is curved. You want great posture even when you’re sleeping.
Lie on your left side with a pillow between your legs. Your pillow should fit all the way down your knees to your ankle. You do not want to cross your ankles!
This position straightens your posture, opens your hips, and reduces the pressure on your back. My doctor recommended sleeping on the left side, which totally makes sense. Studies have shown a decrease in blood flow when resting on the right side (i.e. over the aorta and vena cava). Sleeping on your right side can also hinder your digestive processes.
Meanwhile, sleeping on your left side increases the blood flow and nutrients to your baby,
Side note, I also found that my feet swelled much worse when I slept on my right side.
How to Sleep in The Optimal Position for Turning a Breech
Is one side better than the other? Yep. That’d be your left side.
But Erin, I’m a right-side sleeper. How the heck am I supposed to sleep on my left side?
Girl, me too. Sleeping on my left side was the most distracting, annoying thing ever. And when I managed to do it, I always woke up on my right.
That’s totally normal. Don’t worry so much which side to sleep to turn your breech baby. Yes, ideally, you’d like to sleep on your left, but it’s not the end of the world if you end up on your right by morning.
Below are a few ways I was able to sleep better (and stay) on my left.
But not just any pregnancy pillow. I really like the C-shaped pregnancy pillows, like this one. I recommend getting one that is firm. If you absolutely can’t rest your head on a firm pillow, squeeze a soft regular pillow in between your neck and the pregnancy pillow.
A Body Pillow
For my first pregnancy, I loved the pregnancy pillow. My second, not so much. I’m not sure if it was too flat by the second round or if my baby sat differently, but I always seemed to push it away by the end of the night.
So, I tried a body pillow.
First, I added my head support (two standard pillows), then I placed a body pillow in front of me. Technically, it was a king-sized foam pillow. This pillow needs to be firm and large enough to wrap your legs around. Then, I squished a couple firm pillows behind me to ensure that my back posture was good. Finally, I hugged my body pillow like a big ol’ teddy bear. My abdomen usually rested on top of the pillow slightly.
I know this method might seem a little complex (and involve a lot of pillows), but if you find yourself hating the pregnancy pillow approach, it could work for you.
Additional Tummy Support
Okay, let’s say you’ve figured out which pillow system you prefer, but you still have lower back pain and you feel like you’re still not sleeping in the best position to turn your little one.
Try to tummy support. When your belly is really heavy, it can twist your hip downward. Try adding a couple towels or a blanket under your belly to keep it level with your legs.
Sitting Positions to Turn a Breech Baby
If we’re going to explore sleeping positions to turn a breech, I think it’s important to talk about how we sit too. After all, ideally, you’ll sleep 8 hours a day. However, if you work a desk job, you’ll probably sit just as much as you sleep, right?
During our consultation, my midwife told me that she’s seen an increase in breech presentations. In fact, I was her fourth that month.
She believed that sitting, or rather how people sit, contributed to that increase.
She suggested doing the following:
- Avoid lounging. Ideally, you want to keep your knees lower than your hips.
- Avoid slouching. Right now, sit upright with great posture. Next, try hunching over (like you’re leaning forward to type) or slouching in your chair. Both of these actions bend your torso and hips, leaving less room for your baby.
- Get up and walk. If you have a desk job, take frequent walking breaks. The movement encourages your baby into the right position, improves blood flow, and opens your hips.
- Try sitting on an exercise ball. I did this and loved it. It reinforced great posture and encouraged me to practice hip rotations (an exercise that I practiced daily to help my baby turn head down).
Now, I have scoured the internet for studies to prove my midwife’s theory, but unfortunately, I haven’t found any. So, I just wanted to relay the information she told me and let you make a decision for yourself.
Ways to Turn a Breech Baby
Sleeping the right way is important, for you and your little one. But it’s the exercises and techniques you practice during the day that will encourage the baby to turn.
I wrote an entire, in-depth post on how to turn a baby head-down. I highly recommend you read that, because I list a ton of resources and products that helped me.
In the meantime though, here are a few of my favorite methods to get your baby in that optimal head-down position:
- Moxibustion: Basically, you’re heating your pinkie toe with a moxa stick. This is not hokey. There have been actual studies linking this practice with successful turns.
- Hip rotations: Sit the exercise ball and practice hip rotations, or you can try it standing. Once again, the goal is to open our hips and align our pelvis.
- Inversion exercises (which I discuss more in the article, but Spinning Babies has some fantastic tutorials on these exercises!)
- Chiropractic therapy: I truly believe this is the thing that made my baby turn. Chiropractic therapy created the environment for my baby to turn while moxibustion stimulated the uterine movement. It also dramatically improved my lower backpain.
- ECV (external cephalic version). This should only be performed by your provider. I wrote an article about it here.
When your baby is breech, it’s easy to feel a little panicked. You’re fighting against the clock, trying to get your baby to turn, all while trying to prepare for your upcoming labor. It’s stressful, I know.
You can only control so much. Do the exercises–everyday, multiple times a day. But please don’t blame yourself if your baby won’t turn. You’re not a failure. Sometimes babies do not turn for a good reason.
There’s a good chance that if your baby does turn, she’s going to turn at night while you’re asleep. While there isn’t technically a magic sleep position to turn a breech baby, it’s still important to sleep correctly to open your hips and give your baby as much room in the womb as possible.
I hope this post gave you some good info on how to help you do this.
Final thing: I get a lot of emails and comments from women asking for advice. Dear Mama, I feel for you. I hate that you’re going through this. I’m here to encourage and cheer you on, but please remember that I am just a crazy mom on the internet who shares her own personal experiences.
Please, please, please speak with your healthcare provider.
Don’t be embarrassed about messaging them or calling them or asking them every annoying question you can think of. They are, by far, the best resource you could ask for. And if they’re not, seek out a second opinion. When my babies weren’t head first, I talked to a midwife, a surgeon, a pregnancy chiropractor, and a freaking acupuncturist. You only know what you know, so gather as much info as you can.
Alright, Mama! I hope this helped. Good luck, friend. Don’t forget to read the posts below for more tips.