Positions for Successful Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding can create a deep bond between a mother and her baby. However, it may take a little time, and experimentation, to find a breastfeeding position that is mutually beneficial for both of you. When you and your baby are well aligned and comfortable, your nipples will stay healthy, and your baby can feed most efficiently – allowing both of you to feel your best and enjoy the time together. Here are a few basic steps to find the feeding position that works best.

Basic Tips for Comfortable Breastfeeding

  1. Make yourself comfortable! Use pillows to support your back and arms. Some women also find it helpful to have another small pillow in their lap or to have their feet slightly elevated on a footrest.
  2. Position your baby near you with their mouth facing your nipple.
  3. Gently lift and hold your breast.
  4. Encourage your baby to open their mouth wide and pull them close to your nipple by supporting their back (instead of the back of the head) so that the baby’s chin presses up against your breast. This position will help your baby to latch onto your breast and locate your nipple.
  5. If you feel pain or discomfort, gently detach your baby and reposition for another try.

Once you and your baby become accustomed to the basics of breastfeeding, you may want to experiment with different positions. Changing positions can also be helpful if your baby’s mouth latch is shallow or if it feels like your baby’s mouth is pushing or rubbing more on one side of your nipple than another.

A Breastfeeding Position We all know…

breastfeeding positions cradle

Cradle Position

The cradle position is a very popular breastfeeding position, and probably what you think of when you think of breastfeeding or how to hold a breastfeeding baby. Your baby should be on his or her side, resting on his or her shoulder and hip with his or her nose in-line with your nipple, and with you cradling or holding baby across your lap.  There’s a rhyme lactation consultants like to say to help mothers remember how to position baby in a cradle breastfeeding position:  “Tummy to Mummy, nose to nips, flex the hips to open the lips.”

What’s important to remember in the cradle position is that you need to start with the baby’s nose across from your nipple – if you position baby with his mouth across from your nipple he’ll be in the wrong position when he tilts his head back to be scooped onto the breast.  You want an asymmetrical latch where baby takes in more areola on the bottom than on the top.

7 Alternate breastfeeding positions to try

Have you mastered the cradle position or is it just not working for you?  Try mixing it up with one of these alternate positions.  If something feels uncomfortable or like it’s just not working for you and baby, switching up your position can be a lot of help.

breastfeeding positions cross cradle

Cross-cradle Position

Many mothers find this variation of the cradle position to be very useful and comfortable, especially for newborns. It can be easier to latch baby on quickly (it’s all about speed!) when you’re supporting baby’s head with your hand rather than elbow.  For the cross-cradle breastfeeding position, your baby is supported on a pillow placed on your lap to help raise him to your nipple. Gently place your hand behind your baby’s ears and neck with your thumb and index finger behind each ear. Your baby’s neck will rest between your palm and fingers for extra support.  Your free hand can then be used to support your breast and help position your nipple properly in baby’s mouth.

breastfeeding positions laid back breastfeeding

Back Lying or Laidback breastfeeding

Back Lying or Laidback breastfeeding works well on a couch, recliner, or bed where you can lean back (but not be completely flat) and feel well supported while the front of your baby’s body presses against you. Because you’re leaning back, your baby can rest against you in any way that is mutually comfortable.  Held skin to skin in this position, most babies are capable of finding your nipple and self attaching – healthy newborns will do this around an hour after birth if allowed skin to skin contact with their mothers immediately after birth.

breastfeeding positions football

Football Hold

The football breastfeeding position is ideal for any mother who delivered via a Cesarean birth as it keeps the baby away from your stitches and healing incision. When using the football position, support your baby’s head in your hand with their back alongside your arm. Pillows (breastfeeding pillows or any regular pillow) can help bring your baby to the correct level, so her mouth aligns with your nipple.

breastfeeding positions austrailian

AUSTRALIAN Hold

When you’re nursing your baby in an Australian hold, he is held vertically and straddles your thigh, facing you, with his tummy against yours. This position is best used with older babies who have head and neck control, but can be used with younger infants so long as you provide adequate head support. In this position, your knee or thigh supports baby as if he ow she were sitting in your lap, while one of your hands is low on the baby’s head to give control as you bring your baby to your breast to latch. Your other hand supports and narrows the breast to help the baby form a good, deep latch.

breastfeeding positions inverted side lying

Inverted Side-Lying

The Inverted side-lying breastfeeding position is a good one to try if you feel like your breasts are not being emptied fully or if you have a clogged milk duct under or on the bottom side of your breast.  If you have a tender area that doesn’t seem to be emptying completely, it can be helpful to position baby in a way so that his nose is pointing toward that spot.  Changing positions, or nursing baby “upside-down,” as shown here, is a great way to make nursing on a nipple with a sore spot more comfortable because a different part of baby’s mouth will be on the sore spot.

breastfeeding positions side lying cradle

Side-Lying Cradle

The side-lying cradle position is a cross between laid-back breastfeeding and a side-lying position.  In this position, you lay back, resting on your side, but hold baby more upright.  Support baby’s head in the crook of your upper arm and use your opposite hand to help guide him to your nipple.

breastfeeding positions side-lyingSide-lying Position

As a new mom, figuring out how to nurse lying down is often a miraculous moment.  Many new mothers find nursing in a side-lying position to be very comfortable, especially in the evening or at night. In this breastfeeding position, both mother and baby lie facing each other on their sides. Your arm placed behind the baby’s back will keep them close to you, and pillows positioned at your back, under your head or between your knees you help you to get comfortable.  This is a very restful nursing position, perfect for tired mothers.

Expecting Twins?

Expecting twins?  Think you can’t nurse both at once?  Think again!

breastfeeding twins at the same time

There are a variety of positions and combinations of positions you can try that will allow you to nurse both babies at once – this will save you time and give you a chance for an occasional break if both babies are on the same feeding schedule.  Women’s bodies are capable of many amazing things – including producing enough milk to feed two breastfed babies exclusively without supplementation.

Recommended Videos for Breastfeeding Positioning

Sometimes looking at pictures is not enough.  You may find these two breastfeeding demonstration videos helpful for determining correct and comfortable position:

CROSS-Cradle Hold With a Newborn Baby

This video by Dr. Jack Newman shows a classic cross-cradle hold with a small infant. It provides an excellent demonstration of how to support the baby’s shoulders and neck while keeping the baby’s body snug and secure across your body.

General Breastfeeding Overview Video

This video provides an example of the ‘bobbing’ motion that a baby will make to signal the mother that they are getting hungry and would like to breastfeed!

Regardless of which breastfeeding positions you try, the most important factors to remember are that you and your baby are comfortable, and your baby is successfully latched on to your breast. As your baby grows and gets heavier and longer, you may need to experiment to find new holds and positions that you both find supportive and comfortable. Be sure to contact your OB-GYN if you have questions or concerns about breastfeeding and the health of you and your baby.

Need help with breastfeeding?

Located in Fort Collins, Colo., a Woman’s Healing Center is an OB-GYN and surgical-quality aesthetics practice whose mission is to help women of all lifestyles heal their way to better health and happiness.

We accomplish our mission through deep listening and straight talk. As such we are the only local alternative to corporatized medicine that provides women the specialized knowledge and training of board-certified female-only obstetricians and gynecologists.  We have breastfeeding experts in the office every day to help mothers and babies with any breastfeeding questions that may arise.

Christine Skorberg, M.D., Cherie Worford, M.D., and myself are dedicated to helping each patient through her life’s journey—from delivering her babies and nourishing them, to navigating the changes in her body and emotions, to offering the latest medical-grade procedures for looking and feeling younger.

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