I very vividly remember my 36 week prenatal visit.
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 diffuser, 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.
The midwife wiggled the ultrasound wand just above my pelvis. The room was dead silent while it moved slowly—painfully— to my rib cage. Lo and behold, there was my baby’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. You may never find out what prompted your baby to become breech, but in some situations this position truly is the best thing for him.
Having said that, in many, many cases it is possible to turn a breech baby after 36 weeks. I did it with the techniques below and some simple adjustments to my lifestyle. If your baby is physically able to turn, I believe using these tips can help you too!
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.
I’m assuming you’re new to the blog, so let me introduce you to my Breech Baby Series.
After I learned that my baby was breech, I researched everything I could about breech babies. I knew I had just 3 weeks to turn my daughter or I would need a planned c-section. After trying many techniques, my baby finally turned at 39 weeks (we actually discovered this during my pre-surgical ultrasound!)
The research and articles on breech pregnancies is vast, but a little overwhelming. Which is exactly why I created Breech Baby Series. Here you’ll find tips, tactics, and information to help you get through this last phase of pregnancy.
Breech Baby Series:
Let’s do a quick recap before we dive into how to turn a breech baby. Most of the information you need to know about breech babies is in the post, Your Breech Baby: The Facts You Need to Know.
For now, you really just need to know that at this point in your pregnancy, your baby’s head should be nestled into your pelvis, in preparation for his big day. If your baby’s breech, his head is probably close to your ribcage right now.
There are actually 3 main types of breech presentations:
In order to effectively turn a breech baby, we need to understand the science behind it.
Experts reason that babies naturally maneuver into the position that feels the most comfortable. As your baby grows and his little head becomes the largest part of his body, gravity and comfort will encourage him down to your pelvis. However, if there is something blocking his way or making that space inhospitable, he’ll move to a more comfortable position.
Having said that, the true reason behind a breech baby presentation is unknown. We go over “the why” behind breech babies in my Breech Baby Facts post, but just to sum it up, here are a few reasons why your baby might be breech:
Just between you and me, when my doctor told me that my baby was breech, I wondered if she was just a feisty little rebel. I also discovered much later that my hips are torqued, which might very well have accounted for her presentation. This explains why she turned soon after a chiropractic session and moxibustion.
You may never discover why your baby is breech, but at least consider the possible reasons above while you’re practicing the exercises.
Okay, last thing before we dive into how to turn a breech baby naturally: ECVs.
If your provider has already diagnosed your baby as breech, chances are you’ve already discussed having an ECV. If not, an external cephalic version is a simply procedure designed to externally turn your baby head-down.
Basically, your doctor palpitates your stomach, shifting your baby around until she moves into your pelvis. Sometimes this procedure requires an epidural (if you find it painful or your muscles are extremely tense) and sometimes it’s as quick as 5 minutes.
(This is a very, very shortened explanation of the procedure. Read my Turning a Breech Baby: External Cephalic Versions post for more information).
Technically, this is one method for turning a breech baby naturally. The issue is, it has a 50% success rate and, even if it works, some babies will turn back to the breech position.
This where “the why” behind your baby’s breech presentation comes in. Even though an ECV can help guide your baby into the correct position, this does not cure the underlying issue (whatever that may be).
Now, to be clear, I am not against ECVs and I’m not trying to dissuade you from getting one. However, I do believe that learning how to turn a breech baby naturally is very important. Some of the techniques below deal with the root cause of your baby’s presentation, which can save you grief with this pregnancy and future pregnancies as well.
If you’ve done any research about turning a breech baby naturally, then you’ve probably already heard about moxibustion.
When I first heard about it I was very skeptical. However, after trying it and physically feeling the results, I will swear by it. This method really works and there’s research to back it up. In fact, one study showed 40% of participants using moxibustion were able to turn their babies without the aid of an ECV. Whether participants obtained an ECV or not, 88% went on to give birth vaginally.
