Breastfeeding can be one of the most challenging but rewarding experiences you'll have as a mother if you are able or choose to do it.
Making milk might come naturally, but the delivery of it from breast to baby belly takes a little know-how and a lot of practice. There’s no right or wrong way to hold and feed your baby, and each mum and baby will find their preferred position to feed in. What’s important is that you both feel comfortable.
For just about every new mum and baby, the first attempts at breastfeeding are haphazard and hapless, at best. But proper positioning is essential in helping your newborn latch on the right way, as well as preventing nipple soreness and other breastfeeding problems. Knowing a few different breastfeeding positions and techniques can be helpful because life often requires us to be versatile, especially as your baby gets bigger and you start to go out and about more.
With some trial-and-error, you'll find the breastfeeding position that works best for you.
How to Hold Baby When Breastfeeding
Start by placing your baby on one side, toward your breasts. Ensure your baby’s whole body is facing your chest, with his or her ear, shoulder and hip in a straight line. You don’t want your newborn's head turned to the side — it should be straight in line with the body. Use a nursing pillow to bring the baby to a height that makes manoeuvring them to the breast easier.
Different Breastfeeding Positions
Once you and baby are ready, try one of these five best breastfeeding positions, recommended by our CuddleCo experts:
This position is a good choice for nursing mums when breastfeeding in the middle of the night. To breastfeed your baby in a side-lying position, do the following:
- Both you and your baby should lie on your sides, tummy to tummy.
- Use your hand on the side you’re not lying on to cup your breast if you need to.
- When using this position, there should be no excess bedding around the infant that could pose a suffocation hazard. You shouldn’t use this position on a recliner, couch or water bed for that same reason.
Also known as the football hold, the clutch hold position is especially useful if you have large breasts, a small or premature baby or twins, or if you have had a C-section and want to avoid placing your baby against your abdomen. To breastfeed your baby in a clutch hold position, do the following:
- Position your baby at your side, facing you, with baby's legs are tucked under your arm (yes, like a football) on the same side as the breast you're nursing from
- Support your baby’s head with the same hand, and use your other hand to cup your breast as you would for the cradle hold
To breastfeed your baby in the crossover hold position, do the following:
- Hold your baby's head with the hand opposite to the breast you’ll be nursing from (i.e. if nursing from the right breast, hold the head with your left hand).
- Rest your wrist between your baby’s shoulder blades, your thumb behind one ear, your other fingers behind the other ear.
- Using your free hand, cup your breast as you would for the cradle hold.
A laid-back nursing position can be beneficial for mums with smaller breasts and newborns and babies with super-sensitive tummies or excess gas. To breastfeed your baby in a laid-back position, do the following:
- Lean back on a bed or couch, well supported by pillows in a semi-reclining position, so that when you put your baby tummy-to-tummy onto your body, head near your breast, gravity will keep him moulded to you.
- Your baby can rest on you in any direction, as long as the whole front of the body is against yours and he can reach your breast.
- Your infant can naturally latch on in this position, or you can help by directing the nipple toward your little one's mouth.
- Once your baby is set up at your breast, you don’t have to do much besides to lie back and relax.
To breastfeed your baby in a cradle hold position, do the following:
- Position your baby so their head rests in the bend of your elbow of the arm on the side you'll be breastfeeding, with the hand on that side supporting the rest of the body.
- Cup your breast with your other hand, placing your thumb above your nipple and areola at the spot where your baby’s nose will touch your breast.
- Your index finger should be at the spot where your baby’s chin will make contact with the breast. Lightly compress your breast so that the nipple points slightly toward your baby's nose. Your baby’s now ready to latch.
Nursing, Support and Breastfeeding Pillows
Many breastfeeding mums advocate having a baby nursing pillow on hand for feedings.
A nursing pillow, otherwise known as a breastfeeding pillow, is a specially designed pillow to aid in your comfort while you nurse your baby. Not only can a nursing pillow ease the strain on your back, neck and arms during epic meal times, but it also makes your baby super comfy, supporting them, snuggling them, securing them and giving them the extra height they might need to latch on properly.
Unlike a regular bed pillow, they come in a few different shapes designed to help you hold the baby. Some nursing pillows are U shaped to snuggle against your stomach such as our infant support pillow by Mother&Baby which can also be used to help your baby sit up. You can also buy a wedge support pillow set with a U shape support for you to feed your little one more comfortably.
Other support and feeding pillows are designed to wrap all the way around your waist, allowing feeding mums to relax, while also helping in the baby’s breast latch. These U shaped designed are also used as pregnancy pillows to help you achieve a more comfortable sleeping position while pregnant.
Breastfeeding Positions to Avoid
If your baby is positioned improperly, your breasts might not be stimulated to produce more milk, or your baby might not be getting enough breast milk in the first place. That can lead to even more problems down the road. Here are a few breastfeeding positions to avoid:
- You hunch over your baby. Many latching-on troubles occur because Mum is hunched over baby, trying to shove breast into their mouth. Instead, keep your back straight and bring your baby up to your breast.
- Baby's body and head face different directions. The last thing you want is for baby’s head to be facing your breast while his body faces the other direction.
- Baby's body is too far away from the breast. If it is, they will pull on your nipple while feeding. This will be painful for you and potentially unsatisfying for your little one.
Discover CuddleCo’s full range of expert nursing, support and feeding pillows, designed to help you find the best position for breastfeeding. Browse our nursing pillows category page to buy and for free shipping on all orders over £50.