Common Breastfeeding Positions and Holds
There are a variety of ways in which you can hold or position your baby to breastfeed. Different moms will prefer different positions. Finding which position is right for you and your baby is a trial and error effort. To help you, we’ve put together a post on some of the different ways a lactation specialist or IBCLC will have you try during your hospital stay.
Before we get into the different breastfeeding positions, it’s important to first learn about a proper latch. We’ve put together a whole post with everything you need to know on latching
Change It Up
Try out a few positions and see what one works best for you and your baby. It’s helpful to try different positions because different holds drain your breasts differently. It is especially helpful to try a new position if you are experiencing any clogged or plugged ducts. Let us know in the comments below - what’s your favorite position to nurse in?
Trying a different position can help to explore what works for both you and your baby. Some positions make it easier for babies who are struggling with their latch to draw the nipple and areola into their mouths. Other positions make it harder for your baby to chomp down and cause you both an unpleasant situation.
Different ways to hold your baby while nursing
One of the most common positions for breastfeeding is the Cradle Hold, as it is a great way to both hold and nurse your baby. This position is commonly used after the first few weeks of your baby’s life. To achieve this hold, lie your baby on his or her side, with the head positioned at your breast and their body along your lap. A bed or breastfeeding pillow is a great aid for this hold to help bring your baby’s head and body up to the height of your nipple. Cradle your baby’s head on your forearm, with your hand positioned against his or her back. Cup your breast with your hand in either a C or a U shape to help support your breast and help your baby latch.
Pro Tip: Try not to lean forward while nursing in this position because after time it’ll hurt your back. Instead, use pillows and additional support to raise the baby up to your breast so you are not leaning over the whole time.
While the Cradle position is great for babies who are a bit older, the Cross Cradle Position can be used for younger babies. It’s very similar to the Cradle position, but rather than allowing your baby’s head to rest on your forearm, use your hand opposite your nursing breast to cup your baby’s head. Your baby’s head should rest between your thumb and index finger.
Football or Clutch
This position is often taught by lactation professionals after delivery because it’s an easier position in which to hold your baby and generally works with babies when they are smaller. The football or clutch position allows you to hold your baby with one hand and arm and your breast with the other hand. As your baby grows, you can lay them on a nursing pillow and support them with your arm against their back rather than beneath them. Your hand will continue to support their head.
The football hold position is favored by mothers who have had a C-Section, as your baby’s body is not pressing against the incision. Moms of twins also love this position as it provides the room and mobility to nurse both babies at the same time.
Note: Moms from across the pond may refer to this position as a rugby hold.
Reclined or Laid Back
This is also commonly referred to as biological nursing as it encourages your baby’s biological or natural breastfeeding instincts. First thing’s first: find a spot where you can comfortably recline like a bed or maybe a couch. Grab some pillows to support your upper body and arms. Once you are comfortable and supported, bring your baby towards your breast so that you are stomach to stomach. Hold your breast for your baby with one hand and support the baby by their back, bottom, or legs.
This position is a bit more effortless for mom and baby, making it great for times when you are super tired. Let’s face it, motherhood is exhausting in all the best ways. Trying a position like this one or the next one can make it a little easier. Just take care not to fall asleep in this position as your baby can potentially roll off of your body.
Lying on Your Side
Similar to the reclined position, lying on your side can be a very comfortable way to nurse for both you and your baby. Many mothers find that this position is easier to master after the first few weeks of breastfeeding. In this position, both you and your baby will be laying on your side. You can position pillows against your back or between your knees to get comfortable. You can use your arm to cradle your baby’s head in this position. Try to align your baby’s head, shoulders, and hips to help make nursing easier for them.
This is another position that mothers who have had cesarean births prefer as your baby is not putting pressure on your healing incision. Tired moms love this position as it is easy on both you and your baby. If using this position for middle of the night feedings, take care not to fall asleep while feeding your baby.
Sometimes known as the koala hold, sitting your baby on your lap or your knee and allowing them to nurse sitting up can be a great option. In this position, use your arm to support your baby’s spine and your hand to support their head for newborns. As your baby grows and can support their own head this can become a very convenient position.
Some moms prefer this as a discrete method of feeding their baby in public. Depending on your nursing clothing, you can use this position with or without a cover and still discreetly feed your baby.
Dangle feeding is a more vertical position for feeding your baby and there a few ways of doing so. One method is to lay your baby on his or her back, crouch over top of them on all fours, and allow gravity to position your breast. You can also achieve this position while sitting. Lay your baby on your lap or a breastfeeding pillow, and lean forward. This position, however, may strain or tire your spine.
While there is no concrete evidence, many moms recommend this type of a position for clogged ducts or mastitis. Other moms say that it helps babies who have had difficulty latching draw your nipple into their mouth and nurse unaided.
Supporting Your Breast to Help Your Baby Breastfeed
In all of the positions outlined or discussed above, you should hold or support your breast for your baby, especially in the early days. Your breast, especially when engorged, can be heavy and hard for a baby to manage. Lactation professionals sometimes describe a baby trying to breastfeed from a full or engorged breast as trying to suck on a beach ball.
Pro Tip: Hand express some milk from a full or engorged breast to make the nipple softer and easier for your baby to latch.
Make the shape of the letter “C” with your hand and then gently grab your breast from the side. You can now lift and compress your breast simultaneously to help make it easier for your baby to nurse.
Similar to the C-Shape Hold, rotate your hand so that it now resembles the letter “U”. In this hold you’ll support your breast from the underside rather than the from the side. You can support and compress your breast with this common hold as well.
For babies too young to hold their head, with poor muscle tone, or disabilities, the dancer hold is recommended. This hold supports both their head and your breast, drawing the two close together. Start by forming the U-shape hold described above. Use the top finger and thumb to hold or support your baby’s chin/head. Then use the bottom three fingers to support your breast.
Troubles with Latching?
Babies instinctively know how to latch, but there can be other factors which make achieving this latch difficult. Aside from lip and tongue ties, sometimes a simple change in position can make all of the difference. In fact, did you know that the most common or easily recognized breastfeeding position, the cradle, is actually one of the most difficult for babies to latch in?
If you are struggling to help your baby latch, try lying on your side. If you'd like another position, the football hold is especially great even with new babies! And then a third thing that you can try is the koala position. If you want to learn more about latching, check out this blog post.
There are few things that we can imagine that are more startling or painful than a teething baby chomping down on your nipple. Breastfeeding positions can have an impact deterring your little one from chomping down too!
When you are latching your baby, get them as close to your breast as possible. You want them to be directly facing your nipple and as close as you can get them. This way when they open their mouth, they draw in more of your breast tissue. When they draw the nipple and more of your areola into their mouth, the nipple is safely away from their teeth.