You would think that breastfeeding would be easy to master since it is a natural, biological process, and all. And for some women it is. But for the rest of us, it will take a little bit of extra work to get the hang of it.
You might be one of the lucky ones who has a baby that seems to get the hang of breastfeeding right away. But don’t feel bad if you don’t fall into that category.
Breastfeeding can be just plain hard. Thankfully, breastfeeding your baby will get easier, and eventually, it will become second nature.
Proper positioning is essential in helping your baby properly latch to your nipple, which can prevent common breastfeeding problems. There are several types of breastfeeding positions to use when breastfeeding your baby.
Feel free to try them all. But know that there is usually one or two positions that seem to work the best for you. They become the default positions for you and your baby.
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Positioning Baby and Other Tips
Before you start a breastfeeding session there are some things you need to minimize pain for you and maximize comfort for both you and your baby.
1. Gather everything you need. Your cell phone, snacks, drinks, TV remote, books, or magazines.
And it is never a bad idea to use the restroom before feeding your baby because you might not be able to get for some time.
2. Make sure you position yourself comfortably and are relaxed. (1) Use back support. Use pillows to support your arms as well as your baby.
Make sure your feet are positioned on a footrest. If you don’t have a footrest, you can always use a book to prop up your feet.
3. Position your baby so that they are close to you and comfy. Make sure your baby’s whole body is facing your chest. Your baby’s ear, shoulder, and hip should be aligned into a straight line.
Your baby’s head should also be in a straight line, you don’t want their head turned to the side. That would make eating difficult. Use a nursing or regular pillow to make it easier to maneuver your baby to your breast.
5 Common Types of Breastfeeding Positions
Once you and your baby are all set up, here are 5 different breastfeeding positions to try:
1. Laid-Back Breastfeeding or Reclined
This position is also known as biological nursing. This is normally the first position that new moms try right after their baby is born. If your baby is healthy and put on your chest or tummy right after they are born, they will do what is called the “breast crawl”.
The “breast crawl” is when your baby starts working toward your breasts and tries to latch on. This an instinctive move where skin-to-skin helps to stimulate your baby’s feeding instincts. Gravity helps your baby to latch and stay on your breast.
This position isn’t just for newborns and is usually more comfortable if you are reclining gently instead of laying completely flat. It works for babies of every age.
It is especially helpful for a baby that has a hard time latching in other positions or doesn’t like their head being touched in other positions, if you have a strong letdown, you have large breasts or small breasts or you have a baby with a super sensitive tummy or extra gas.
Lean back on a bed or couch, well supported by pillows in a reclined position. This way when you put your baby on your tummy, their head near your breast, gravity will keep them molded to your chest. It doesn’t matter what direction your baby lies as long as their whole body is against yours and they can reach your breast.
This position makes it easier for your baby to latch on all on their own. But you can give them an extra hand by directing their mouth to your nipple. Once your baby is set up at the breast, there isn’t much else you need to do except lay back, relax and let your little one eat.
2. Cradle Hold
This is the “classic” position that you picture when you think about breastfeeding. This position gives your baby more space to have a deeper latch, so your baby can eat more. It is also very useful for discreet public nursing.
Although this is a popular position, it doesn’t always work well with newborns because it doesn’t give as much support as other holds. Especially if your baby was born a preemie. Most likely this hold will not work well until your baby gets older and grows more. This position usually works better for a slightly older baby, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a try. It might still work for you.
Your baby should be positioned so their head rests in the crook of the elbow on the side that you will be breastfeeding, with the hand on that side supporting the rest of their body. Use your free hand to support your breast if needed.
This position is best used for preemie babies, small babies, or babies with latching difficulties because you have more control over the way that they latch. That being said you can still use this position for an older baby.
This position was one of my favorite positions for breastfeeding my daughter. When she was a newborn as well as when she got a little bigger. I liked the extra control I had helping her latch, although that being said she latched very well on her own.
I also liked how I could watch her (I admit, that sounds a little creepy), in order to make sure she was latching correctly as well as bond with her. All of the breastfeeding positions are great for bonding, but this one seemed like I could bond with her a little deeper.
Support your baby with a pillow, whether with a nursing pillow or regular pillows. Support your elbows with pillows or if you are using a rocking chair, support them on the armrests. They will get tired before you finish feeding your baby. (Trust me on this one).
