While you and your baby are learning to breastfeed, feel free to try a variety of holds and positions to see what works best for the two of you as a team. The goal is to find a comfortable position that allows your baby to get the best latch that is not painful for you. As you experiment, you may find that you prefer a different hold or position for each breast, and that is perfectly fine.
Let’s explore some of the most common breastfeeding holds/positions and discuss the benefits and techniques of each.
The cross-cradle hold is often ideal for newborns. It involves holding your baby with the opposite arm from the breast you’re feeding from. This position allows you to better guide your baby’s latch, and provide head and neck support without putting too much pressure on the head. This is especially helpful for newborns, small babies, and mothers who are experiencing nipple pain or soreness, as it allows for more precise positioning of the baby’s mouth.
Using the hand opposite your breast, place your hand across your baby’s upper back with your thumb and index finger at the base of the skull. Tuck your baby’s bottom into the crook of your elbow, and position your baby to face you. Lift your breast with your other hand (same side as your breast), and bring your baby near your breast aiming the nose (rather than the mouth) towards your nipple. Allow your baby’s chin to touch the breast first, and then gently guide your baby onto the breast only when the mouth is open wide. Pressure is applied to the baby’s back, not head. Once your baby is latched, keep your baby’s bottom pressed close to your body with your elbow.
The football hold can also be very effective for newborns, and it involves holding the baby against your side, under your arm like a football. This position is great for mothers after a C-section because it avoids putting pressure on the incision site. It’s also an excellent option if you have larger breasts, as it can help to support the weight of the breast and give you a better view to help your baby latch properly.
Tuck your baby against your side with feet pointing behind you. A pillow can be helpful to lift the baby’s lower body to your hip height. Support your baby with the hand on the same side as your breast, placing your hand across your baby’s upper back with thumb and forefinger at the base of the skull. Lift your breast with your opposite hand, and guide your baby to the breast with pressure on the upper back and light head support. Allow your baby’s chin to touch the breast beneath your nipple first, and then gently guide your baby onto the breast only when the mouth is open wide.
Laid Back or Reclining Position
As the name indicates, this is a more relaxed, baby-led position. Also, you are in a semi-laid back position. This position is great for mothers who have had a difficult delivery or who are recovering from a C-section, and for newborns who are very sleepy or not yet latching well, as the baby can be held skin-to-skin on your chest with your breast near their face for stimulation of your milk production as well as stimulation of your baby’s senses.
Lie back with your upper body supported at an angle that is comfortable for you, and with your baby lying on top of you, facing you tummy to tummy. When you lean back like this, and position your baby along your abdomen, your baby is supported by your body so you don’t have to support your baby’s weight with your arms. Place your baby’s cheek near your breast. You might find it helpful to use one hand to position your breast near your baby. In this position, your baby can then lift and bob the head to find your nipple and latch without help.
Even though this position seems ideal, for many new mothers and babies it can be challenging to get a good latch in this position, so be sure and ask for help if this is most comfortable positioning for you but your baby is having difficulty.
This position often takes the most practice but you will love it once you and your baby master this hold. Typically you and your baby will get comfortable with breastfeeding for a week or two before trying to breastfeed in a side-lying position.
Start by lying on your side with your baby lying next to you, facing each other, with your baby’s face near your breast. You might try propping yourself on your lower elbow so that you can lift your lower breast with that hand until your baby is latched. Use your top hand to guide your baby’s body towards yours with pressure on the upper back/neck, not head. Once your baby is latched you can move your bottom arm under or alongside your head. Allow your baby to tilt chin towards your breast, and with forehead slightly tipped back to allow ease of breathing and swallowing.
This hold is great for nighttime feedings because it allows both you and your baby to remain lying down. It’s also an excellent option for mothers who have had a difficult delivery and need to rest.
While the cradle hold is perhaps the most well-known breastfeeding position, and what most people think is the most ‘natural’ position, in reality it is often the most difficult for newborns and can cause painful latch for you. Also, it is more difficult to support the weight of your baby in this position. So in general, this hold is best used later when your baby is a little older, has more head control, and can latch very easily in any position.
In the cradle hold, your baby is held with the arm closest to your breast and your opposite hand can be used to lift and position the breast as needed. This hold is great for older babies who enjoy making eye contact with you while breastfeeding, and you can support much of their weight with your lap rather than your arms.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to breastfeeding. The best position for you and your baby will depend on your individual needs and preferences, and will likely change over time. Experiment with different positions and find what works best for the two of you, and don’t wait to ask for help. We are here for you if you can’t seem to find a position that is comfortable.
Breastfeeding is a learned skill, so be prepared for practice and patience, but don’t worry… you and your baby will find your rhythm and soon be breastfeeding like you’ve been doing it forever!