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Can breastfeeding while laying down cause ear infection?

Posted by on Jan. 4, 2010 at 12:40 PM
  • 4 Replies

I have heard that it could I dont know whether its true or not. I nurse laying down throughout the night and so far no problems atleast none that I have noticed.

The suffering of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us.

 - Romans 8:18

by on Jan. 4, 2010 at 12:40 PM
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by on Jan. 4, 2010 at 12:42 PM

my daughter was bottlefed and had so many ear infections that she had to have tubes in her son is breastfed and I nurse him laying down off and on most of the night and he has never had an ear infection (he is 11 months) Maybe bottle feeding has more to do with it...idk.

by on Jan. 4, 2010 at 12:55 PM

Will lying down to nurse cause ear infections?

By Kelly Bonyata, BS, IBCLC

You might hear that breastfeeding your baby in a lying down position will cause ear infections. Research indicates that this is not true. No matter what positioning you use, breastfeeding actually works to decrease the incidence of ear infections.

This myth is one of many that has come from a mistaken application of bottle-feeding information to breastfeeding. There is good evidence that if baby is given a bottle of formula while lying flat, the formula can get into the Eustachian tubes and middle ear and cause an infection. However, there are two problems with applying this fact to breastfeeding: (1) breastmilk and formula are not the same -- breastmilk inhibits the formation of bacteria, while formula encourages bacteria; and (2) breastfeeding and bottle feeding are not the same -- milk does not pool in the mouth when baby is nursing, as as it does when baby drinks from a bottle.

Also, keep in mind that with most nursing positions, baby is lying down while nursing anyway - whether mom is lying down or not!

So don't be afraid to lie down to nurse your baby. Go ahead and get your rest... while you nurse your baby.


The human species is the only mammal which cannot breathe and swallow at the same time, except when we are infants. Scientists believe that is because we can speak - and our infant response must be modified in order for speech development to occur.

A breastfed baby will pull the breast tissue deep into the throat, and drink, swallow, and breathe all at once. Her palate will expand at the proper rate and milk is less likely to back up into her eustacian tubes. She will be less likely to need orthodontics, because her teeth are more likely to align because she is using her muscles as nature intended.

A bottlefed baby cannot do the same thing with her bottle. When she swallows, the fluid is more likely to travel near her eustacian tube. Unlike breastmilk, formula carries no antibodies, and her chances of developing ear infections will be increased, both because of the lack of antibodies, and because the formula is more likely to flood her eustacian tube and cause an infection. Also, the severity of colds and upper respiratory infections is worse in formula fed infants, which also increases the rates of infection. The infant eustacian tube lies horizontal instead of the more "downhill" position it is in adults.

If you are bottlefeeding breastmilk, that should still be done in an upright position if possible, although there is less risk of developing ear infections anyways. Keep in mind that even more important than feeding position for bottlefed OR breastfed infants is pacifier use. Pacifier use is associated with much higher numbers of ear infections - about 33% more infections each year, especially for infants in day care.

Thanks for asking, and here's to clear ears!

by on Jan. 4, 2010 at 1:52 PM

I think it can depend on the child.  None of my kids have had many ear infections, maybe 1-2 among the 4 of them, and I nursed all of them lying down, esp. at night.  Depending on some kids' ear anatomy, the milk may indeed pool and cause infection. 

by on Jan. 4, 2010 at 1:58 PM

susan thanks for the great info!

"Search me, O God and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting".

Psalm 139:23-24

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