Best Breastfeeding Positions – How best to hold Baby while nursing

Breastfeeding experts say that nursing is easiest and most comfortable the first few times if you’re sitting up. But it can be useful to know how to breastfeed your baby in different positions so you can find the ones that are most comfortable for you. Try these holds and positions, as described in The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International.

Try lying down to nurse

Breastfeeding your baby in the side-lying position will allow you to get more rest in the early weeks. You will need to use pillows to support yourself and the baby. At first, you may need some help getting the baby positioned properly so she can latch on correctly.

Learn to nurse lying down, step by step

  • First, lie on your side with a pillow under your head.
  • Have Baby lying on his side facing you with his mouth in line with your nipple and his knees pulled in close to your body. (You may be comfortable with the baby lying directly on the bed, or you may want to place your arm under him.)
  • Lean into the pillows that are behind your back.
  • Offer your breast to Baby by supporting it with your fingers underneath and your thumb above, well behind the areola.
  • Wait until Baby opens his mouth wide, then quickly pull him in close to you so he can latch on well and suck effectively.

Make lying down more comfortable

After you get Baby started nursing, you may want to place a pillow behind his back to hold him close and tuck your arm under the pillow supporting your head, if that’s more comfortable for you. Some mothers also place a pillow between their knees.

To change sides, sit Baby up and pat his back to see if he needs to bring up a burp. Then hold him flat against your chest and roll over on your back. Lie on your other side and position Baby at your other breast. This is especially good for mothers who have had a cesarean birth; while still in the hospital, you can use the side rails on the bed to help you roll over.

Learn the football hold or clutch hold

This position is helpful for babies who are having trouble latching on, as it gives the mother good visibility of what’s going on and good control of Baby’s position as he latches on.

Try the football hold, step by step

  • Seated in a wide chair or on a sofa, position Baby at your side with his legs uder your arm and his head near your breast.
  • Support his head by placing your fingers on his neck and shoulders.
  • Use pillows to bring Baby up to the level of your nipple. (This mom is using a u-shaped nursing pillow, which may be helpful for you.)
  • When you pull Baby in close to latch on, be sure his legs are not pushing against the back of the chair or sofa. (If they are, bend his legs upward, behind you.)

Learn the cross-cradle hold or crossover or transition hold

This position is similar to the cradle hold, but you are holding the baby with the opposite arm. Cross-cradle gives you a good view of Baby’s latch-on and may be a good choice at first for a premature baby or a baby who is having trouble latching on.

Try the cross-cradle hold, step by step

  • To feed Baby with the left breast, support the breast with your left hand and hold the baby with your right arm.
  • Support your baby’s head by resting his neck on the palm of your hand, with your thumb and fingers at the base of his head.
  • Don’t hold onto the back of baby’s head, as this will cause some babies to pull away from the breast.
  • Some mothers use pillows under the baby’s body to support his weight and bring him up to the level of the breast.
  • By using the “U” hold, your elbow is at your side. Support your breast with the hand on the same side as the breast you are offering.

Follow procedures at first

Since it is important that young babies learn to suck effectively, La Leche League International recommends that you use these techniques step-by-step when you and your baby are learning. After a while, when both of you are breastfeeding experts, you can use whatever positions and procedures are comfortable for you.

You may find yourself breastfeeding in different positions at different feedings; this is just fine. Breastfeeding should be a comfortable and relaxing time for you and your baby.

Get help

Breastfeeding a baby is simple and natural—if you know how to do it and what to expect. La Leche League International offers breastfeeding answer pages, support groups, help hotlines, even podcasts and nursing wear.

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