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Turning a Breech Baby

How-to Guide for Turning a Breech Baby

a Midwife's Guide to Turning a Breech Baby


One of the most frustrating things in pregnancy is to get to the end and be told that your baby is in a breech position and that, if she doesn't turn, you'll be scheduled for a c-section. There are many things that you can do to increase your likelihood of turning a breech baby. I'm really glad to be able to share those techniques with you here.

​Let's start with prevention

There are some things that you can do in pregnancy to give your baby the opportunity to get into a great position. What we are aiming for is Optimal Fetal Positioning.

Two birth workers, Jean Sutton and Pauline Scott coined the term, "Optimal Fetal Positioning", or OFP for short.  OFP is traditional birth wisdom, passed from senior midwives to younger midwives and then later recorded in old textbooks. It is the belief that in most cases, the baby’s position at the beginning of labor predicts the way the birth will unfold.

If I could only teach one thing in pregnancy, it would be Optimal Fetal Positioning. It is THAT important!

Turning a breech baby

​There are entire books and websites dedicated to the subject of optimal fetal positioning. One resource that you'll appreciate knowing about is midwife, Gail Tully's website, Spinning Babies. Gail goes into great detail about belly mapping and exercises to keep your baby in a great position for birth.

Since prevention of poorly positioned babies isn't the focus of this post, I'll just hit the highlights of optimal fetal positioning.

Ideally, your baby will do the best and your labor will be the most straightforward when the back of your baby's head is between your left hip and your belly button.

This position is called LOA which stands for Left Occiput Anterior. Keep in mind, while this is ideal, babies sometimes choose a ROA or right occiput anterior position due to mom's anatomy and still do fine in labor. The challenge with ROA is that is it MUCH easier for a baby to slip into a posterior, or face up position.

The goal is to prevent posterior and breech babies.

Start paying attention to your baby's position by about 32-34 weeks, while the baby is still small enough to easily move.

Here are your optimal fetal positioning basics:

  • Don't recline!!  This is such an important piece of information. If you'd like to relax in later pregnancy, find yourself a birth ball and lean forward onto it or grab a pillow to support your belly and just lay down on your left side. Reclining is THE number one reason for posterior and breech babies and these positions are the number one reason for c-sections.
  • Always sit with your knees lower than your hips. For this to happen, you have to get a bit unladylike and spread those legs, letting your belly hang low. Now is not the time to be prim and proper and cross your legs. That will do nothing to help your baby's position and will restrict your circulation.
  • Practice leaning forward as often as possible. A baby's ideal position is facing towards your back. Think about gravity. It pulls the heaviest part so leaning forward pulls the baby's back towards your belly. Alternately consider, if you are leaning backwards or reclining, that cute little smooshy face is being pressed into your spine. It's kind of like laying in a hammock on your face. NOT comfortable at all and that, alone, makes a baby want to move away from an ideal position.
  • Lastly, drink at least 2 liters of water every day! Babies always do better when their amniotic fluid is normal and drinking water directly affects your amniotic fluid.  If you are forgetting to drink enough water, your amniotic fluid index (afi) falls even further than it normally does in late pregnancy. This puts baby in a dangerous situation because it's much more difficult to move and get off her cord and hard to get into a good position. Drinking enough water is protective on many levels!

You will be urinating much more in late pregnancy so it's important to replace that with good hydration. If you notice that it's more like..water in/water out, add a pinch of sea salt to your water. This small amount of healthy sodium will help your body keep that fluid in your system.

Once you learn the skill of belly mapping, you will be well equipped to ​prevent a persistent posterior or breech position.