Eighty-eight percent! I don’t know about you, but that’s not a number I’m going to ignore.
To understand the science behind moxibustion, just think of the body as a whole organism, where every nerve has the ability to impact another.
Bladder 67, an acupuncture point found on your outer pinkie toe, when stimulated by heat, catalyzes corticoadrenal production. This hormone 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. Basically, buy these moxa sticks (this package includes way more than you’ll ever need, but it’s also the least expensive) and follow the steps in this 2-minute video.
If you’d like to do this by yourself, simply (outside or in a well-ventilated area) prop your feet up, use a box to hold the moxa stick next to your toes, a bowl to catch the ashes, and relax.
Make sure that you stick the moxa sticks 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 nasty heat wave and wildfire smoke), but my uterine muscles definitely contracted and my baby went nuts. The night after I began my first moxibustion treatment, my daughter began to turn. It wasn’t a full flip, but it seemed a little too coincidental to ignore.
I’m convinced that a combination of chiropractic work, moxibustion, and inversion exercises flipped my baby.
The goal behind these exercises is to open your hips and use gravity to turn your breech baby naturally.
The Breech Tilt is the most aggressive of the two exercises and only should be done if you are absolutely sure that your baby is still breech (check out my signs of a breech baby post to monitor your baby’s position).
You’ll need an ironing board or lots of pillows and an elevated surface (like a couch or coffee table). Simply angle the ironing board from the floor to the couch, placing a pillow at the bottom for your head. Lay on the ironing board, with your head on the pillow. Your feet should be angled upwards.
If this sounds confusing, check out the tutorial from Spinning Babies. They actually created this technique and explain it better than anyone else.
On a personal note, practicing the Breech Tilt at home wasn’t difficult. I didn’t feel comfortable hoisting my pregnant body on an ironing board, so I angled my pillows against my headboard and propped my legs onto the pillows (making about a 75 degree angle) I sat like this for about 15 minutes.
The night I believe my daughter turned for good (based on the discomfort), I used this technique.
If you’re not sure where your baby is, Forward-Leaning Inversion can be practiced by any pregnant woman.
With this exercise, you kneel downward from an elevated surface towards the floor (or downward at a steep angle). You simply hold this position for 30 seconds, once a day. Once again, Spinning Babies offers the best tutorial for this exercise.
With a torqued hip, this exercise was pivotal (ha, get it?) for turning my breech baby. Every time I felt my daughter begin shifting, I hopped on my exercise ball and started the hip rotations.
Hip rotations open your hips, allowing baby to ease into your pelvis. Even if you learn how to turn a breech baby naturally through other methods, I still highly recommend that you practice this exercise on a regular basis.
This exercise is a highly effective way for re-positioning a posterior baby (which may result from turning your breech baby naturally) and an great position for laboring.
Really, you just need an exercise ball and this tutorial video. For success, focus on loose hips, wide rotations, and an exercise ball that fits your body. I’m 5’0″ and I used a medium-sized exercise ball (55cm) for this.
Remember what we learned above. Many experts speculate that babies become breech when because of some defect in mom’s hips or less-than-ideal positioning. As the pregnancy continues, this deformity prevents the baby from moving into the correct position.
To give you a real-life example, we discovered that my right hip was moderately misaligned shortly after my 36 week checkup. This misalignment was so severe that one leg was ever so slightly shorter than the other.
My chiropractor performed The Webster Technique on me. This is a sacral adjustment that realigns your hips and eases pressure from your round ligament. Like moxibustion, studies have found the Webster Technique to be a highly effective treatment for a breech presentation. If you’re searching for professional ways to turn a breech baby naturally, the Webster Technique should be on your list.
After just two visits, the hip and lower back pain that had plagued me since the first trimester was negligible. Plus, a few days later, my baby turned.
