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Best Breastfeeding Positions New Moms Must Try

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Different Breastfeeding Positions

Breastfeeding can be tricky when trying to find the most comfortable hold. Different babies react differently to each hold, and if you're a new mom, the nervousness of trying something new itself can make breastfeeding difficult. Try the holds for specific health issues and focus on finding the position that best suits both you and your baby.

As a new mom, breastfeeding is a tricky job. Being responsible for a whole new human being in itself is scary. And the lack of experience might not help. While your doctors give you all the assistance you need, here are a few tips on the best positions to try for breastfeeding. Take your time, have patience, try new holds, and figure out what suits you and your little one best.

1. The Laid-Back Hold Or Biological Nurturing

The Laid-Back Hold Or Biological Nurturing Best Breastfeeding Position

This position is optimum for mothers to relax and for babies to develop their reflexes and find their way in the new atmosphere. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Recline into a halfway comfortable position on a bed or couch using a pillow. Make sure you support all of your back, neck, and shoulders as you might be in this position for a while.
  2. In the case of natural birth, place your baby with the face near your breast and feet near your thigh.
  3. In the case of a C-section, place it on your chest or across your shoulder to avoid touching the wound. Babies should be on their tummy in this position.
  4. Keeping your knees up and folded might help.
  5. You can try a few modifications such as placing it vertically or diagonally below the breast; you’ll gradually find a position that suits both of you.
  6. You can use a pillow to position yourself in the best way possible.

When Does This Hold Work?

Oxytocin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that triggers the production of milk in the mother. When your baby latches on, in full body contact, and begins to suckle, the resulting nerve impulses cause the release of oxytocin, which results in better milk production. The laid-back hold is the best for this as it gives the maximum body-to-body contact.

It is also considered one of the best ways to introduce a newborn to breastfeeding. True to its name, it makes you feel relaxed and laid back. When babies have no control over their neck in the first few weeks, gravity does the work here and holds them in position; you just need to give a gentle touch of support. It also helps with babies who can’t cope with fast milk flow, if they have an extended tongue, or have trouble latching on.

This hold brings out the instincts and reflexes naturally in the baby. Babies are said to have an innate ability to find their way to the nipple and start feeding. This position is perfect for babies to find their way and feed deeply. They may take some time to figure out what to do, so have some patience or guide them a little. Most of your body is free to move, so you can readjust your position at any time.1

A Word Of Caution

C-section mothers might find it difficult to hold babies on the tummy. You can instead place them on/across your shoulders.  This position also may not work for mothers with large breasts.2

2. The Cradle Hold

The Cradle Hold Best Breastfeeding Position

This is one of the basic positions taught to new mothers.

  1. Sit comfortably, either on a chair with good armrests or on a bed with enough pillows. Support your back and your arms.
  2. If you’re feeding on the right side, hold the baby with the right arm.
  3. Support the head with the crook of the same arm.
  4. Use your left hand to support the breast.
  5. Use pillows to support the baby’s weight and to lie down on your back if it is difficult to sit upright for a long time.
  6. Make sure your baby is comfortable and can focus solely on drinking the milk.3 4

When Does This Hold Work?

This hold works well for full-term babies. You can use this position when the little ones are at least a month old as they require stronger neck muscles here. This is more suitable for mothers who’ve gone through vaginal birth.

A Word Of Caution

This position is not convenient if babies have trouble latching on to your breast. Their head might wobble and you’ve minimal control over this. The position exerts more pressure on the abdomen, which might hurt in case of C-sections.5

3. The Cross-Cradle Hold

The Cross Cradle Hold Best Breastfeeding Position

This hold is similar to the cradle hold and differs only in the arm you use, preferably using your dominant arm to support the baby.6

  1. Sit comfortably, either on a chair with good armrests or on a bed with enough pillows. Support your back and your arms.
  2. Lay the baby on its side and use a pillow to bring it to the right height.
  3. If feeding on the right breast, use the palm of your left hand to support the baby’s head.
  4. Support its back with the other hand.

When Does This Hold Work?

