Breastfeeding is one of the most natural acts in the world, but it still takes some practice and getting used to. One of the learning experiences for mums and babies is discovering the best breastfeeding positions that work for them both.
There is no right or wrong way to feed your baby. However, many mums find that certain breastfeeding positions and “holds” can help them have a more comfortable and breastfeeding session. It is worth spending some time to figure out what works best for you and your baby.
At first, breastfeeding can feel surprisingly awkward. It is not always “natural” for some mums, especially not right away. To help make breastfeeding more comfortable, mums often alternate between different breastfeeding positions, and experiment with different ways of holding the baby against their body and breast.
Many new mums might think, “But how hard can it be to hold a baby? Anyone can do it!” However, the truth is, learning how to hold and support your baby in a comfortable position for breastfeeding calls for coordination — and lots of patience.
One woman in our Medela Facebook community said that she breastfeeds while sitting on her stairs because it gives her back the right amount of support – so it is clear there is no end to the creativity of breastfeeding mums.
Finding a breastfeeding position that works for you and your infant is well worth the effort. Since you are going to spending several hours of your day in this position, you should feel comfortable! No one is judging. Do what works for you and your baby.
Here are some time-tested breastfeeding positions to try, plus tips to make feeding go smoothly:
Basic Tips for Finding a Good Breastfeeding Position
Whatever the position, here are some basic ways to find that breastfeeding position that works for mum and baby.
Make yourself comfortable. To support the letdown reflex, you should sit in a relaxed position. This is another reason why it’s so important to create a breastfeeding sanctuary where you can sit uninterrupted and connect with your baby during breastfeeding sessions.
Have a drink and snack for yourself within easy reach. Staying hydrated and well fed is part of keeping yourself nourished and nurtured. Take care of yourself while caring for your baby.
Hold your baby close to your body. Position yourself tummy-to-tummy, while supporting their shoulders and bottom.
Some mums like to use cradle holds, where they sit fairly upright and hold the baby in the cradle of their arm. Other mums like to lean back into the sofa or bed and place baby vertically on their chest and tummy whilst their hands gently support baby’s shoulders and bottom. And some mums like to use a “football” hold where baby lies alongside you and are supported by pillows and mums arm.
There are many more positions than this. There is no right or wrong, as long as baby can get an effective latch and the milk flows well with no pain for mum. You will find what works for you with practice.
Make sure you choose a position that allows a good latch. Pay attention to which positions seem to work better for your baby’s latch – even if it’s an unconventional-looking arrangement. Babies need to take as much of the underneath part of the areola in their mouths as possible, as the nipple sits towards the top of the palate.
Breathe and relax those shoulders. Often when mums are learning to breastfeed they become quite tense. It is important to relax as much as possible during feeding to help your muscles not become sore and allow the milk to flow well to baby. Once breastfeeding feels easy and natural make it your special time together to unwind and breathe a bit.
Here are five of the most common breastfeeding positions:
One of the most commonly used breastfeeding positions is the cradle hold. A versatile breastfeeding hold, the cradle can be used in almost any environment – at home or in public. The cradle hold is often used by more experienced breastfeeding mums, and is often a bit of a challenge for new mums, because many mums find that in this position, they have a harder time holding the baby in a good position for latching on to the nipple.
To correctly do a cradle hold, position your baby’s nose in front of your nipple. Baby will slightly tip his head back in order to easily breathe and swallow during feeding. Meanwhile, some mums need to use their other hand (the one not holding the baby) to gently squeeze and shape their nipple in the same direction towards their baby’s mouth, this can help baby get more breast tissue into their mouth and create a better latch.
Try not to push on the baby’s head in order to bring the baby closer to the breast – if you do this, it can cause the baby’s nose to be obscured and you will not have a good view of the baby’s face, which can prevent a good latch-on. The cradle hold is often best for older babies who have already learned how to latch on.
To do the cross-cradle hold, simply hold your baby slightly sideways across your body as shown in the picture. The baby’s shoulders and head should be supported by your hand, and your forearm should support the baby’s back. Use your right arm to hold your baby for feeding from your left breast, and vice versa.
Use your other hand to gently squeeze and shape (outside the areola) your breast toward the baby’s mouth as needed. This will depend on your breast type and not all mums will need to do this.
You can also use this position as a “starter” position to get the baby latched on to the nipple – and then once the baby is feeding, you can gently move the baby into the cradle hold, but without losing the latch. This breastfeeding position can often be good for new mums who are just beginning to learn how to breastfeed.
The “football” position offers some of the best support for latching on to the nipple. It gives you an easy way to position the baby against your breast and a clear view of your baby’s face.
With this breastfeeding hold, the baby lies on your right arm while feeding from the right breast, and vice versa. Support baby’s shoulders and head with your hand and their back with your forearm. You will probably find a pillow underneath baby is necessary with this position, to help support your arm and shoulder at first.
A pillow behind your back can also be useful, especially as baby grows longer! Keep your baby’s feet positioned between your back and the back of your chair (or sofa). The baby’s body should make a 90° angle to your body.
The football hold is ideal for babies who tend to get nervous or anxious during breastfeeding sessions. The football hold is also great for feeding babies who are on the verge of going to sleep – all you have to do is put the baby in position so they are sitting very close to you, and then watch them drift off to sleep.
In the side lying breastfeeding position, the mum and the baby lie side-by-side, with a pillow to help prop up the baby at the right height for latching on, if needed. The side lying hold might be a bit difficult for new mums, but as you become more experienced many mums prefer it, especially at night, as it can be very relaxing.
Place baby right at your side, with your tummies facing each other. Make sure that your nipple is touching baby’s nose. You may find you want to prop up your baby’s back with a pillow or towel. When your baby senses your nipple on his nose, he will open his mouth widely to latch on to your nipple and tilt his head back – this will cause the baby’s nose to angle away from the breast to promote easy breathing, correct swallowing, and good eye contact with you.
The side lying position is good for anytime mum feels she needs a more restful position.
Laid Back Feeding
In the laid back position mum often reclines back into the sofa or comfy chair and places baby upright on her chest and tummy. Mum supports baby on his shoulders and bottom. Baby will often start with his head in between mums breasts and then slowly he will use his reflexes to find his way to the nipple. You may see baby use his arms, neck and shoulder strength to help lift his head, or maybe he will use his crawling reflex to move around your chest.
Again, as with all positions make sure your nipple is pointing towards baby’s nose so it helps baby gape widely and get a good latch of nipple and areola. This position allows both mum and baby to learn to feed and can be a really easy first step into breastfeeding positions.
What is your favorite breastfeeding position? Have you experimented with any unconventional breastfeeding holds? Join the discussion on our Medela Australia Facebook community!