You will probably breastfeed for months, maybe even years, so finding nursing positions that work for you and your baby is an important task. The right position will not only make breastfeeding easier, it will help to avoid sore nipples. There are four basic positions. Some women find one that works and stick with it, while others prefer variety. You may find that one position works well for awhile, but that you need something different as your baby gets bigger.
Before you Begin
In order to have a successful and relaxed breastfeeding session, it is important for you to be comfortable. Whenever possible, sit in a comfortable, yet supportive chair. Use pillows to support your back and neck and to help keep your baby at breast-level. A footstool is also a good idea.
The Cradle or Cuddle Hold
In this popular breastfeeding position, you use the crook of your arm to support baby’s head. Your baby lies on her side, on your lap (or on pillows on your lap). It is important to make sure baby’s whole body is facing you. The crook of your arm supports baby’s head as she nurses. This means that when baby is breastfeeding on the left breast, your left arm is supporting her. It may help to support your arm with the arm of a chair or extra pillows. In this position, your other hand is free to position your breast, support the lower half of baby’s body, or reach for a cup of tea. As baby grows bigger, you will need both arms to support her.
The Cross-Cradle or Traverse
This nursing position is similar to the cradle hold except that you support baby’s body and head with the opposite arm from the breast she is nursing from. In this case, you will use your hand rather than the crook of your elbow to support baby’s head. This position is good for premature babies and newborns as it allows mom to have more control of baby’s head since it is resting in her hand, rather than in the crook of her elbow. Just as in the cradle hold, it is important to make sure baby’s whole body is facing you.
The Football or Clutch Hold
In this position, baby is tucked under your arm (not unlike a football) with her head facing your breast, almost from underneath. Her nose should be at about nipple-level. Her body will wrap sideways around you with her feet facing behind you. Your hand supports baby’s head and guides it toward the nipple. This hold generally requires extra pillows to support baby. Mother’s who have had C-sections or who have large breasts may find this position works especially well for them. This position also works well for moms with flat or inverted nipples because it allows for the best visibility and control of baby's head and mom's breast.
Nursing while you are reclining is great way to nurse baby to sleep and is essential if you are co-sleeping with your baby. Begin by lying on your side with your back and hips straight. Use pillows to support your head. You may want to ask someone to place pillows behind you as well, to help support your back. Position baby so that she is lying on the bed beside you, with her tummy facing yours and her mouth facing your lower breast. You can support her head with your hand if she needs it. This is a good position for discouraging side preference and works well for moms with flat or inverted nipples or for sleepy babies who need encouragement to nurse.