15 Techniques for Turning a Breech Baby

  1. Homeopathic Pulsatilla, 200c under tongue every few days while using other positioning techniques for turning a breech baby.
  2. Pelvic Rocking, 5 minutes in the morning before getting out of bed and 5 minutes in the evening before laying down in bed. You can do more at other times during the day. In a hands and knees position or leaning on a birth ball, tuck tailbone under like a scared dog then torque the pelvic bones to aim the tailbone at the ceiling. Do not sag and arch your back. It's ALL about the pelvis.
  3. Elephant walk on your hands and feet. It feels awkward...even hard to do but is amazing at moving baby out of bad positions and into good ones.
  4. Drink LOTS of water!  2 liters to a gallon a day to give baby lots of ability to move.
  5. Have a Webster trained chiropractor perform the Webster Breech Turning Technique. Chiropractors are very helpful in turning a breech baby.
  6. After wading into a warm pool, dive to the bottom. Repeat several times to deweight the baby and allow her to turn. Can also turn somersaults underwater.
  7. Use a bag of frozen peas over the baby's head. They really dislike this and if they can turn, they often do to get away from the cold. Peppermint essential oil can work in a similar fashion when rubbed over the abdomen near baby's head.
  8. Accupuncture can work wonders for turning a breech baby. Like chiropractic, you will keep going until your baby turns.
  9. Visualize baby in a head down position. It may be helpful to place pictures of head down babies all around the house.
  10. Have Papa talk to baby low on the abdomen. Sometimes music placed low, near the pubic bone or lower will also entice baby to turn.
  11. Do handstands or walk on your hands in a warm pool. Again, the idea is to deweight and dislodge the baby so she can turn.
  12. Talk to your baby and ask her to trust you and turn. Reassure her that it will be alright and that you will keep her safe.
  13. Use an ironing board as a slant board by putting one end on the sofa and the other end on the floor. Lay on your back with your head lower than your feet several times a day.  This position works well for turning a breech baby, coupled with the frozen peas on baby's head.
  14. Use a bright flashlight and draw it down from the rib cage to the pubic bone asking baby to follow the light. Okay...hokey but some say it works.
  15. Consider consulting an OB about performing an External Cephalic Version, often just called a "version." This can be done with or without uterine relaxing drugs and always with an ultrasound. It's not the most comfortable but I've seen many successful versions done without drugs. It is typically the last technique to consider before scheduling a c-section but keep in mind that most physicians don't like to perform this too late in the pregnancy because of lower fluid levels and the increasing size of the baby. Ideally, turning a breech baby using a version would be done right around 37 weeks.

Don't underestimate the value of talking to your baby, telling her to turn and visualizing that process. You may want to consider doing some hypnobabies or hypnobirth fear release techinques if you are anxious.

I've seen many of these techniques work for turning a breech baby as long as the position is caught early enough in pregnancy. Take heart mama!

I pray peace and blessings over you as your baby responds to your loving intention.

xoxo, Lisa

About the Author Lisa Byrd, SC Midwife & Natural Wellness Educator

Lisa Byrd LM, CPM, CLC. Lisa is a "non-toxic mama/baby crusader" and a crunchy midwife in Columbia, SC with a passion to help mamas create a safe, non-toxic home for their families. She's is a mom to 5 amazing adult kids and "Gigi" to 6 beautiful granddaughters. She lives and works in Columbia, SC where she teaches weekly wellness classes. Lisa often travels to Charleston, SC, Greenville, SC and Charlotte, NC to share her passion and teaches online essential oil classes as well. When she's not catching babies, creating clean, fun concoctions in her lab (ehem, kitchen) or out teaching natural health care classes, you'll find her playing in her arts studio or lounging in a beach chair with the ocean lapping at her toes. "We are all on a health journey. The key is finding joy on your journey!"

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4 comments
Anonymous says March 15, 2016

Oops, I thought this was a spot to contact you. Please don’t post that last comment on your site. :)

Reply
    Lisa Byrd, SC Midwife & Natural Wellness Educator says March 22, 2016

    Hi

    Here’s my reply and, at your request, I didn’t approve your original post. I hope it’s ok to post my reply to you?

    Congrats on your upcoming birth!! It’s a very exciting time for your family! Your body is well equipped to handle natural birth and as you said, the key to that is getting your babies to cooperate with positioning.

    Definitely keep drinking a gallon of water a day and do pelvic rocks for 5 minutes in the morning before rolling out of bed and then again, 5 minutes in the evening before laying your head on your pillow. Pelvic rocks, coupled with a more gravity neutral position of laying down will allow baby “a’s” butt to disengage and float like a little cork in water to (hopefully) a head down position. Once baby “a” is head down, then baby “b” should be in a more favorable situation to turn as well.

    Chiropractic is absolutely essential and you may want to consider homeopathic pulsatilla as well. Visualization of both babies, in a head down position is also beneficial.

    I would definitely consider having a doula at your birth to assist you and your husband in whatever you may need. I can help you with that if it’s something you’re interested in. You’re welcome to connect with me directly or via my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CrunchyMidwife.

    There is a Milk Bank in South Carolina at http://www.scmilkbank.org/ but I don’t think that’s what you’re asking about. There is also a peer-to-peer milk sharing group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/HM4HBSC/) or you can be in touch with any of the local area Le Leche League leaders for information on mamas who may have extra milk. https://www.facebook.com/LLLinSouthCarolinaUSA/

    Important- You are probably aware that milk sharing outside of a milk bank is not without health risk so please thoroughly research on how to adequately screen a potential milk donor to protect your babies’ health. Just stating the obvious:)

    Reply
Naja says March 24, 2016

Oh I needed this about 7 months ago! Great info. Good to know for the future. Thanks for sharing!

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