Your Guide to Breastfeeding Positions

Your Guide to Breastfeeding Positions

First and most important breastfeeding position

Get comfortable.

The number one best breastfeeding position is the one in which you are most comfortable. In the early days of breastfeeding, it feels like you need an extra arm or two in order to get your wiggly baby to your breast.

When I was helping women in the hospital, I would start by building a pillow fort around them. These piles of pillows assist in getting the baby closer to your breast.

It helps you to decrease the variables if your position is good.

Your Guide to Breastfeeding Positions

Cross-cradle breastfeeding position

As the name implies, your arms cross your body. As you lay the baby across your forearm, you use the hand of that arm to control the back of the baby’s head and shoulders. Your other hand is used to position and control your breast.

Cradle hold

This is the classic position most of us picture when we think of breastfeeding. It involves you sitting upright, with your baby positioned on his side, his head and neck laying along your forearm and his body against your stomach.

His head lays in the crook of your arm and your other hand is used to control the positioning of your breast.

This is a difficult hold to do with a newborn. They don’t have the muscle control that is necessary to position themselves correctly in order to achieve an effective latch.

This position is also difficult for mothers who are new to breastfeeding. The overwhelming inclination is to lift the baby’s head in the cradle of your arm as you are trying to position him at your breast. This causes the baby’s head to be too high for a successful latch on.

Football hold

In this position (also known as the underarm or clutch), you sit with your baby resting along your forearm. His body tucks alongside your side, with his feet towards the back of the chair, or whatever you’re sitting on. I tell mothers to imagine that they are running down the field with a football tucked into the crook of one arm.

This is a great hold for a new mother. This gives you greater control of the baby’s head and keeps their flailing limbs tucked away. It is also a great position if your nipples don’t point straight out and forward. Often, women’s nipples on one or both breasts point away from center. This is also a great position if you have very large breasts. It enables you to rest them on the nursing pillow and use rolled baby towels to prop them up. All of this frees your hands to position your baby well.

This is also a helpful position for mothers who are fresh from a C-section as it keeps the baby’s body away from your abdomen.

Side-lying breastfeeding position

Ideal for relaxed night feeds and breastfeeding in bed or on the sofa, side-lying can also be more comfortable than sitting if you’ve had a caesarean or stitches.

You and your baby need to lie on your sides next to one another, belly-to-belly. You draw the baby in with your top arm and latch the baby to your breast.

The “safety” pediatrician in me advises that you use this position only when you have another awake adult around that can ensure that you don’t fall asleep and roll over on the baby.

Laid-back breastfeeding

Laid back is a great position in the early days after a C-section or on the days that your milk first comes in. Sometimes, women have a forceful let down that causes the baby to choke and sputter. Reclining back while the baby is positioned on top of your breast will allow the baby to take advantage of gravity.

The position is just as the name implies. Mom lays back in a semi-reclined position and brings the baby across her chest or straight up and down in order to latch to her breast.

Upright breastfeeding or koala hold

In the upright or koala hold, your baby sits straddling your thigh, or on your hip, with his spine and head upright as he feeds.

This hold is often a preferred hold by older babies.

It is also a great hold if your baby has airway issues or severe reflux.

Breastfeeding position is half of the battle

Over time, you will grow more comfortable with the different breastfeeding holds. Often times, you may need to use multiple different holds for one feeding depending on the needs of your baby or your own body’s needs. Achieving the correct position is half of the battle. The other half is successfully latching your baby to the breast. If you are struggling with positioning the baby or any other breastfeeding struggles, it is wise to enlist the help of a lactation consultant.

© 127 Pediatrics, March 2022

Your Guide to Breastfeeding Positions

Contributing author: Dr. Andrea Wadley is the owner, pediatrician and breastfeeding medicine specialist for 127 Pediatrics. She has an established house calls pediatric practice in Colleyville, TX and sees patients once a week at Sky Women’s Health in Fort Worth, TX for concierge breastfeeding medicine consults, lactation consults, fourth trimester care, tongue tie clipping and medical ear piercing.

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