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Mother is breastfeeding her baby in the laid back position

The best positions for breastfeeding in challenging situations

Mother is breastfeeding her baby in the laid back position2

June 2, 2020

By Andrea Tran RN, BSN, MA, IBCLC

There are five common breastfeeding positions. The majority of new moms can pick the one she finds is most comfortable and easiest to latch her baby. For most moms, this will involve some trial and error. There are certain situations where a specific position is going to work best most of the time.

What are the most common breastfeeding positions?

  • Cradle hold is the position that is most commonly used throughout breastfeeding. You hold your baby in the crook of your arm with your arm along her back and your hand supports her bum or legs. You will pull her in with your arm to latch her. This position works better as your baby gets older and has a little more control over her body.
  • Cross-cradle is when you use the hand that is opposite of the breast you are offering to hold your baby at the neck and shoulders with your arm along her back.
  • Football (aka clutch hold) is where you hold your baby at the neck and shoulders with the hand that is on the same side as breast you are offering. You hold your baby along the side of your body.
  • Side-lying is when you are lying on your side and your baby is lying on his side, facing you.
  • Laid-back is when you lean back. You can hold your baby either in cradle or cross-cradle, depending on which feels more comfortable for you.

The best breastfeeding position when you’ve had a cesarean section

The football hold is an ideal position after a c-section because it keeps your baby off your tender tummy. Babies may kick their feet when feeding. Their tiny feet can hurt a lot if they make contact with your incision. The football hold keeps their feet far away from your incision.

The laid-back position can also keep your baby away from your incision.

The best breastfeeding position if your bottom is very sore

If you had an episiotomy or any tears you may be dealing with a very sore bottom. The side-lying position wins hands down in this situation.

The best breastfeeding position when you are breastfeeding twins

The football hold is also a favorite for breastfeeding twins. This position prevents the babies from getting in each other’s way. Using a breastfeeding pillow designed for twins will give you a place to put the babies while they take turns getting latched on.

The best breastfeeding position for large breasted women

The football hold is a winner again for women with larger breasts. Take a look at what direction your nipples point. If your nipples point toward the side chances are good that using the football hold will keep the baby and your nipples lined up for the best latch. If your nipples point towards the middle of your body the cross-cradle will probably work better.

Side-lying is another position that works well for large-breasted moms.

The best breastfeeding position for small breasted women

The mom with smaller breasts will often find that the laid-back nursing position helps the baby get in close to her breast. When latching you want your baby’s chin to be pressed into your breast. The laid-back position uses gravity to help that happen.

The best breastfeeding positions for breastfeeding a premature baby

Both the football hold and cross-cradle hold are good choices for premature babies. These positions allow you to provide maximum support to your baby and aid in keeping them in their natural position of being flexed.

The best breastfeeding position for a baby who is sleepy

It is so frustrating when your new baby just falls asleep when you try to breastfeed. I have found that putting a sleepy newborn in the side-lying position while having skin-to-skin will result in the baby waking up and latching on. It works almost like magic.

What else can I do to be comfortable while breastfeeding?

Use either a nursing pillow or bed pillows to support your baby and yourself. Pillows under your arms, behind your back and between or under your knees can all help you feel more relaxed and comfortable.

When sitting up in a chair, a nursing stool can encourage you to lean back just enough to increase your comfort level dramatically.

Whichever position you use, keep your baby pulled in close to you, with his tummy turned into your body.

If you are able to breastfeed comfortably in a couple of different positions that will help minimize nipple soreness and encourage emptying of all areas of your breasts.


The Use of Breastfeeding Pillow to Reduce Discomfort For Breastfeeding Mothers

Supporting Sucking Skills in Breastfeeding Infants - Therapeutic Positioning for Breastfeeding

Andrea Tran RN, BSN, MA, IBCLC is a freelance writer who has been helping moms and babies breastfeed for over twenty-five years. She is married and the mother of three adult children.

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