Breastfeeding Positions

By Krista Gray, IBCLC. Last updated August 9, 2014.

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How should I breastfeed my baby?

There is no right or wrong way to nurse your little one.  Any position that is comfortable for you and your baby is just fine.  And while it is important to ensure your baby is positioned and latched well in the beginning, after a few months your growing baby and then active toddler just might choose some positions you never would have considered!  The following breastfeeding positions will give you ideas of ways many moms have comfortably and effectively nursed their babies.

Positioning Techniques

Many moms find it helpful to have plenty of pillows to prop up around them so they don’t have to support the weight of their baby while nursing.  Other moms find having pillows and feeling like they can only nurse in their “nursing station” to be cumbersome.  These moms prefer to not use pillows or other support.  Either way is perfectly fine!

What is most important is to make sure your baby is supported throughout his head/neck/shoulder region, his head and neck are in alignment, and he has equal muscle movement on both sides of his body.  This means you will want his body gently pressed against yours – his tummy on your body – and your hand securely holding his head between his shoulder blades.  Make sure your hand does not hold his head though as this is very uncomfortable and keeps a baby from latching well.  (Imagine if you had to keep your chin down on your chest while you chewed and swallowed your food!)  His head should be free so that he can bring it back if his nose becomes blocked.  Your baby should have firm contact against his mother (skin-to-skin is ideal!).

Latching Techniques

In addition to ensuring good positioning in the early days, it is equally important to ensure a proper latch.  A mother can support her breast with her hand if necessary.  Make sure to keep your fingers behind the areola and position fingers in a C-hold so that you can easily help your baby latch on and take enough breast into his mouth.  A baby’s nose should be level with the mother’s nipple.  Your baby should have his head tilted back and lead his mouth to the breast with his lower jaw.  His mouth should be opened wide, tongue down and extended over the bottom gum, with nipple pointing up toward roof of baby’s mouth.  His chin should be pressed against breast with bottom of jaw/lip taking in more areola than the top.  Your baby forms a teat with the nipple and breast tissue, which should be tucked well into baby’s mouth.  His mouth should be open very wide with both top and bottom lips relaxed on the breast and flanged outward.  There should not be any pain!  Make sure to allow your baby to nurse as long as he wants – don’t set a time limit.

Cradle Hold

Cradle Hold

Cradle Hold

This is one of the most popular nursing positions.  A baby lies on the forearm of the side she is going to nurse, and her body extends across the front of her mother.  Her head may be cradled in the bend of the elbow or down lower on the mother’s forearm depending on the size of the baby.  The baby’s chest is against her mother’s chest without space in between; baby’s chest should not be facing up toward the ceiling.  Her legs/feet may be tucked in around the mother’s waist to feel more secure.  It is important that baby is held at breast-level rather than the breast being lowered down to reach baby (which can alter the latch, put pressure on the breast, and keep milk from draining adequately in some areas leading to plugged ducts and mastitis).

Cross-Cradle Hold

DSC_1270

Cross-Cradle Hold

Similar to the cradle hold, but the baby is supported in the arm opposite of the side she is nursing on.  If nursing on the left side, baby would be held by the right arm.  In this example, a mother could support her breast with her left hand and help ensure an optimal latch.  This position is often used with preterm infants.

Football/Clutch Hold

Football Hold

Football Hold

In this position, a baby lies at breast level on the arm of the side she is going to nurse.  Her head is by her mother’s hand and her body wraps around the side and back of her mother.  This hold is especially helpful for a mother who needs to be able to better see her baby’s latch – with large breasts or with a painful latch – as well as after a c-section so baby doesn’t put weight on the incision.  Many mothers of twins also nurse their babies in this position.

Laid-Back Nursing/Biological Nurturing/Reclining

Laid-Back Nursing

Laid-Back Breastfeeding

It has a variety of names but in this position, rather than sitting straight up, the mother is comfortably reclining.  She could simply slide down in a straight back chair, sit in a reclining chair, or lie on a bed propped up with a couple pillows.  A baby can then be positioned across the mother’s body allowing gravity to securely position baby’s body against hers as well as allowing gravity to help with the latch.  This position allows a baby’s natural breastfeeding instincts to kick in.  It is particularly helpful for a tired mom to get rest while nursing or when your baby struggles to open wide to latch such as in cases of tongue tie.

Nursing Lying Down (Side-lying)

Side-Lying Breastfeeding

Side-Lying Breastfeeding

Nursing lying down is an essential tool for breastfeeding and sleep.  Since babies need to nurse at night but mothers also need sleep it is a wonderful way to meet both needs.  In this position, mother and baby lie next to one another on a safe surface.  Baby is securely pressed against mother’s body, and a mother protects her baby with her legs curled around the bottom of her baby and arm over the top.  It can be challenging to first learn this position, but with practice most mothers find it very relaxing to know they can nurse while also getting rest.

Upright Nursing (Baby Sitting)

Upright Breastfeeding

Upright Breastfeeding

Some babies prefer to be in a seated, upright position when nursing.  This type of position is especially useful when a mother has a forceful milk ejection, baby has breathing or swallowing issues, cleft palate, etc.  This position helps reduce choking from a fast flow of milk.  It is still important to adequately support a baby in this position allowing her body to feel a secure touch across her body as well as ensuring her head is well supported by holding one hand in between the shoulder blades at the base of the neck.

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