Common breastfeeding positions
5 ways to make feeding comfortable for you and your baby.
While babies are born with the reflex to look for their mother’s breast, many mothers need support with positioning their baby for breastfeeding and making sure their baby is correctly attached. Breastfeeding takes time and practice for both mothers and babies!
To help you both make the most of breastfeeding, here are some (of many!) positions to try. Remember, the most important thing is for your baby to be able to feed well. It may take a few tries before you find what works best for both of you.
If you ever have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding, be sure to speak to your midwife, lactation specialist or other health care provider.
Signs of a good latch
- A comfortable experience with no pain.
- More areola is visible above your baby’s mouth than below.
- Your baby’s mouth is wide open.
- Their lower lip is turned out.
- Their chin is touching – or nearly touching – your breast.
Signs of good positioning
- Your baby’s head and body are in line. A baby cannot suckle or swallow easily if their head is twisted or bent.
- Your baby is held close to your body. A baby cannot attach well to the breast if they are far away from it.
- Your baby’s whole body is supported with your arm along their back. This is particularly important for newborns and young babies. For older babies, support of the upper part of the body is usually enough.
- Your baby approaches breast nose to nipple, so that they come to your breast from underneath the nipple.
Signs of effective suckling
- Your baby takes slow deep suckles, sometimes pausing.
- You may be able to see or hear your baby swallowing after one or two suckles.
- Suckling is comfortable and pain free for you.
- Your baby finishes the feed, releases the breast and looks contented and relaxed.
- Your breast is softer after the feed.
Benefits of skin-to-skin contact
- It calms and relaxes both you and your baby.
- Skin-to-skin regulates your baby’s temperature, heart rate and breathing.
- It stimulates digestion and an interest in feeding.
- It helps provide protection against infection.
1. Cradle hold
The cradle hold is the most common position and helps provide an enjoyable feeding and bonding experience for both of you.
- Sit somewhere with support to keep your arm at the right height, like an armed chair or couch. If needed, you can use pillows to support your arm.
- Position your little one in your lap with their head in the crook of your arm.
- Keep your baby’s chest against yours so they do not have to turn their head toward your breast. If necessary, use pillows to support your baby’s head.
2. Cross-cradle hold
This position is useful when first learning to breastfeed and is a great option for small babies. It allows you to have good control of your baby’s head while helping your little one to latch on.
Think of this as the reverse of the cradle hold. To perform the cross-cradle hold, position your baby in the opposite direction of the cradle hold with their head in your hand, rather than the crook of your arm.
3. Football hold or Rugby hold
If you are dealing with engorged breasts or sore nipples, this is a great position to try. The football or rugby hold helps to prevent plugged ducts by positioning your baby to empty the bottom ducts – it's a win for both of you!
- While turned on your side, hold your baby like a football or rugby ball along your forearm, with your baby’s body on your arm and face toward your breast.
- Position your baby’s legs under your arm.
- Use your other hand to support your breast.
The football or rugby hold is also helpful if you have undergone a Cesarean section and can’t place your baby on your stomach while nursing.
4. Side lying position
If you and your baby are more comfortable lying down, this is a great position to try.
- Lay on your side and place your baby on their side, facing you, with their head at your breast.
- Support your back with pillows and make sure that your baby’s nose isn’t obstructed.
5. Reclining position
If your little one has difficulty latching or is restless and crying, this is a calming position to try. In fact, this position is sometimes called “biological nurturing.”
- Support yourself with pillows and lean far enough back for your baby to be fully supported on your reclined body – not completely flat.
- Lay your baby prone on your chest. To engage in skin-to-skin contact, lay your naked baby on your bare chest and enjoy bonding with your little one.
Cherish this special time nourishing and bonding with your baby. And remember, getting the hang of breastfeeding takes time! Be patient with yourself and always reach out to your health care provider for support if you need to.