When selecting your chiropractor, aim for someone that is Webster Certified. a Webster Certified chiropractor has the knowledge and skills necessary to treat a pregnant woman’s unique situation. Having said that, if you can’t find a Webster Certified chiropractor, just make sure he or she has performed these procedures before and is well-familiar with your situation.
I promise, this is not an old wives tale. I learned these techniques from my acupuncturist (more on that in a minute).
Simply place a cold pack or a bag of frozen peas over your baby’s head for a few minutes. The idea is that your baby will become uncomfortable and move toward warmth (your vaginal canal).
A tuning fork follows a similar concept. The tuning fork vibrates, creating an annoying sensation for your baby. Your baby will naturally move away from the tuning fork, ideally toward your pelvis.
You can try these techniques in conjunction with inversion therapy or the breech tilt.
The efficacy of these techniques really depends on your baby’s personality. My little baby was so stubborn that she simply gave me an aggravated punch and shifted a little. Turns out, I had a very large anterior placenta that dulled the effects of the cold and vibrations.
When I was learning how to turn a breech baby naturally, acupuncture was another technique I tried to dismiss. As my desperation grew, I tried it. I can’t say 100% if it was the moxibustion or the acupuncture, but I definitely noticed some uterine movement after my session.
Let’s back up a bit.
Studies have found acupuncture to be positively linked with turning a breech baby naturally when used in conjunction with moxibustion. According to these studies, acupuncture without moxibustion or chiropractic therapy doesn’t seem to produce effective results.
Acupuncture follows the same concept as moxibustion, that all nerves in the body are interconnected and can stimulate different muscle movements. If you’re nervous about trying moxibustion at home, receiving an acupuncture treatment from a trained professional can alleviate stress and stimulate your uterine muscles.
If you have a local gym membership, doing a handstand underwater is a simple inversion technique.
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 awkward pregnant women to actually do a handstand.
Having said that, I did not try this technique and here’s why: you should only practice handstands underwater if you’re in shape and used to swimming. Unfamiliar exercise can be stressful to you and your baby.
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, also creating a zero gravity environment.
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The jury is still out on whether or not this is an effective method for turning a breech baby naturally, but hey… why not?
The idea is that babies will gravitate towards whatever is comforting and soothing, like Mozart. So, playing music close to “where the sun don’t shine” may draw your baby to that location.
During your third trimester, walking can seem like a monumental task, but it actually is a very effective way to position your baby.
Babies need gravity and movement to help them into the ideal position. Walking (even on swollen, sore feet), provides both. Don’t worry, you don’t have to run a marathon. Simply walking 30 minutes a day has shown to produce great results.
Much like hip rotations, yoga is not only a an excellent technique for turning a breech baby naturally, but it can also prepare you for the rigors of labor.
Yoga promotes healthy breathing patterns, increases your circulation, improves insomnia, stretches your round ligament, and reduces stress (which loosens your muscles).
Once again, you don’t want to take up any monumental new exercises late in your pregnancy. Focus on gentle yoga or actual prenatal yoga practices. The Cat-Cow position is easy to do, promotes proper hip alignment, and can encourage baby to move head-down. Abstain from downward facing dog unless you know that your baby is breech.
I hope by now you’re feeling a little more confident that you can flip your breech baby!
Scientifically, moxibustion and chiropractic therapy show great results. Definitely try those methods, if you can. If not, walking, inversion exercises, hot/cold, music, and water therapy are also excellent anecdotal methods that could provide that final push to get your baby to turn.
Just remember, try not to take it personally if your baby doesn’t turn. Babies instinctively move to the most secure, comfortable position. If you’ve tried all of these methods without success, there could be a legitimate, absolutely necessary reason why your baby refuses to turn.
I sincerely hope that these methods help you! If you still have questions, don’t forget to check out the other articles in the Breech Baby Series. And, as always, I’m more than happy to answer any questions you might have! Just let me know in the comments below.
Good luck, mama!
Breech Baby Series: