Deciding on the Best Positions for Breastfeeding
There are many different breastfeeding positions that you can try with your baby. Even if you find breastfeeding just works easily from the outset, you may want to try different breastfeeding positions for different situations, or simply as he gets bigger and more able to support himself. Having a good position will also help you reap the benefits of breastfeeding for baby.
Whichever position you choose, remember that your own comfort matters and is important for breastfeeding success. If you are sitting up to feed you will almost certainly want a cushion or two behind your back, and to raise your feet a little on a footstool or a box. This helps you to not lean forward over your baby, and gives him a secure flat lap to lie on. It will help prevent back ache too. Remember to have a healthy drink within reach when you feed.
The best support that I can recommend to all breastfeeding mothers is the nursing pillow by My Brest Friend. This life saver tool is specifically designed to give mothers and babies the ideal support and positioning for successful breastfeeding. My existing back and shoulder strains quickly went away after I gave My Brest Friend a try, because this amazing pillow is adjustable and helps to secure the position and make breastfeeding so comfortable.
Best Nursing Positions
Here are some of the most popular, tried and tested breastfeeding positions.
(i) The Cradle Hold
When you picture a nursing baby, you will most likely think of him in the cradle hold
To use the cradle hold, sit comfortably with your back supported and your feet up a little. It may help to have a pillow on your lap to support your arm at the right level. Hold your baby on his side across your front with his tummy towards you. His head should be resting on your forearm near your elbow, and your hand will be supporting his bottom or legs, depending on his size. Support your breast underneath with your fingers and our thumb on top, well back from the areola.
Line his nose up with your nipple so that he has to open wide to catch it in his mouth. As he opens really wide, put the edge of your areola inside his lower jaw, and let your nipple go into the top of his mouth. He should have a big mouthful of breast to suck on so that he can stimulate your milk flow. Check that he is not having to turn his head to suckle. His body should be straight with his hip, shoulder and ear all laying along your arm.
(ii) The Crossover Hold or Cross-Cradle Position
The crossover hold is very similar to the cradle hold, but allows you to support your baby with both arms. You may feel safer and more in control with the crossover hold, especially with a newborn.
As with the cradle hold you will need to be sitting comfortably with your back and feet supported. You will need one or more pillows on your lap to support both the baby and your own arms. You might want to consider one of the special nursing pillows on the market, which curve round your front and sides.
Lay your baby on the pillow facing you. He should be on his side with his nose level to the nipple you are going to feed from. Reach round him with your other arm so that your fingers are supporting the back of his neck, with your thumb and first finger just behind his ears, and the palm or heel of your hand between his shoulder blades.
His nose and mouth should be very close to your nipple, and as he opens wide, gently push is shoulders forward with your palm. This enables him to tip his head to the right angle for a good latch, whilst still being supported. Your other hand can support your breast so that your nipple is easy to position, but once he is latched on it can cuddle round or under your supporting arm to give more security and help you to relax.
(iii) The Football (clutch) Hold
The football hold, also known as the clutch hold is a very popular breastfeeding position for mothers who have had a caesarean birth, as it does not put pressure on your tummy. It is also particularly good for getting a first latch if you are struggling with the cradle or cross cradle hold, or for mothers with larger breasts. This is the perfect nursing position for twins as they can feed at the same time. You will certainly need help positioning twins in the first instance.
Imagine an American footballer running with the ball under his arm. This is how you will be holding your baby, only with a little more care and affection! Support your baby’s head with your hand on the side you will be feeding from, and tuck his body under your arm, with his back on your forearm and his feet behind you. If you have a particularly long baby, or an older baby, you may need several cushions behind your back to give space for his feet.
You can now guide his head to your nipple. If he stiffens to move his head away, reposition a little so that your nipple touches his mouth even when his head is tilted slightly back. He will not latch on if his neck is bent forward. Although it can be harder to watch him suckling once he is feeding, the extra control you have at the beginning can help you to position him well on your breast. You also now have a free hand for a healthy drink or a book.
(iv) Side-lying position
The side-lying position, also known as the reclining position is popular for night feeds, and for the first few days or weeks when it may be difficult or painful to be out of bed for long. You will need plenty of pillows behind your back so that you can relax without worrying about rolling over. A pillow between your knees will also help, as your joints may still be loose for a while after the birth, and again this will help you to relax securely into position.
Lie on your side facing each other, with your baby’s nose or top lip at nipple height. You can support and position him with the top arm, and tuck your other arm under your head or straight out above your baby’s head. Once he is latched on you can relax. You might need a pillow or folded blanket under his head to get it high enough, especially when he is small. Be sure to take the pillow away and lay him on his back if he falls asleep while suckling.
(v) Laid-back Breastfeeding
Also known as biological nurturing, laid-back breastfeeding is about letting your baby take the lead and do what he needs to do in the way that is natural to him. Your role is to help him when he needs it. Lie back comfortably in bed against a pile of pillows, or along a sofa with cushions to support you. You don’t want to be flat, but rather in the position you might choose in a sun lounger, or when reading in bed. Lay your baby on you, tummy to tummy, close to your breast. You can support your breast to help angle your nipple, or this may not be necessary. Just do what feels natural to you both, with the whole of his front in contact with your body.
This breastfeeding position feels very close and natural, and can be used with all ages of baby, or moved onto once feeding is established.
The Nursing Baby
Whatever nursing positions you choose, there are some things that your baby will need when he suckles. If you feel excessive pain during breastfeeding, do not hesitate to visit a lactation specialist to solve the problem early.
A good deep latch is essential for keeping your nipples healthy and reducing the amount of air that goes down with the milk. Most or all of the areola below your nipple should be inside the nursing baby’s mouth. You will feel the strong pull of his suck from here when he is drinking deeply.
Your baby’s head should be slightly tilted back. This helps with the latch on and helps the milk go straight down without choking. It also helps to keep his nose clear of your breast so that he can breathe while he feeds.
You will need to support his head all the time in the early weeks. In the later weeks and months he may be self-sufficient at the start of a feed, but will need support as he drops off to sleep in the comfort of your arms.
For older babies who are confident feeders and can support themselves, almost any breastfeeding positions are possible. They know what they are doing and will happily feed sitting on your lap while you work or relax, or sitting up on your arm as you potter around the house. They can even feed while you stand on your head, if that is what you enjoy doing. Once feeding is established there couldn’t be an easier way to nourish and nurture your little one.