Today was the day. My swollen ankles were propped up on my midwife’s chair while my pudgy hands clutched my three—yes, three—page birth plan. I wanted an all-natural birth. No meds. Lavender candles, yoga music, birthing ball, the works. My midwife assured me that the birthing center would help out with all of that and then cracked a joke about how this three-page birthing plan would be thrown out the window if my baby was breech.
I didn’t laugh. You see, I was already beginning to recognize a common trend with my baby: she loved to disrupt my plans. The midwife wiggled the ultrasound wand over my stomach and frowned. The room was dead silent while she slowly—painfully—moved it to my rib cage. Lo and behold, there was my Little Snot’s head.
Discovering that you have a breech baby after 36 weeks is heartbreaking. In many ways, your birth plan really is thrown out the window. If you can relate to my story, I want to tell you that there is still hope for you to flip your baby! In this post, we’ll talk about the methods I used for turning a breech baby naturally and safely at 39 weeks. I truly believe that these methods saved my natural delivery and can save yours too!
Let’s get right to it!
About the Breech Baby Series
I’m Erin and my passion is helping moms-to-be and new moms overcome their baby blunders. This topic, breech babies, is very close to my heart.
I found out that my baby was when I was 36 weeks pregnant.
This discovery started a frantic race to turn my breech baby before 39 weeks or face a planned c-section. During this time, I was confused, disappointed, and a little scared. The research and articles on breech pregnancies is vast, but overwhelming. But at the end of the day, I found the techniques that worked and turned my breech baby at 39 weeks.
That’s why I created this Breech Baby Series. Turning a breech baby is not fun. I hope here you’ll find all of the answers you need to cope with your breech pregnancy.
Here are the other posts in the Breech Baby Series:
- Your Breech Baby: The Facts You Need to Know
- What to Do When Your Baby is Breech: Your Breech Pregnancy Step-by-Step Guide
- Turning a Breech Baby: 10 Ways to Turn a Breech Baby Naturally
- How to Tell if Your Baby is Breech: 10 Shocking Signs of a Breech Baby
- Breech Births: What You Need to Know to Have a Breech Delivery
- Delivering a Breech Baby: The Facts About External Cephalic Versions
- Delivering a Breech Baby: The Pros and Cons of an External Cephalic Version vs. a C-section
- 25+ Resources You Need to See if Your Baby is Breech (Coming Soon!)
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. I only recommend what I trust.
Medical Disclaimer: While I can give you advice based on my experience, none of this post should be substituted for actual medical advice.
Turning a Breech Baby: 10 Ways to Turn Your Breech Baby Naturally
If you’ve done any research about flipping a breech baby, then you’ve most likely run into an article or two about moxibustion. When I first heard about it I was skeptical. It kind of seemed like a mystical eastern art. I’m not the type to take a ton of stock in chi and ting and yang, but hear me out. This method really works and there’s research to back it up. A 2006 study produced a startling 88% success rate with moxibustion. I don’t know about you, but that’s no number I’m going to ignore.
Think of the body as a whole organism, where every nerve has the ability to impact another. Without delving into traditional Chinese medicine, the science behind moxibustion is actually pretty simple. It revolves around Bladder 67, an acupuncture point found on your outer pinkie toe. When stimulated by heat, this acupuncture point is a catalyst for corticoadrenal production. This activates the muscles of your uterus, which encourages your baby to move into the cephalic position.
So, how do you flip a breech baby with moxibustion? It’s pretty easy. A few Youtube videos inspired my own setup, which consisted of a lounge chair, my patio steps to elevate my feet, two blocks to elevate the Moxa sticks to the height of my toes, a lighter, a bowl to catch the ashes, and a book (for my entertainment). I highly recommend setting up shop outside or at least purchasing smokeless Moxa sticks. The smell is awful and the smoke is annoying. Light up the Moxa sticks and stick them as close to your pinkie toe as you can tolerate. The toe needs to get pretty toasty for Bladder 67 to be activated.
I only used moxibustion only a few times due to a heat wave and wildfire smoke. During my few sessions, my uterine muscles definitely contracted and Cali went nuts. The night after I began my first moxibustion treatment, I felt Cali turn. It wasn’t a full flip, unfortunately, but it seemed a little too coincidental to ignore.
2: The Breech Tilt and Forward Leaning Inversion
If you’re not going to use moxibustion, at least try inversion exercises. I’m convinced that, combined with the moxibustion, this is what flipped my baby. Spinning Babies is the best resource for turning a breech baby. If you haven’t already, check them out! Their Breech Tilt tutorial is great. The Breech Tilt is the most aggressive exercise of the two. It stretches your ligaments and uses gravity to pull your baby to the correct position. Don’t try it if you’re not 100% sure that your baby is breech. Alternatively, the Forward-Leaning Inversion can be practiced by any pregnant woman.
Practicing the Breech Tilt at home wasn’t difficult. I didn’t feel comfortable enough to trust my 1XX lbs on an ironing board, so I brunched up my maternity pillow and all five of my husband’s pillows against the headboard. I propped my legs onto the pillows, creating a 75 degree angle, and sat for a good 15-20 minutes.
The Breech Tilt produced great results. After a moxibustion session, I took a bath with the hot/cold treatment and followed up with the Breech Tilt. That night I felt that oh-so-familiar pain. If you haven’t felt it before, it’s similar to someone ripping into your stomach and stirring your insides around. A few days later (on a hospital bed heading to my C-Section, no less) they confirmed that she had indeed flipped.
