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Breast-Feeding Positions

How should I hold my baby during feedings?

There are several positions you can use when you feed your baby. As a general rule, anything that works is OK as long as your baby has both your nipple and much of your areola in her mouth and she can breathe. (The areola is the dark area around your nipple.) Find a relaxed and comfortable position. You might want to change to a different nursing position sometimes during a feeding to make sure all of your milk ducts are drained of milk. A footstool is also very helpful to raise your feet.

  • Cradle hold

    The most common position is the cradle hold. Sit in a chair with your baby in your lap and the baby's head resting in the bend of your elbow on the same side where your baby will breast-feed. The baby's chest should be against your chest so that she doesn't have to turn her head to reach your nipple. Be sure the arm of the chair is at the right height to support your arm. Use pillows to support your back and arm and your baby's head.

    Cross-cradle hold

    The cross-cradle hold is similar to the cradle hold except your baby is supported on the arm and hand opposite the breast you are using. The baby's head rests between your thumb and fingers and her upper back is in the palm of your hand. This is a good position when you are first learning to breast-feed because it gives you more control of your baby's head while you are helping her take the breast in her mouth. It also is a good position for small babies and babies having trouble learning to latch on correctly.

  • Clutch hold (football hold)

    Hold your baby like a football along your forearm, with the baby's body on your arm, her feet pointing toward your back, and her face toward your breast. Use your other hand to support your breast. The football hold helps if you have engorged breasts or sore nipples. It is also a good position if you have had a C-section and cannot lay the baby on your stomach. If you often have plugged milk ducts, the football hold can help your baby drain the ducts at the bottom of the breast. It’s also a good position for nursing twins.

  • Lying down

    Breast-feeding when you are lying down is good for night feeding. Lie on your side and place the baby on her side facing you, with her head near your breast and her mouth lined up with your nipple. You may want to place a couple of pillows at your back for some extra support. Be sure that your baby can breathe through her nose.

    This position is restful for you. By changing your position slightly you can feed the baby from both breasts while lying on one side. It is also a good position if you have had a C-section and cannot lay the baby on your stomach.

  • Laid-back nursing

    For this position, lie back and place your baby’s tummy on your tummy. Gravity keeps your baby’s body securely against yours. This position may help your baby to latch on properly and suck deeply with less effort.

After feeding and burping, return the your baby to her crib. Be sure to place your baby on her back for sleep. Avoid soft sleep surfaces, loose bedding, and places where your baby can fall, get too close to a heating appliance, or get trapped between your bed and a wall, headboard, or other furniture.

How do I get my baby to latch on to my breast?

In the first few days, place your baby skin to skin on your chest. The baby will bounce her head and step with her legs to move herself toward the breast. Once she is at the nipple, she will latch onto the breast and start nursing. It’s very important to get your baby to latch on correctly to your breast. If your baby is not latched on correctly, you will get sore nipples and your baby won't get as much milk.

To get a good latch:

  1. Put your baby in one of the first 4 positions described above. With your other hand, support your breast with your fingers under your breast and your thumb on top (C-hold), or rotate your hand into a U-hold with your fingers and thumb on either side of the breast. Flatten your breast between your thumb and fingers (like holding a sandwich) to make it easier for your baby to take your nipple into her mouth.
  2. Turn your baby's body so she is facing your breast. Lightly touch your baby's upper lip with your nipple. Her natural "rooting reflex" will make her open her mouth. You may need to touch her lip several times until she opens wide like a yawn.
  3. When your baby opens her mouth wide, move her body and head together to bring your baby onto your breast. Bring your baby's chin and lower jaw to the breast first, with more areola showing at the top than at the bottom. Make sure your baby has a good hold on your nipple as well as the underside of your areola. You want your baby's tongue to draw in as much breast as possible. Never let your baby suck just your nipple. This will feel uncomfortable for you, and your baby will not get enough milk. Keep supporting your breast while your baby nurses, so that your nipple and areola don't get pulled out of your baby's mouth

    Make sure your baby's nose is not pressed into your breast so that she cannot breathe. If your breast is blocking the baby's nose, pull your baby's lower body closer to you. This should move her nose away while keeping her chin pressed against your breast.

  4. If your baby does not latch on well, remove your baby from your breast by sliding your finger into your baby's mouth and pressing down on your breast. This will break the suction. Then try again.

Special Situations

Nursing after a C-Section

  • The lying-down position may be more comfortable for breast-feeding after you have had a C-section. The hospital nurses will help you change from side to side.
  • You can also use the football hold, since it keeps the baby from pressing on your belly.
  • If you nurse using the cradle or cross-cradle positions, put a pillow on your lap to protect your belly.

Nursing premature infants

  • The football and cross-cradle holds work best for premature babies.
  • If your baby's nursing reflex is weak, you can increase milk flow by briefly squeezing your breast between your thumb and fingers. You don’t need to squeeze constantly. Just squeeze and release, and then squeeze and release again. Your baby may start sucking again when the squeezing gives her extra milk.

Nursing twins

  • Use the football hold with pillows under each arm to support the babies. Using pillows helps free up your hands.
  • You can use the cradle or cross-cradle hold and have the babies legs overlap.
  • You can combine holds. For example, use the cradle hold for one baby and the football hold for the other.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-02-07
Last reviewed: 2013-12-18
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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