Breastfeeding in the proper position will help your baby latch on and breastfeed correctly and make your experience more enjoyable. Also, when you are in a comfortable and relaxed position, let-down occurs more easily.
You are more likely to drain all areas of your breast by changing breastfeeding positions frequently. This helps to prevent blocked milk ducts. Women who have had a cesarean delivery may find that they are more comfortable in a different position than those who delivered vaginally.
In any position:
- Do not bend over your baby when breastfeeding. Bring the baby to you—not you to the baby. Bending over can lead to back and neck problems.
- Keep your baby's body and head aligned straight. The baby's head should be straight with the body, not turned to one side or tilted up or down while breastfeeding.
- Use one or more pillows to support your arms and the baby. This will help you and your baby be more comfortable during feeding.
There are several breastfeeding positions.
In the cradle (traditional) hold, you sit up with your back supported. One arm supports your baby, with his or her head in the bend of your elbow and your open hand supporting the baby's bottom. Your baby's abdomen lies against yours. Your other hand can support the breast and guide it into your baby's mouth.
You may wish to put a pillow in your lap on which to rest your arm at a comfortable level or use a stool to raise your feet.
The cradle hold is often considered the most common hold, but it does not offer as much control as other holds. The cradle hold position usually does work well after breastfeeding is well established.
The cross-cradle hold is similar to the cradle hold, but the hand positions are different. This position may give you more control in moving the baby. Your baby's abdomen lies against yours. One hand is low on the baby's head, behind the shoulders with fingers up and supporting the head. The other hand (on the same side as the breast being used) supports the breast and narrows it to help the baby form a good, deep latch on the areola. This type of hold helps you guide your baby to the breast for a proper latch.
In the football hold, you sit on a bed or sofa. Your baby is tucked under your arm and lying along the side you will be feeding on, with his or her chest facing your chest. The baby's head is in your hand (on the same side as the breast being used), and the upper body is supported by your arm or a pillow. With that hand you can control the baby's head to bring the baby's mouth in quickly for a deep latch. Your other hand reaches across to support and narrow your breast. Use pillows to help support the baby.
The football hold is similar to the cross-cradle hold. But because the baby is not resting on the abdomen, the football position is useful for women who delivered by cesarean delivery. It also works well for breastfeeding twins or for babies who have trouble taking enough of the areola (the dark circle around the nipple) into their mouths. Large-breasted women also often find this a comfortable breastfeeding position.
In the side-lying position, you and your baby lie on your sides with your chests facing each other. Place pillows behind the baby for support. Your baby's mouth should be close to your nipple. The hand on your top side supports your lower breast and guides it into your infant's mouth as you roll toward your rooting baby. After the baby has latched on, use this arm to cuddle and bring your baby closer to you.
You can also place your baby on a firm pillow by your side. Offer the upper breast for feeding. Having the baby on the pillow can help some very large- or small-breasted women see their baby more easily.
The side-lying position is a good option when you have delivered by cesarean delivery or when you are tired.
In the Australian hold, your baby is held vertically and straddles your thigh, facing you. Your knee supports your baby on his or her bottom, while one hand is low on the baby's head to give control as you bring your baby to the breast to latch. It may work best to have your baby sitting slightly "side-saddle." The other hand (on the same side as the breast being used) supports the breast to help the baby form a good, deep latch on the areola.
Current as of: February 28, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.