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 moms 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 moms find that certain breastfeeding positions and “holds” can help them have a more comfortable and efficient nursing 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 moms, especially not right away. To help make breastfeeding more comfortable, moms often alternate between different breastfeeding positions, and experiment with different ways of holding the baby against their body and breast. Many new moms 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 moms.
Finding a nursing hold 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 might as well be comfortable! No one is judging. Do what works for you. Here are some time-tested breastfeeding positions to try, plus tips to make nursing 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 mom 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.
- Hold the baby close to your body, belly-to-belly, well supported by your cradling arm. Rest your arm on pillows for support if needed. Your arm might get tired from holding your baby in place – so use a breastfeeding pillow or other accessories for support.
- 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.
- Gently squeeze and shape your breast with your free hand in the same direction as your baby’s mouth, either vertically or horizontally. Make sure to hold and shape your baby outside the areola so that the baby can take as much of it as possible in its mouth.
- 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.
- Enjoy yourself! If looking at and talking to your beautiful baby is not joy enough, you can keep yourself entertained during breastfeeding sessions. Whether it is checking Facebook on your phone or reading a magazine, use the time to unwind and breathe a bit. If you feel good and are enjoying the time during nursing sessions, you will be more likely to have a successful experience.
Here are five of the most common breastfeeding positions:
Cradle 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 moms, and is often a bit of a challenge for new moms, because many moms 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, try to position the baby’s nose in front of the nipple. The baby will need to slightly tip his head back in order to easily breathe and swallow. Meanwhile, the mom needs to use her other hand (the one not holding the baby) to gently squeeze and shape her nipple in the same direction toward the baby’s mouth. 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.
Cross-cradle The cross-cradle position is good for new moms and new babies who are still learning to breastfeed, because it gives you the best way to support your baby while they learn how to latch and suckle efficiently. After your baby is a bit older and more experienced with nursing, you can switch to the cradle hold position.
To do the cross-cradle hold, simply hold your baby slightly sideways across your body as shown in the picture. The baby’s head should be supported directly 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.
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 is good for new moms who are just beginning to learn how to breastfeed often prefer the cross-cradle position.
Clutch The “clutch” 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 the clutch breastfeeding hold, the baby lies on your right arm while nursing from the right breast, and vice versa. Support the baby’s head with your hand and their back with your forearm. Keep the baby’s feet positioned between your back and the back of your chair (or couch). The baby’s body should make a 90° angle to the mother’s body.
The clutch hold is ideal for babies who tend to get nervous or anxious during breastfeeding sessions. The clutch hold is a secure, snug position that makes the baby feel comforted, safe, and close to the mother’s body. The clutch 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.
Side Lying In the side lying breastfeeding position, the mom and the baby lie side-by-side, with a pillow to help prop up the baby at the right height for latching on. The side lying hold might be a bit difficult for new moms, but more experienced moms often prefer it, especially at night.
Place your baby right at your side, with your bellies facing each other. Make sure that the baby is downhill from your breast, with your nipple touching the baby’s nose. Prop up your baby’s back with a pillow or towel. When your baby senses your nipple on his nose, he will press upward to latch on to the nipple – and this will cause the baby’s nose to angle away from the breast to promote easy breathing, correct swallowing, and good eye contact with the mom.
The side lying position is good for nighttime breastfeeding sessions when both of you are lying down. Some moms might find that they prefer the comfortable feeling of this position or that their babies latch on better in this position, in which case you can use this position during any time of day.
Football Hold The football hold is similar to the clutch hold. In the football hold breastfeeding position, the mom needs to hold the baby right beside her, with her elbow bent. With your other hand, gently support the baby’s head and help turn and face the baby’s head toward your breast, and let the baby’s back rest on your forearm. For added support, you can also gently cup your breast with a C-shaped grip (outside the areola) with your free hand. Other good tips to stay comfortable in this position: sit in a chair with low, broad arms, and use a pillow or cushion on your lap.
Moms who have large breasts or who are recovering from C-section surgery might prefer the football hold. This position is also a good choice when breastfeeding twins.
What is your favorite breastfeeding position? Have you experimented with any unconventional breastfeeding holds? Join the discussion on our Medela Facebook community!