This position works well for babies who have trouble latching on to the breasts and with the first few feeds. As the mother, you can clearly see how your baby is positioned and guide it into the right position. It also boosts your self-confidence as a first-time mother.7

A Word Of Caution

This position might not be suitable for babies with any head injuries from birth or asymmetrical facial growth. And since it is hard to keep the position as the babies get bigger, it is also considered the transitional hold.

4. The Clutch Or Football Hold

The Clutch Or Football Hold Best Breastfeeding Position

This is an easy hold if your baby is active and moves around while feeding.

  1. Sit with your back comfortably resting.
  2. Place your baby to the side of the nursing breast.
  3. If you’re feeding on the right side, use your right arm to support the baby. Tuck it under your arm, like a football.
  4. The young one should be facing you with the mouth on the same level as your nipple.
  5. Hold its head with the palm of the right hand and guide it to get a good latch on your breast.
  6. Hold your breast with the other hand and guide it toward the baby’s mouth.
  7. Use a pillow beneath the baby and to support your arm.

When Does This Hold Work?

This position works best for mothers who have had a C-section as it prevents the babies from rubbing onto the incision. It suits mothers with large breasts. It works great for first-time moms and those with premature, small babies as it gives a good, strong grip.8 The hold gives you a clear view of how comfortable the babies are and makes it easier to guide them. If you have a milk ejection reflex, the baby is in a better position to take the flow.

It also works best for late-preterm infants (born between 34 0⁄7 weeks and 36 6⁄7 weeks). Use this hold and avoid moving their head too much to avoid breathing issues as these infants are more prone to apnea.9

A Word Of Caution

This hold takes a little training and time to get used to. You’ve to ensure that the baby’s lower half is not folded up behind your back or hanging free and make it comfortable.

5. The Side-Lying Hold

The Side-Lying Hold Best Breastfeeding Position

This is the most preferred in-bed feeding position for mothers who need rest. Let’s say you want to feed with your right breast.

  1. Lie on your right side with your baby facing you. Use some support for your back.
  2. Place the baby on your side, chest-to-chest and abdomen-to-abdomen.
  3. Support its body with your right arm and the head with your right hand. Alternatively, you can support its head on the crook of your arm.
  4. You can also use pillows to prevent the baby from rolling back.
  5. The baby should not be on its back or twist to reach the nipple.
  6. Also, support your own head with a pillow or your arm to avoid neck pain.
  7. No matter how you’re positioned, make sure the baby can access your nipple without straining.
  8. Use your left hand to support the breast.

When Does This Hold Work?

This position is popularly used in the first few weeks and if you need rest to recover from a C-section. Vaginal mothers have also reported less fatigue feeding in this position.10 It is the preferred night-time feeding position as it helps both the mother and the baby rest naturally.

A Word Of Caution

This hold gives a limited view of the baby, making it hard to position the little one correctly. Also, mothers are a little wary of this position, fearing that they might roll over the baby in their sleep. However, moms instinctively are careful around babies, be it when awake or asleep.

6. The Upright Or Koala Hold

The Upright Or Koala Hold Best Breastfeeding Position

This position is usually used when none of the other holds work.

  1. Sit upright and cross-legged with a good backrest.
  2. Place the baby in an upright position as well and facing you.
  3. You can take support using a thigh or knee.
  4. Support its head with one hand and hold your breast with the other.
  5. Make readjustments depending on the baby’s length, your breast size, and your height.

When Does This Hold Work?

This hold works well for babies when they are slightly older. It is considered to be useful if your milk flow is fast and if the baby has breathing issues. It is also useful with babies who have had head injuries during birth.

A Word Of Caution

The baby might have to strain to reach your nipples. Ensure that its head is at the same height as your breast and also that the rest of its body is comfortable in the seated posture.

7. For Twins

for-twins-best-breastfeeding-position

  • Combination Cradle And Clutch Hold: One baby is held in the cradle position and the other in a clutch hold, with the second baby’s head on the abdomen on the first. Use pillows to support both babies.
  • Football Hold: Place a cushion on your lap and let the babies rest in the football hold. Support them gently on either side with your hands and feed.

