How To Do Belly Mapping & Know Baby’s Position

Belly mapping—a term you probably haven’t heard from your OB-GYN, but I believe it can help mamas have a more optimal natural childbirth.

Belly mapping helps you know baby’s position in utero

…and then take any necessary action to help baby into a more ideal position for birth.

I was clueless about how my first baby, Griffin, was positioned. I knew he should be head down. I also went to a Webster chiropractor to loosen and balance my pelvis for an optimal birth. I climbed stairs. I did squats. But I didn’t really understand how Griffin was truly presenting in my womb—or what the best position for him would be.

The result? A Very. Long. Labor.

I’m talking 27 hours. With horrible back pain. Griffin got stuck, and the birth stalled for a good 4 hours. When he finally did come out, I’ll never forget how “coned” his head was. Alien baby! Fortunately, the midwife got that little baby cap on him quick 😉

In retrospect, Griffin was probably posterior and favoring my right side. Whereas the ideal presentation is left and anterior. (I learned this as I started to research baby mapping!)

This time around, I’m trying to be more proactive

I want to get baby in a good position now so I don’t have to struggle with a more complicated birth later.

Are you with me? Okay. Let’s talk about how to do belly mapping…

My inspiration for this post

Gaily Tully of SpinningBabies.com is the pioneer and creator of the Belly Mapping process. She was gracious enough to let me share her concept will all of you. She asked that I include the following information: Belly Mapping, SPINNING BABIES® and all original works of authorship contained in Gail Tully’s associated publications, websites and related platforms are the property of Gail Tully and Maternity House Publishing, Inc., with all rights expressly reserved. Excepting uses otherwise permissible under applicable law, any/all uses require written licensing from Maternity House Publishing, Inc.

Start in the latter half of the 2nd trimester

This is when baby settles into his/her “home” position, and you can tell if your pelvis is balanced or not. It’s much easier to establish good positions for baby now versus later in 3rd trimester.

Obviously, we want our baby to be head down. A head up, or breech presentation, can be very difficult; in some states it’s a mandatory c-section. Fortunately, there are exercises we can do to help flip baby, and most babies prefer head down orientation.

But head down is not enough if you want a smooth, natural childbirth. The next most important thing to consider is if your baby is posterior (baby facing outwards or looking at mama’s belly) or anterior (baby is facing mama’s back). Anterior is the favored position because it encourages the baby to tuck their head and chin, creating the smallest head circumference as he/she passes through the birth canal.

Posterior, on the other hand, presses the hardest part of the baby’s head against the mother’s spine, where pain receptors lie, and can cause major back labor pain.

Belly Mapping can help you determine what position your baby is in and then take the necessary steps to “spin” baby to the right position for optimal birth.

What you will need

The first thing you’ll need to do belly mapping is your 7-8 month pregnant belly! Next, a non-toxic marker or bottle of finger paint. It’s also handy to have a doll or some kind of prop with head, limbs, and back to use to help you visualize your baby.

As a general rule, it’s best to do belly mapping after 30 weeks, and shortly after a doctor or midwife appointment, as a birth professional can help you determine if baby’s head is down or up.

First, let’s find your baby’s head

For most mamas, that means head down. If you haven’t been to a doctor’s appointment for awhile, you can feel for yourself by laying down on bed and putting slight pressure around your pelvic area. The head will feel like a mini bowling bowl.

The baby’s hands and arms will most likely be near the baby’s head, as they like to suck their fingers and have them close to their face.

Think also about movement. Are you feeling small movements near pelvis? Do they feel more outward facing and centralized (posterior), or are they more internal and to one side (anterior)?

Next, find the heartbeat

Again, your doctor or midwife can help you pinpoint the heartbeat. I recommend using a fetoscope, as it doesn’t use any ultrasound. Once you know where heartbeat is, mark it on your belly.

The heart will obviously be part of the baby’s back and you should feel a hard, long mass. If you can’t find hardness like this, it’s probably because your baby is in a posterior position, in which case you are going to feel a softer area, which usually indicates the baby’s limbs and belly (or it could be an anterior placenta). Either way, mark this area on your belly as part of your belly mapping

Here’s where that doll comes in

Now, as part of belly mapping, use your doll prop and start playing with positions based on the head and back locations. This will help you visualize how baby is resting in your womb.

