Breastfeeding positions & latching on

  • Breastfeeding is a unique experience for every mom and baby.
  • Practicing skin-to-skin contact during the first few months supports a calm and alert baby for feedings.
  • Making sure your baby properly latches on at your breast will be one of the most important factors for milk production and release.
  • There are four common breastfeeding positions: cradle, cross-cradle, football and side-lying.

Breastfeeding is a natural way to nourish and nurture your baby. Discovering your favorite breastfeeding positions as your baby grows and develops is part of this unique experience.

Getting started

  • For best positioning, have your newborn baby’s body in a midline position. This is when the baby’s ear lines up to her shoulder and hip. Shoulder and hip should be supported to face the same direction while your baby is latching on.
  • Skin-to-skin is the simple way of laying your naked or almost naked baby between your breasts, bare chest to bare chest. Your baby will not only have her entire body comforted by your warmth, but she will also hear your heartbeat and smell your scent—which all bring her security and comfort for deep sleep. She will be more calm and alert upon waking for a full feeding. Do this right after birth, then as often as possible during your baby’s first few months of life.
  • Offer the first feeding within the first 30-60 minutes after birth.
  • Success takes practice and proper positioning.

Experiment with different breastfeeding positions to discover what works best for both of you.

Cradle hold

  • Sit upright and place her on her side across your lap, facing you. Use pillows or a rolled blanket if you need to support your arm during the feeding, and a footstool if your feet are not able to be flat on the ground. You want to be comfortable while feeding and you do not want to be leaning over her.
  • Use your forearm to support the trunk of your baby’s body while your hand of the same arm supports your baby’s bottom. Your baby’s head will rest just at or near the bend of your arm.
  • Bring your baby in close to offer your breast.

Cross-cradle hold

This position allows for increased support of your newborn’s head:

  • Your baby is in the exact same position as the cradle hold, but now you are holding your baby with the opposite arm with her bottom supported by the bend of your arm, and her head is supported by your hand.
  • Now your hand supports your baby’s head and neck, and her bottom is tucked in close with support from the bend of your arm. Your forearm is still the basic support for your baby’s body.

Football hold

This position is most helpful if you’ve had a C-section delivery, have large breasts, or if you’re breastfeeding twins at the same time:

  • Tuck your baby on your side, under your arm with her facing your breast. (Picture the way a football player tucks a ball under his arm.)
  • Support her head and neck in your hand. Let her feet extend toward your back with her bottom (not her feet) against what you’re leaning on. This will help prevent your baby from pushing away with her legs.
  • Use a pillow to support your arm, and use your free hand to offer and support your breast.

Side-lying position

Many moms enjoy this position as an alternative to sitting up for feedings:

  • Lie on your side with your baby on her side, facing you.
  • Position her nose at or just below your nipple.
  • Once she’s latched on, you can use your lower arm to support your head.

Latching on

  • The key to successful breastfeeding starts with your baby being able to properly latch on to your breast. Try these steps to help encourage a deep and comfortable latch:  
  • Offer your breast by lining up your baby’s nose to the tip of your nipple. This will allow her to smell the milk droplets from your breast and open wide when ready. When your baby opens wide, her nose will move slightly up and away while her chin comes in closer to the areola, the darker part of the breast surrounding the nipple. Sandwich your breast by placing your thumb on top and fingers underneath your breast about half an inch or so away from the areola. When she opens wide, quickly lay your nipple on the mid to far back part of your baby’s tongue. This will trigger a nice deep latch.
  • If your baby needs a little extra stimulation to encourage her to open wide, cup your breast with thumb on top and forefinger underneath, and lightly touch your baby’s lips with your nipple. This may be enough to stimulate her rooting reflex and a wide-open mouth.
  • A good latch-on should not cause discomfort. You should hear a pattern of several sucks, a pause, and then a swallow when she’s actively feeding. As your baby continues to nurse, she will become more relaxed, then release your breast when satisfied.
  • Some additional signs to see if your baby is latched-on well: her nose should not be shoved into your breast but her chin should be slightly touching it; your baby’s lips should seal around as much of your areola as it can but does not have to have the whole areola in her mouth. After a feeding, your nipple shape should not look pinched or discolored.
  • Don’t panic if it takes several tries to get your baby to latch on. If the feeding is painful or feels like your nipple is being pinched, gently break the suction between your baby’s gums and your breast by placing your clean finger between the two before taking your baby off your breast and trying again. Sometimes these things take a little extra time and practice. 

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