Breastfeeding Positions 101

For just about every new mom and baby, the first attempts at breastfeeding are haphazard and hapless, at best. But proper positioning is essential in helping your newborn latch on the right way, as well as preventing nipple soreness and other breastfeeding issues. With some trial-and-error, you’ll find the breastfeeding position that works best for you. And in no time, you’ll be a pro at breastfeeding your baby.

Try one of these five best breastfeeding positions:

Cradle hold
Position your baby so his or her head rests in the bend of your elbow of the arm on the side you’ll be breastfeeding, with the hand on that side supporting the rest of the body. Cup your breast with your other hand, placing your thumb above your nipple and areola at the spot where your baby’s nose will touch your breast. Your index finger should be at the spot where your baby’s chin will make contact with the breast. Lightly compress your breast so that the nipple points slightly toward your baby’s nose. Baby’s now ready to latch.

Crossover hold
Hold your baby’s head with the hand opposite to the breast you’ll be nursing from (i.e. if nursing from the right breast, hold the head with your left hand). Rest your wrist between your baby’s shoulder blades, your thumb behind one ear, your other fingers behind the other ear. Using your free hand, cup your breast as you would for the cradle hold.

Football hold
Also known as the clutch hold, this position is especially useful if you have:
– Had a C-section and want to avoid placing your baby against your abdomen
– Large breasts
– A small or premature baby
– Twins
Position your baby at your side, facing you, with baby’s legs are tucked under your arm (yes, like a football) on the same side as the breast you’re nursing from. Support your baby’s head with the same hand, and use your other hand to cup your breast as you would for the cradle hold.

Laid-back position (“biological nursing”)
This one can be particularly helpful for moms who have smaller breasts, for newborns, and for babies with super sensitive tummies or excess gas. Lean back on a bed or couch, well supported by pillows in a semi-reclining position, so that when you put your baby tummy-to-tummy onto your body, head near your breast, gravity will keep him or her molded to you. Your baby can rest on you in any direction, as long as the whole front of the body is against yours and he or she can reach your breast. Your infant can naturally latch on in this position, or you can help by directing the nipple toward your little one’s mouth. Once baby is set up at your breast, you don’t have to do much besides lie back and relax.

Side-lying position
This position is a good choice when you’re breastfeeding in the middle of the night. Both you and your baby should lie on your sides, tummy to tummy. Use your hand on the side you’re not lying on to cup your breast if you need to. When using this position, there should be no excess bedding around the infant that could pose a suffocation hazard. This position shouldn’t be used on a recliner, couch or water bed for that same reason.

Breastfeeding Pillows to Help Get Baby Positioned
Use a nursing or regular pillow to bring baby to a height that makes maneuvering him or her to the breast easier.

Breastfeeding Positions to Avoid

If your baby is positioned improperly, your breasts might not be stimulated to produce more milk, and he or she might not be getting enough milk in the first place. And that can lead to even more problems down the road. Here are a few breastfeeding positions to avoid:

You’re hunched over your baby.
Many latching-on troubles occur because Mom is hunched over baby, trying to shove breast into mouth. Instead, keep your back straight and bring your baby up to your breast.

Baby’s body and head face different directions.
You don’t want your newborn’s head turned to the side — it should be straight in line with the body. Make sure your baby’s whole body is facing your chest, with his or her ear, shoulder and hip in a straight line.

Baby’s body is too far away from the breast.
If it is, he or she will pull on your nipple while feeding — ouch for you and potentially unsatisfying for baby!