The way a baby is held and attaches to the breast affects how easily they can breastfeed. Poor positioning with a shallow latch is likely to lead to sore nipples, a drop in milk supply, a hungry baby and possibly cause a premature end to breastfeeding altogether.
This article is a companion article to Breastfeeding Positions for Newborns and Latching Tips. It shares a selection of helpful breastfeeding videos to illustrate the principles of a good latch, show a selection of breastfeeding positions and to explain how to tell if a baby is drinking plenty of breast milk.
Getting a deep latch
The video below by Global Health Media explains the difference between a shallow and a deep latch. A good latch is vital to breastfeeding comfort. The video describes how to trigger your baby’s natural feeding reflexes in skin-to-skin contact, shows babies latching to the breast in a variety of positions, and discusses how to recognise a good latch.
Global Health Media’s breastfeeding video collection is available in English, Spanish, French, Swahili, Nepali, Lao, Malay, Khmer, Kinyarwanda and Vietnamese.
There are many ways to hold your baby to breastfeed; the most popular positions are known as cradle hold, cross-cradle hold, clutch/rugby/football hold, side-lying position and laid back breastfeeding. See our article Breastfeeding Positions for Newborns for photographs of the different ways to hold your baby to breastfeed and Latching Tips for the secrets to a comfortable latch.
Positions for Breastfeeding, by Global Health Media, includes semi-reclining positions, cross cradle hold, cradle hold, rugby or underarm hold, side-lying position, and positions for twins.
Good milk transfer
The following clip from Canadian paediatrician and breastfeeding expert Dr Jack Newman shows an example of good latch and milk transfer. The mother is using cross-cradle hold. Dr Newman describes how to see the pause in a baby’s suck as they swallow milk. For more ways to tell if a baby is getting plenty of milk see Is My Baby Getting Enough Milk?
Laid back breastfeeding
The next clip demonstrates a mother holding her baby in a semi-reclining position sometimes called laid back breastfeeding or the biological nurturing position. The clip describes how to spot early feeding cues and shows baby feeding comfortably in the prone position (on his tummy):
What are laid back breastfeeding positions?
Laid back or natural breastfeeding positions involve lying back slightly, preferably with baby skin-to-skin (or lightly dressed) with your baby’s tummy against your chest. Your body supports your baby. This position triggers your baby’s natural feeding reflexes and helps him to take a good mouthful of breast while feeling supported and stable on your body. There are a collection of videos of babies latching just after birth in this position in Why Skin to Skin? In the following short video Nancy Mohrbacher explains how natural, laid back, breastfeeding positions, can really help a baby to latch deeply and comfortably without arm waving and fighting at the breast.
Find the right position for you and your baby
While some mums find laid back positions can fix a painful latch or stop their baby struggling at the breast, for others it does not feel right at all. Well supported cross-cradle and rugby holds may give more control for your latch. Your own body position is important too, if your arms tire during a feeding your baby may not remain level with the breast and may slip down and exert more pressure on the nipple or slide down to the nipple base causing pain or damage.
Larger breasts/heavy breasts
A heavy breast may need to be supported during a feed as the weight of it may tend to pull from baby’s mouth causing your baby to lose their grip. Biological nursing positions and rugby hold may help with this or the cross-cradle position can give good control as you have a hand free to shape and support the breast. Sometimes you may need to support the breast throughout the feed to prevent baby slipping off. See Breastfeeding With Large Breasts for much more information.
In the following video clip, a larger breasted mother shares how laid back positions work well for her and her baby. And a helper explains how stimulating pressure points on the baby’s knees, feet and ribs can trigger a deeper latch.
Do I need a breastfeeding pillow?
Cushions or pillows can be useful to support your arms after your baby is in position, but be very wary of firm, commercial breastfeeding support pillows in your lap that can place baby too high at the breast and cause more problems than they solve. See Do I Need a Breastfeeding Pillow? for more information.
If breastfeeding hurts
Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt and pain indicates something is wrong. If you are finding breastfeeding painful or experiencing any problems, the best way to get your baby’s latch checked is by an IBCLC lactation consultant as they will be able to check that your baby is transferring breastmilk well, take a full history and talk to you about breastfeeding management for you and your baby. For further ideas see Latching Tips, Breastfeeding Tips and Why Does Breastfeeding Hurt?
The way you position your baby to breastfeed affects how well they can latch, and latch affects how well a baby can drain the breasts to drive a milk supply. A poor latch will also usually be painful for the mother. There are lots of resources available to help with positioning and good videos can be particularly helpful. If you are experiencing problems however, there is no substitute for face-to-face help from a breastfeeding specialist.