Targeting The Health Issues

Summarizing the benefits of the holds, here are a few positions that might help with certain health conditions of the baby:

  • For breathing issues: Use variations of upright holds to ease the baby’s breathing.
  • For reflux: Variations of laid-back or koala holds might work for this as the baby is upright. Moving around while feeding might also soothe the baby and encourage more feeding. The golden rule, however, is to keep the baby upright for about 15 mins after every round of feeding.
  • For gas: The holds mentioned above will also work for gas as they help the baby control the flow of milk.
  • For milk ejection reflex: Babies might not be able to take a high-force milk flow and might choke on it. Try the laid-back or football hold as the baby can control the flow better.

When To Switch Sides

Once the babies latch on, they sometimes refuse to let go unless they’re satisfied or they fall asleep. You can break the latch by inserting your finger gently and slowly into the corner of their mouth and between the jaws. This will make them open their mouths and you can detach.

When do you know if the milk flow has stopped? You can usually figure this out in the way the babies suckle. The suck and swallow pattern will slowly change when the milk flow reduces or stops. This is when you make the switch to the other side. Remember that each baby requires a different amount of milk. While some get enough from the same side, some other babies require milk from both sides each session.

Sometimes, babies might prefer feeding on just one side. The reasons for this may differ: you might have more milk flow on the favored side or they might be more comfortable in a particular position for that side. In such cases, you’ll have to gently and slowly guide the babies to the other side. You can do this when you’re moving around while feeding or when they have just fallen asleep or woken up.

General Guidelines To Follow

Your comfort level might vary and the baby is a growing individual, developing its own likes and dislikes. Try different poses until you both get it right. Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying breastfeeding positions:

  1. Figure out what’s comfortable for you. Ensure you don’t induce pain in any body part because of a prolonged stay in one position. Provide support for your body in any way required.
  2. Support your breasts as they get heavier by the day. Place your fingers at the right distance so that the baby doesn’t suckle on your fingers instead of the nipple.
  3. Figure out what’s comfortable for your baby. Ensure that its body is comfortable and the baby doesn’t have to twist in any way to reach out to the nipple.
  4. Alternate between different holds. Each hold exerts pressure on a different part of your nipple. So change positions once in a while to avoid clogged milk ducts.
  5. Stay hydrated and keep yourself healthy to ensure that your baby gets a healthy supply of milk.
  6. Know when to stop. Learn to recognize when the baby has had enough or when you need to change sides.

Here are a few things that can assist along the way:

  • A nursing pillow is required in almost all holds. Keep this at hand to provide full support to the baby’s weight and yours.
  • A nipple shield helps if the baby is having trouble latching on to the nipple. Learn how to use it right as it may reduce the milk flow into the baby’s mouth.
  • A nipple cream is a must as constant feeding can turn your nipples sore and cracked. Make sure you find a cream with no additives or wash it off before feeding.
  • A support group is good to have as this is a scary stage. It’s always good to have experienced family members or experts to turn to for any queries or assistance.

There is no position that’s completely right or wrong for you or the baby. It’s all about getting close to each other, getting comfortable, and finding the hold that helps the baby get optimum milk supply.

References   [ + ]

1. Colson, Suzanne. An introduction to biological nurturing: New angles on breastfeeding. Hale Pub, 2010.
2, 5, 7, 10. Wambach, Karen, and Jan Riordan. Breastfeeding and human lactation. Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2014.
3. Mohrbacher, Nancy, and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett. Breastfeeding made simple: Seven natural laws for nursing mothers. New Harbinger Publications, 2010.
4. Breastfeeding positions: which are best for you?. National Childbirth Trust, UK.
6, 8. Poole, Judith H. “Counseling the Nursing Mother: A Lactation Consultant’s Guide.” (2000): 119-120.
9. Perry, Shannon E., Marilyn J. Hockenberry, Deitra Leonard Lowdermilk, and David Wilson. Maternal child nursing care. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2013.