Next up, let’s find your baby’s butt. This will be hard and round and can sometimes feel like the head. Draw a symbolic “butt” on your belly.

Now, think about movement again. Where are you feeling your baby move the most? Of course, you’ll feel their legs the most giving you those baby kicks. Also, the knees can create substantial movement.

Keep in mind there will be some variations since baby can bend knees or extend legs, but you should still be able to sense a pattern. Are you feeling the kicks up to one side of your ribs (anterior)? Or are they falling on both sides of your upper abdomen (posterior)? Mark it down on your belly.

Again, use your doll to see how baby is positioned now that you are complete. Now you can think about baby in a whole new way.

You can get creative with your belly mapping!

My belly map was more about function than art, but some people go all out with their belly mapping projects:

Belly mapping photos from an article about how and why to do belly mapping from http://MamaNatural.com

What if baby is in a “bad” position?

Is your baby in a less than ideal position, do not despair. You still have time to reposition baby… even if it’s during labor. Here are 7 easy exercises to help your baby’s position.

Final thought on belly mapping

If you’re interested in baby positioning, I highly recommend finding a doula and/or midwife that understands baby positioning and belly mapping. With their expertise, they can help you get baby into the best position for birth.

How about you?

Have you ever done belly mapping? Did it help you? How was your baby positioned? Share with us in the comments below!

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21 Comments

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  1. Thanks for this video! I’m still a little confused by my babies position because I know babies head is down, heart beat is heard on lower right side, but the the back and butt are very noticeably protruding on my left side! Hmmmmm…. and that hard area is where I feel most the movement with some hands down low by my thighs. I don’t feel kicks up high, but there is always a little discomfort in that upper right area.

  2. I’m 38 weeks and 4 days with my first. I have an anterior placenta. My baby boy has been head down since at least 28 weeks, but always tended to favor the right side of my belly, which I have heard can be a less desirable position because during labor babies are more likely to turn posterior if they start out with their back to the right side of the belly. I’ve been trying for weeks to get him to shift to the left. Every midwife appointment, he’s in a different position. I have 3 midwives (they have a practice together, and I see all 3 so that I am familiar with them all because any one of them could be on call for my birth). Sometimes I wonder if they can even tell what position he’s in. At one appointment, the student midwife was convinced he was on the left side, and found his heartbeat with the doppler, but then the midwife felt around a little and said she thought he was on the right side, and found his heartbeat with the fetoscope.

    It’s starting to get incredibly frustrating because I have no idea what I’m feeling when I feel my belly. I can’t feel the head at all. They all grab and wiggle a lump above my pubic bone and I feel nothing there. There has been a small lump on the top right of my belly through most of the third trimester, but nothing happens when I press on it. It’s just there. I feel most movement on the left side of my belly. I’m told that if there are kicks on the left, he’s facing the left with his back to the right. But even when there’s a hard lump sticking out on the left and the midwife tells me it’s his butt, I never feel kicks anywhere else. The last few weeks I’ve felt some small movements between my belly button and pubic bone, maybe hands?

    I’ve expressed concern over him being ROT when I go into labor, but my midwives reassure me that babies constantly change position, up to and during labor. So I feel like trying to get him to move is pointless anyway, because even if all the things I’m doing on a daily basis to shift him to the left work, he could go back to the right before I go into labor.

  3. My baby has her bum poking out up from my belly button, back along the right side & is on the side, head down in pelvis, legs & arms at left side.
    Is this position ok? Im 38 weeks my midwife says it is but I’m not so sure thanks x

  4. My sonogram indicated where my baby was. It showed she was head down and anterior.

  5. Man, I’m too stupid for this or something. I’ve ordered the Belly Mapping Workbook and hoping that will help, but I can’t make any kind of sense of what I’m feeling. “Hand”-type movements only occasional and very low, so presumably babe is head-down, but they’re not isolated on one side. “Kick”-type movements are rare and tend to either be on both sides at more or less the same time (I guess probably feet and knees or shoulders? But then I have no idea what’s feet) or in the BACK and fairly low (like kicking my lower bowels). Which would make some sense if babe were facing entirely toward the back, but then I should feel the whole spinal area, and I don’t. Most of the movements I feel are more like the whole body is bouncing back and forth off opposing sides of the uterus (like a pinball game haha). So I’m totally at a loss. None of it makes any sense to me.

