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Breastfeeding positions

Updated: 2024-03-29

There are many positions you can try when breastfeeding your baby. Here are some options, including one for twins.

There is no right breastfeeding position. Breast size, how well the baby latches on to the nipple and how fast your milk lets down make some positions better than others.

As you try different positions, focus on how your baby responds and how you feel. If you are both comfortable, you've found the right position. But if the next time that position doesn't work, try something different.

Getting ready

As you get ready to breastfeed, consider having pillows handy. They can help take the strain off your back, shoulders or wrists. Some companies make pillows designed to help position babies during feeding. But regular pillows usually work fine to help position your body, your baby or your breast.

It can help to have washcloths or burp cloths near where you plan to breastfeed for quick clean up. Some people like to have a glass of water within reach or even a snack.

Silencing the phone, setting up other kids with activities and dimming lights can help you and your baby relax and take the time you need for breastfeeding.

Cradle hold

The cradle hold is good for babies of any age. The cradle hold may work best in a chair with armrests.

  • Hold your baby in the arm on the same side as the breast the baby will feed from.
  • Rest your baby's head comfortably in the bend of your elbow, facing your breast. It can help to place your arm on the chair's armrest and have a pillow on your lap to lift the baby so you don't need to bend forward.
  • With the arm that isn't holding the baby, use your hand to support your breast from the underside in a U-shaped hold or a C-shaped hold.
  • Guide the baby's mouth to your breast. The baby's head should be in line with the baby's body, not turned to the side.

As you try this hold, watch your baby's head. Because you aren't holding the head, it can move around. This might become more of a problem as the baby gets older and becomes easily distracted.

Cradle hold is one of the most common ways to breastfeed. If you have your baby in a sling, cradle hold can work well. So this hold may be a good option if you are away from home or in the middle of an activity.

Cross-cradle hold

The cross-cradle hold is a good position for breastfeeding newborns. It allows you to control the baby's head.

With this hold, it can help to sit up straight in a comfortable chair with armrests.

  • Bring your baby across the front of your body, tummy to tummy.
  • Hold your baby with the arm that's not on the same side as the breast you're feeding from. This means left arm for right breast, and right arm for left breast.
  • Support the back of the baby's head with your open hand. With the other hand, support your breast from the underside with a U-shaped hold.
  • Guide the baby's mouth to your breast.

Don't bend over or lean forward. Instead, cradle your baby close to your breast. Try this position if your baby is having trouble attaching to the breast, also called latching. It may give you the control you need to guide the baby into a good latch.

Laid-back position

The laid-back position works well for newborns. It may work best for people with smaller breast size. For the laid-back position you should be reclined but not lying flat. Support your back with something comfortable and lay the baby on your tummy.

  • Support your baby's body and head as the baby lies on your tummy just above your breasts.
  • Using their instincts, babies will move and wiggle to find the nipple.
  • Support your baby's head as the baby begins to search for your nipple.
  • Once your baby finds the nipple, don't force the baby to latch. Babies can use gravity to latch onto the nipple without help.

The laid-back position also is good for skin-to-skin contact. And the position can help people who produce more milk than their babies drink, or whose milk is released quickly, called a strong let-down.

Side-lying position

A side-lying position might be a good choice when you're resting, although it's important to return the baby to the baby's own bed to sleep.

In this position, it can be hard to see how well your baby is latched. So this position may be best once both you and your baby are used to breastfeeding.

  • Lie on your side with pillows to support your back and head.
  • Face your baby toward your breast, supporting the baby with one hand.
  • With the other hand, grasp your breast and touch your nipple to your baby's lips.
  • Once your baby latches on, use one arm to support your own head and the other to help support the baby and bring the baby close.

To breastfeed using the other breast, you can lift your baby up using a pillow. Or you can turn on your other side and position the baby on this side as you did for the first breast.

Football, also called clutch, hold

Another option is the football hold, also called the clutch hold. This position might be a good choice if you're recovering from a caesarean birth, also called a C-section, or if you are breastfeeding twins. It also can be good for people with large breasts, flat nipples or a strong let-down.

  • Hold your baby beside you, with your elbow bent.
  • With your open hand, support your baby's head with the palm of your hand holding the base of the neck. Your baby's back will rest on your forearm, level with your nipple. It may help to put a pillow under your baby and your arm.
  • With your other hand, support your breast with a C-shaped hold.
  • Guide the baby's mouth to your breast.

This hold is great for babies who have very little head control. It also keeps the weight of the baby off the healing scar for people who had a cesarean birth.

Just make sure the baby's chin isn't resting on the baby's chest. There should be room between the baby's chin and the baby's chest so it's easier for the baby to swallow.

Football, also called clutch, hold for nursing twins

If you have twins, you might choose to breastfeed them separately at first to see how each baby is doing. If you'd rather breastfeed them at the same time, hold one baby in each arm. Your babies' backs will rest on your forearms. For comfort, put pillows on your lap and use a chair with broad, low arms.

Breastfeeding challenges

Problems with getting a baby to breastfeed are common during the first month or two.

Before you give birth, you may be able to find a breastfeeding class. Also, talk to your healthcare team if you've had surgery on your breasts. For example, breast reduction surgery can limit the amount of milk your breasts can make. If you've had surgery on your breasts or have any concerns, you may be able to plan for extra support as you start breastfeeding.

After your baby arrives, if breastfeeding hurts or you're worried about your milk supply, talk to your healthcare team. An expert in breastfeeding, called a lactation consultant, may be able to help.

You also could ask your healthcare team for support group information. Or the team could help you find a person who has breastfed, called a peer counselor, who might help.