Every mother and baby has their own individual needs. Therefore, it is important to find a breastfeeding position that is comfortable and relaxing for the both of you. By taking the time to explore different breastfeeding holds and help your baby latch on properly, you’ll find yourself breastfeeding like a pro in no time.
Why is it important to find the best breastfeeding position?
While breastfeeding is a dynamically biological process in itself, the art of properly transferring milk from the breast to a baby’s stomach takes some knowledge and practice. The first few attempts at breastfeeding can feel complicated and confusing to many new mothers. Sometimes latching on properly is difficult for baby as well.
Breastfeeding your baby should be as comfortable as possible. Proper positioning helps to make breastfeeding easier and more comfortable for both you and your baby. It helps your baby latch on the right way, and helps to prevent pain, discomfort, and other breastfeeding problems for mom.
Tips for Finding the Right Breastfeeding Position
Your baby is able to nurse more comfortably and efficiently when he or she feels comfortable and secure. Begin by placing your baby on one side facing toward your breasts. Your baby’s entire body should face toward your chest, with his or her ear, shoulder, and hips in alignment, and his or her tummy against your body. His or her head should not be turned to the side. Rather, it should remain in alignment with the rest of his or her body. A nursing pillow or a folded receiving blanket can help to bring your baby to a level that makes it easier for him or her to breastfeed comfortably. You can also gently swaddle your baby to help make breastfeeding more comfortable.
While positioning your baby is extremely important, it is also important to make sure you are comfortable too. Choose a comfortable seat for breastfeeding and make good use of pillows and other cushions to help support your back and arms. Avoid hunching over to feed your baby. When seated, bring your baby to your breast for feeding rather than the other way around.
As your baby grows in size, you might find that a new position is more comfortable than one you previously preferred. Experiment with different positions as your circumstances change. Alternating which breast you choose from might also help stimulate milk production.
Different Breastfeeding Positions to Try
Here are some breastfeeding positions to try once you and baby are comfortable and ready to go:
The Cradle Hold
The cradle hold is a classic breastfeeding position where you to cradle your baby so that his or her head rests in the bend of your elbow on the side where you’ll be breastfeeding. Sit in a seat where you have arm rests or a breastfeeding pillow to support your arms. Your arm on the breastfeeding side cradles the baby and your hand supports the rest of the body. Make sure your back is also supported in order to avoid hunching over your baby.
Hold your baby with his or her stomach against your body so that he or she is lying on his or her side. Extend your forearm and hand down your baby’s back to support his or her neck, spine, and bottom. Keep your baby’s body positioned so that his or her face, stomach, and knees are facing you. Tuck his or her lower arm under your own arm.
You can use your free hand to cup your breast, positioning your thumb over your nipple and areola in the area where your baby’s nose touches the breast and your index finger at the place where your baby’s chin touches the breast. Then, gently compress your breast so the nipple points slightly toward your baby’s upper lip. Now your baby is in the proper position to latch onto the breast.
This breastfeeding position is best for:
- Full-term babies
- Babies that were delivered vaginally
- Babies one-month old or above who have stronger neck muscles
This position might be slightly uncomfortable for new mothers who have just had a cesarean section. A good breastfeeding pillow might help make this position more comfortable.
The Crossover Hold/Cross-Cradle Hold
This breastfeeding position is similar to the cradle hold, but you don’t cradle your baby’s head in the crook of your arm. Instead, your arms reverse roles. Here, you position your baby’s head with the hand opposite to the side on which you’re breastfeeding. For example, if you’re nursing on the left breast, you will use your left hand to hold your baby’s head. Rotate your baby’s body so his or her chest and stomach are facing you, and rest your wrist between your baby’s shoulder blades. Position your thumb behind your baby’s ear to support his or her head and neck, and guide his or her mouth to your nipple.
You can use your free hand to support your breast just like you would when using the cradle hold position.
This breastfeeding position might be better for babies who have trouble latching onto the breast and smaller babies.
The Football Hold/Clutch Hold
Here, you position your baby at your side, with your baby’s body facing you and his or her legs tucked under your arm. Just like the name implies, this position replicates the manner in which an athlete tucks a football on the side of their arm or an individual holds a clutch handbag. Your baby should be facing the side from which you plan to breastfeeding. Position your baby so his or her nose is level with your nipple and feet are pointing toward your back.
Use a nursing pillow to rest the arm on the side on which you are breastfeeding, and support your baby’s spine, neck, and head with that arm and hand.
This position is a good choice for women who:
- Recently had a cesarean section and want to avoid placing the weight of their baby against their abdomen;
- Have larger breasts;
- Have a small or premature baby; or
- Have twins and plan to tandem feed.
This classic breastfeeding position is natural for baby and relaxing for mom. In this position, a mother reclines on a bed, with her body supported by pillows, and places her baby on her stomach so she is tummy-to-tummy with her baby. The baby’s head should be close to the breast. He or she can rest on mom’s body in any position, so long as the front of his or her body is against mom’s and his or her mouth can reach mom’s nipple.
Newborn babies are naturally able to latch onto their mother’s breast in this position. Nevertheless, you can always help your baby by gently directing your nipple toward your baby’s mouth. When your baby is properly latched, you can lean back and relax while your baby feeds.
This breastfeeding position is useful for:
- Nursing in bed;
- Women who have smaller breasts; and
- Women who are recovering from a cesarean section and want to breastfeed in a position that avoids extra weight on their incision.
Safety Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages bed-sharing, as it is associated with an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. While the laid-back/biological nursing position may seem convenient for nighttime nursing, it is best to avoid falling asleep with your baby in bed with you. Always return your baby to his or her bassinet, crib, or co-sleeper after breastfeeding.
Like the laid back/biological nursing position, this breastfeeding position is useful for breastfeeding at night. Position your body so you are lying on your side, with your back and hips in alignment and some pillows behind you for back support. You might also want to put a pillow underneath your head and shoulders for extra support.
Position your baby so that your baby is also lying on his or her side, with their tummy facing yours. You can use your lower arm to cradle your baby’s head and guide him or her to your breast. Alternatively, you can use your upper arm to cradle your baby’s head, support his or her back, or cup your breast to help your baby reach it comfortably.
Your baby’s should be able to reach your breast comfortably, without straining. And you should be able to feed him or her comfortably with your hips and back in alignment and without having to lean down toward your baby.