    • I’m sorry you’re having trouble with this! First, it may take some time to figure it out. If you’re really confused you could ask your midwife to explain what she’s feeling when she palpates your belly and then try to feel it yourself.

  6. Thanks so much for this I think my baby is right were yours is! Time to get him to move!

  7. It should be noted that the baby mapping is really hard to do when you have an anterior placenta. It’s not as easy to feel where the baby is – you feel general hardness, but no specific shapes or anything. It’s night and day from my first pregnancy – I could feel everything on my first and nothing specific this time around.

    • Thank you so much for this comment! I have an anterior placenta so this was very helpful to read

  8. When I had my 5 1/2 month checkup my baby was already head down and they told me get prepared for possibly a natural delivery 🙂

    • Natural delivery should be the default. I don’t know why they’d tell you to prepare for what should be the outcome. C-section has become far too common.

  9. I am going through 31st week of my pregnancy…. i feel baby’s head as a ball right beneath my naval. what position is this? will my baby get perfect birth position before delivery? what to do to take him in right birth position? plz guide me

  10. Thanks for your reminders! It brings back memories for my third baby, he was always head down totally backwards. (His spine went right up the middle of my stomach! and his little backside stuck out of my belly above my belly button) I used to give him back rubs and tell him to stay in his nice position and be a good baby! It seems like his little hands moving in that position is very weird and I clearly remember his head turning from side to side… that was a sensation! His birth was about 2 hours from start of active labor to the end. 🙂 He was also the only labor where during labor I could actually feel him descending every 2-3 contractions. It was very encouraging!

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  12. I had such a hard time with this… I knew my baby was right occiput posterior and did a lot of inversions and getting on all fours throughout the day to encourage him to rotate but he just never did. My labor was 30 hours long, very painful back labor, especially towards the end and he was born with his hand to his face. How come some babies just seem to get stuck in position?

  13. Oh, man! This is what happened to me, too. See my post on last week’s vlog for the gory details. Yeah, I was clueless, too. I remember my midwife mentioning that the babe was posterior a week before my due date, and I just figured it would take care of itself. I was super chill about it. If I had it to do over again, I would have been Doing All the Pelvic Tilts In the World to prevent that labor! Good luck, G!

  14. Very cool! My first was a very long labor, about 40 hrs start to finish, maybe 24 hrs from when it really picked up, but my son was in a perfect position the whole time. It just took time for my body to progress I guess, even with a natural home birth.

    My second was also in a perfect position the whole time, her birth was a lot faster, maybe 8 hrs from when it picked up, but I spent 4 hrs at 9cm waiting for the darn birth tub I did not want to birth on land again. Lol.

    This is great information if I get pregnant again, though. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Thanks for posting this, reminded me of a few things and I need to go to the spinning babies site again. My little bugger decided today that traverse is a good position and he was head down last week…now Iv got to convince him to get right! 37w4d!

  16. Yep yep yep, belly mapping is such a good idea. Like Mama Natural I had a horribly long back labor with my first and he was born with a fair ol cone head as a result. 68 hours unmedicated labor in total to be exact. His position was Posterior with a hand palm down on his face, (which also scratched me on the way out as a result) My labor stalled, he spent almost a whole day trying to screw his head into my pelvis right.. the hospital even sent me home to labor “until it got more serious” and we stayed at my Aunts house where I didn’t sleep and paced the hall, climbed stairs and rocked/ belly danced trying to help him get into a good position. Finally he moved and we went back to hospital and he was born not long after but man oh man was it a marathon. To which for some reason I said “well that wasn’t too bad” as soon as he was out.

    My second I mapped and paid close attention as I had an anterior placenta and babies do tend to like to face their placentas. And we didn’t make it to hospital he was that quick and painless.

    Mapping rocks.

  17. Such a cool idea! Wish I would’ve known about this prior to me delivering. I had my baby on 10/9. First baby and he was posterior. My entire labor/delivery was only 13 hours, but I pushed for 4 (unmedicated). He also had a hand by his face and came out with it next to his head. Back labor sucks, but I’m so glad to have a great birth story and have been able to have the natural birth I wanted.

    • My first was similar – 15 hours of labor and a nuchal hand, though thankfully she turned either during the week before or during, (I think maybe even back and forth several times during labor, because I and the midwives had a hard time telling her position) and wasn’t born posterior. I’ll definitely be preparing a bit more this time 🙂
      Thanks for the video and I look forward to the exercises!

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