5 Common Breastfeeding Positions
Wondering which breastfeeding position is right for you? Tot Lactation Expert Rebecca Agi MS, IBCLC describes some of the most popular holds.
There are so many different breastfeeding positions to choose from and truthfully there’s no right or wrong one. What’s most important is that you and your baby are comfortable while breastfeeding and milk is successfully being transferred.
Whichever position you choose, keep a few things in mind before you sit down to nurse your baby:
- Gather everything you need prior to a feeding: a tall glass of water, snack, a burp cloth, nursing pillow, notebook if you’re tracking feeds, or whatever else you like to keep close by.
- Get comfortable. Choose a comfortable chair, glider, or sofa with good back support to feed your baby. Position pillows wherever needed to support your arms and relax your shoulders.
- Stay relaxed. One of the best perks of breastfeeding is that it forces you to sit down and relax. This is especially important in the early days when you’re still recovering from birth. Use this feeding time to practice deep breathing, concentrate on your newborn (put that cell phone away if possible) and use this special time to bond with your baby.
- If breastfeeding is uncomfortable or if you have difficulty latching your baby while you are still in the hospital, seek help from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Most hospitals have lactation consultants on staff, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you need more hands-on assistance once you’re home, visit www.ilca.org to find an IBCLC near you.
Best Breastfeeding Positions
Here’s a summary of the most popular breastfeeding positions:
The cross-cradle hold is one of the most popular positions for the early days of breastfeeding because it gives you the best view of your nipple and your baby’s mouth. To achieve this position:
Sit up straight in a comfortable chair and bring your baby across the front of your body, tummy to tummy.
If you’re nursing from the right breast, use your left hand to support your baby’s head by placing your thumb and fingers behind his head and below his ears.
Use your right hand to support your breast from underneath by making a “U” under the areola and placing your thumb at the 3 o’clock position and index finger at the 9 o’clock position. Compressing the breast helps gives the baby a wedge to latch onto.
Guide the baby’s mouth to your breast and tickle his upper lip with the nipple.
Once baby’s mouth opens wide, bring him up and onto the breast.
The cradle hold is a great position to use once the baby is nursing well and the latch-on is easy. It’s similar to the cross-cradle in the way the baby is positioned but does not require both of your hands since the baby’s head rests in the crook of your arm. Just like the cross-cradle, a pillow can help lift up baby and support your elbows.
The football hold, also known as the clutch hold, is the breastfeeding position that many mothers find most comfortable after a C-section. The baby’s body is tucked under your arm and off to the side, just like a football. This position is especially useful for mothers of twins (it’s ideal for tandem nursing) and women with larger breasts.
To achieve the football hold, position your baby on your right side under your arm, supported by a pillow. Your baby should be facing upward with his nose level with your nipple. Hold the base of your baby’s head by placing your thumb and fingers below his ears and guide him onto the nipple while you support the breast with your opposite hand.
The side-lying position is a very comfortable nursing position that can be done in bed. Many mothers find this position works best after the early days, once breastfeeding is fully established and baby is a little bigger. For this position, both mom and baby lie on their sides facing each other. A pillow or rolled towel can be placed behind the baby’s back to keep him from rolling away. You can also place pillows behind your back and between your knees to get comfortable. Your baby’s back can be cradled along your forearm. This position is especially useful when dealing with a forceful letdown as milk can easily dribble out of the side of the baby’s mouth.
Laid-back breastfeeding, or biological nurturing, is another popular breastfeeding position which can help encourage your baby’s natural breastfeeding instincts. Laid-back breastfeeding can be done on the couch, in bed, or on a recliner. To achieve this position, recline about 45 degrees with pillows for support, and place baby face down on your chest with his arms hugging your breast. Gravity will keep him in position with his body molded to yours.
How to Know if You’re Breastfeeding Correctly
Whichever position you choose, you can tell that your baby is latched-on well and receiving milk when:
- The upper and lower lips are flanged out wide, not curled in.
- Cheeks are rounded.
- You can hear or see baby swallowing.
- You do not have any pain while breastfeeding.