3: Hip Rotations
Starting hip rotations was a pivotal (get it?) point in my journey to flip my breech baby. Every time I felt Cali making some serious movement, I hopped on my exercise ball and started the hip rotations. The rotations open the hips, allowing baby to ease into the pelvis. At first, I felt like I was trying out for a belly dancing gig, but eventually, the rotations eased a lot of the discomfort from her awkward positioning. Over time, these exercises also eased some of my hip and lower back pain and were an excellent tool for laboring. If you need help getting started, my favorite instructional video was by Lorraine Scapens.
4: Chiropractic Treatment
Doctors speculate that babies become breech when Mom’s hip is deformed or torqued. As the baby grows bigger, the mom’s deformity becomes prevents the baby from moving into the correct position. Personally, I think this was our case.
At my first visit, we discovered that my right hip was moderately misaligned, to the point that one leg was ever so slightly shorter than the other. My chiropractor performed The Webster Technique on me, which is a sacral adjustment that realigns your hips and eases some of the pressure from your poor round ligament. I loved the therapy so much that I scheduled a second one just for the heck of it. After just two visits, the hip and lower back pain that had plagued me since the first trimester was almost gone.
When selecting your chiropractor, it’s best to find someone that is Webster Certified. This will ensure that your chiropractor has the knowledge and skills necessary for the unique needs of a pregnant woman. I was not able to go to a Webster Certified professional, but my chiropractor came highly recommended and was very experienced with breech babies.
5: Hot/Cold Therapy and Tuning Forks
Turning a breech baby naturally can take you to some weird places…
Grab a bag of frozen peas and place it over your baby’s head for a few minutes. The idea is that, like you and I, baby will become uncomfortable and move toward warmth. The same concept is applied to a tuning fork. Move the tuning fork over your baby’s head and she will move away from the annoying vibration. That breech baby won’t know what hit ‘em.
That said, I didn’t I have much success with this method. Cali didn’t seem to respond to the cold and the most I got out of her from the tuning fork was an aggravated punch. After the fact, I found out that I had a very large anterior placenta. My theory is that this created a nice cushion between the vibrations and ice.
I actually tried acupuncture before I used moxibustion. My acupuncturist didn’t have any moxa sticks in the office because they “smelled like pot.” She assured me that traditional acupuncture used with a TDP lamp would produce similar results. So, she poked my little toes with needles (as well as the rest of my body), focused the lamp on my feet, and left me for a very long time. If I had to rate the experience on a cause and effect scale with moxibustion being a 10, I’d rate this experience a 7. Even if I didn’t notice anything more than a few contractions and punches from Cali, becoming a human porcupine was surprisingly relaxing.
Research shows that acupuncture for a breech baby can be an effective treatment if used in conjunction with moxibustion. If you’re anxious about trying moxibustion at home and would like the skills of a trained acupuncturist, I’d give traditional acupuncture a try as well. However, I should note that acupuncture without moxibustion or chiropractic therapy doesn’t seem to produce effective results.
Full disclosure: I haven’t tried this method, but it is so highly recommended that it would be a disservice to write a post about how to flip a breech baby without mentioning it. Doing a handstand underwater is one of the first methods my midwife suggested. There’s a couple reasons why this technique is so successful; it provides a zero gravity environment for baby to float around and it allows overweight pregnant women to actually do a handstand.
So, why didn’t I try this technique? For one: Uh, bathing suits. Two, I suffered from charlie horses whenever I swam before I got pregnant. Taking up a new exercise when you’re pregnant and very out of shape is never a good idea. If you’re like me and anxious about swimming, you can substitute the swimming pool for a bathtub. I filled the tub until I was completely submerged.
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8: Music Therapy
The jury is still out on whether or not this is an effective method for turning a breech baby, but while you’re at it, you might as well try. The idea behind this technique is kind of the inverse of the hot and cold therapy. Babies will gravitate towards whatever is comforting and soothing, like music and Dad’s voice. Like the hot and cold therapy, I used this in conjunction with other methods. After moxibustion or while I was practicing the Breech Tilt, I placed my phone on my thighs and played my favorite baby songs (Thousand Years by Christina Perri and All of Me by John Legend).
During your third trimester, walking can seem like a monumental task, but it really is a necessary evil. Breech babies turn with gravity and movement; walking provides both. Try to walk 30 minutes every day.
On a personal note, walking was hard for me. My feet were swollen, I was exhausted, and it really aggravated my blood pressure. In the end, I kept it simple. I walked in the store for about a mile and took very frequent breaks.
Yoga is your best friend during pregnancy and even more so when you’re turning a breech baby naturally. It promotes healthy breathing, increases your circulation and sleep function, stretches your round ligament, prepares you for labor, and reduces muscle pain and anxiety.
If you are early in your third trimester and suspect that your baby may be breech, consider taking up yoga as at least a preventative measure. You may want to abstain from the downward facing dog unless you know that your baby is breech but otherwise poses like cat cow promotes correct hip alignment and will encourage your baby to find her way into the cephalic position.
Once I knew that my baby was breech, I practiced these poses at least once a day, maybe more if my lower back pain was creeping up again. Also, once again coming from the other side, yoga was an excellent preparatory tool for labor.
Turning a Breech Baby is Possible!
There are so many things you can do to change your baby’s birthing story. Moxibustion, acupuncture, and chiropractic therapy all show promising results. Walking, inversion exercises, hot/cold, music, and water therapy are also excellent anecdotal methods that might be the final push to get your baby to turn.
Most importantly, don’t fret. The fact is, there might be a reason why your baby won’t flip. Babies are instinctive creatures. When a position isn’t right for them, they will naturally move into one that is. If you’ve tried all of these methods without success, believe that this is the best position for you and your baby.
Just remember that this will all be a distant memory soon, completely outshined by your tiny creation.
Have you already flipped your breech baby? Comment below to let other moms know what worked for you. You can also share this post on Facebook or Pinterest to help other moms discover what method works for them.