You will hold your baby’s head with the opposite hand to the breast you are nursing from. For example, if you are nursing from the right breast you will hold your baby’s head with your left hand.
Rest your wrist between your baby’s shoulder blades. Put your thumb behind one ear, and your other fingers behind the other ears. Use your other hand to shape your breast so its easier to guide your baby’s mouth to the breast in order to latch.
4. Football Hold
This position is also known as the underarm or clutch hold. It is a particularly helpful position if you have:
- Had a C-section and your abdomen still needs time to heal
- Large breasts
- A small or preemie baby
Your baby faces you on the same side you are breastfeeding them from with their legs tucked into your arm (hence why they call it the football hold). Support their head with the same hand you used to put them in that position. Use your opposite hand to shape your breast as you did for the cradle or the cross-cradle hold.
For a lot of moms, this position is easier to learn in the daytime, although a lot of moms use it for nighttime feedings. The other positions are easier to learn first and it is usually better to learn this position after the early days of breastfeeding.
This position is the most difficult to get down, but once mastered it is incredibly helpful. Not only are you able to lay down while you nurse, but you can also catch up on your sleep.
And we all know how important it is to get sleep in those early days. Sleep is a key to surviving the early days with a newborn.
This position is great for mamas who are tired and need rest, a mama who is nursing while sick, or for nighttime feedings. This position is also helpful if you have had a C-section and laying down feels better than sitting up. It is better to use this position when your baby is a little older and has the hang of breastfeeding down.
Lie on your side with your baby facing you, tummy to tummy. They should be close enough to you that their mouth is near your nipple. Use the hand you are not laying on to support your other breast, to help your baby latch if needed.
Once your baby has latched properly you can lay your head down to rest while your baby is eating. But most likely you will need to prop yourself up with your elbow by your head or around your baby so your arm is out of the way.
6 Uncommon Types of Breastfeeding Positions
1. Inverted Side-Lying
This is similar to the regular side-lying position. Instead of having your baby’s body face you, their body is facing away from you, so their body is facing your head.
It is a harder position to get your baby into because they aren’t facing you. But it gives you another option for laying down.
2. Laid-Back Breastfeeding
This is a specific position for you if you have had a C-section and the other positions aren’t comfortable enough for you.
Recline with your baby’s body across your shoulder. This will let you nurse comfortably because you won’t have any additional weight or pressure on your wound.
3. Upright Breastfeeding
This is also known as the Australian or koala hold. You can use this position for:
- A newborn, as long as you give lots of support
- An older baby who can sit up unaided
- A baby who suffers from reflux or ear infections (and prefers to sit up)
- A baby who has low muscle tone or has a tongue-tie
Your baby sits on your thigh, or on your hip while keeping their head and spine upright as they feed. This is a great position to discreetly breastfeed in public.
4. Dangle Feeding
This breastfeeding position is not meant to be used long term but can help if you need to mix things up. Using this position for short periods can help you if you have a condition like Mastitis and don’t want your breasts to be touched or squashed due to discomfort.
There is no scientific proof backing this claim, but some moms think this position helps gravity to unplug their blocked milk ducts. It can also help a baby who is struggling to latch, so you don’t have to give up breastfeeding.
There are several ways to achieve this position:
- You can have your baby lying on their back, while you get on your hands and knees and dangle your nipple into their mouth.
- You can sit up and lean over slightly to allow gravity to help to get your nipple into your baby’s mouth.
- You kneel over your baby on a bed or sofa.
- You can almost lay down, put yourself up on your arms.
5. Side-Lying Cradle
This position is exactly as it sounds. You lay back propped up with your legs curled up. You position your baby into the regular cradle hold.
6. Breastfeeding Using a Carrier
This is not an official “position,” but still worth mentioning. It is best for babies that have a great neck and head control and have mastered breastfeeding.
It is also a discreet position which can be very useful to a breastfeeding mama who is in public and wants to keep things on the down-low.
Make sure you can always see your baby’s face. Help your baby find your breast if necessary. Once they latch, encourage them to rest their cheek on your breast. This will ensure that they can breathe easily.
There are many breastfeeding positions to try. Some of them work better for a preemie or small baby. While others work better for an older baby. Regardless, try them all, if you wish, to see which position(s) you and your baby like the best.
Which breastfeeding positions have you tried or will try?