Breastfeeding Positions for Newborns

As long as breastfeeding feels comfortable and your baby is getting plenty of breastmilk, it doesn’t matter which position you prefer to use. This article describes some of the more popular breastfeeding positions for newborns and you can find more ideas for helping your baby attach to the breast comfortably in Latching Tips or see clips of mothers breastfeeding in Breastfeeding Videos.

As long as breastfeeding feels comfortable and your baby is getting plenty of breastmilk, it doesn't matter which position you prefer to use.Click To Tweet

Natural or laid back breastfeeding

Baby mammals are hard-wired to breastfeed without any help—by using their reflexes and instinctive behaviours. By contrast, human babies can often seem helpless to overcome difficulties with latching to the breast. However, when they are lying on their tummies on their mother in natural or laid back breastfeeding positions, human babies are often able to use their instincts to crawl to the breast and latch on comfortably, just like other baby mammals. Skin-to-skin contact in this position, while not essential, also has many benefits to help the process of self-latching. If you place your baby between your breasts as you semi-recline (lean back) into a chair, your body will take his weight and you will notice he starts to bob about searching for the nipple using all his senses. You can still guide him and help him to latch. Many mothers find this is a comfortable way to breastfeed.

Laid back breastfeeding
Laid back breastfeeding

Cross cradle hold

This position can be very useful if you are struggling with latch-on. Hold your baby against your body with the hand and arm opposite to the breast he is about to latch to. Your other hand is free to shape or support the breast for the latch (see Latching Tips). It’s tempting to hold the back of your baby’s head in this position but remember not to do this and to support his neck and shoulders instead. Let your body take your baby’s weight by leaning back slightly.

Cross cradle with a Supplementary Nursing System
Cross cradle hold (with a supplementer)

Rugby, clutch or football hold

This position has many names but they all refer to your baby positioned alongside you, coming towards the breast from behind you. His bottom is snuggled into the back of the chair or sofa and his legs are probably pointing to the ceiling. You may need a cushion or two behind your back to bring yourself forward to leave enough room for his body along your side. Check that your baby’s nose is level with your nipple before he latches so that you don’t have to lean down to his level. You may need a pillow under your baby to lift him to breast height. This position can help with latching difficulties, if you have had a caesarean and have a painful incision or for feeding two babies at the same time. Some mothers choose to breastfeed cross cradle on one breast and rugby hold on the other at first, you can choose whatever works best for you. As with cross cradle you have a hand free to shape or support the breast.

Rugby hold breastfeeding twins
Rugby hold feeding twins

Cradle hold

The cradle hold may be more difficult to use initially when you are both learning to breastfeed as it gives you less control for the latch. Check that your baby feels safe and supported in this position and that his legs aren’t dangling off the side of your lap. Try to curl his body around yours following all the latching tips you can. Leaning back and letting your body take your baby’s weight can help the stability of this position.

Side lying

Learning to breastfeed lying down gives you an opportunity to rest and can be very comfortable if you have had an episiotomy or caesarean. It can be tricky to do; you may need to latch in a semi reclining position and then slide down to side lying at first. Check out Bed-Sharing With Baby to make sure your sleeping surface is safe if you should fall asleep while feeding. As in all positions, have your baby snuggled in close with his nose level with your nipple just before the latch. Check that he isn’t flat on his back and expected to turn his head to latch, he won’t be comfortable or able to swallow in that position. Your arm around him will keep him on his side while he feeds.

Breastfeeding lying down
Side-lying

Standing up

Sometimes a baby can be upset and too anxious, frustrated or angry to latch; walking around with him in your arms will often calm him. He may even enjoy latching while you are standing up, with some gentle swaying and movement rocking him. Later, breastfeeding standing up, with the help of a sling, can let you carry on with tasks around the house without interrupting your baby’s feed.

Straddle hold

Some babies do well in a straddle hold where they sit astride your thigh facing the breast. You may be sitting upright or in a reclining straddle hold.

If breastfeeding hurts

If you can’t get comfortable in any position contact your IBCLC lactation consultant to come and help you with positioning in person and to find out why breastfeeding hurts. Your IBCLC will take a full history to eliminate any physical reason why latching is difficult such as your baby needing cranial work, having low or high muscle tone or having a tongue-tie. Your lactation consultant will work with you to find variations on the basic positions above and specific holds that can help with your unique anatomy or special circumstances.

Summary

Positioning is important. If breastfeeding hurts or pinches your nipples, not only will it be uncomfortable and cause sore nipples, but your baby will find it difficult to take the full amount of breastmilk he needs because his tongue won’t be in the right position to stimulate the breast. If this happens, your milk supply may begin to drop because your breasts will not be being emptied properly. Holding your baby in a way that helps him get a deep mouthful of breast tissue as well as the nipple, while feeling safe and supported, is the key to comfortable feeds and plenty of breast milk. There are lots of different breastfeeding positions to try and many breastfeeding specialists to help you.

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