Breast-Feeding Positions

Topic Overview

Breast-feeding in the proper position will help your baby latch on and breast-feed correctly and make your experience more enjoyable. Also, when you are in a comfortable and relaxed position, let-down occurs more easily.

You are more likely to drain all areas of your breast by changing breast-feeding positions frequently. This helps to prevent blocked milk ducts. Women who have had a cesarean delivery may find that they are more comfortable in a different position than those who delivered vaginally.

In any position:

  • Do not bend over your baby when breast-feeding. Bring the baby to you—not you to the baby. This can lead to back and neck problems.
  • Keep your baby's body and head aligned straight. The baby's head should be straight with the body, not turned to one side or tilted up or down while breast-feeding. The baby's chest should face your chest and his or her mouth should be right in front of your nipple.
  • Support and narrow your breast with one hand using a "C hold," with all your fingers below the nipple and your thumb above it. Narrow the breast to match the shape of your baby's mouth.
  • Use one or more pillows to support your arms and the baby. This will help you and your baby be more comfortable during feeding.

There are several breast-feeding positions.

Cradle hold

In the cradle (traditional) hold, you sit up with your back supported. One arm supports your baby, with his or her head in the bend of your elbow and your open hand supporting the baby's bottom. Your baby's abdomen lies against yours. Your other hand can support the breast and guide it into your baby's mouth.

You may wish to put a pillow in your lap on which to rest your arm at a comfortable level or use a stool to raise your feet.

Although it is often considered the most common hold, it does not offer as much control as other holds. However, the cradle hold position usually works well after breast-feeding is well established.

Cross-cradle hold

The cross-cradle hold is similar to the cradle hold, but the hand positions are different. This position may give you more control in moving the baby. Your baby's abdomen lies against yours. One hand is low on the baby's head, behind the shoulders with fingers up and supporting the head. The other hand (on the same side as the breast being used) supports the breast and narrows it to help the baby form a good, deep latch on the areola. This type of hold helps you guide your baby to the breast for a proper latch.

Football hold

In the football hold, you sit on a bed or sofa. Your baby is lying along the side you will be feeding on, with his or her chest facing your chest. The baby's head is in your hand (on the same side as the breast being used), and the upper body is supported by your arm or a pillow. The baby's legs go around your upper arm and either side toward the back, or are tucked inside your upper arm. With that hand you can control the baby's head to bring the baby's mouth in quickly for a deep latch. Your other hand reaches across to support and narrow your breast. Use pillows to help support the baby.

The football hold is similar to the cross-cradle hold, but because the baby is not resting on the abdomen, the football position is useful for women who delivered by cesarean delivery. It also works well for breast-feeding twins or babies who have trouble taking enough of the areola (the dark circle around the nipple) into their mouths. Large-breasted women also often find this a comfortable breast-feeding position.

Side-lying position

In the side-lying position, you and your baby lie on your sides with your chests facing each other. Place pillows behind the baby for support. Your baby's mouth should be close to your nipple. The hand on your top side supports your lower breast and guides it into your infant's mouth as you roll toward your rooting baby. After the baby has latched on, use this arm to cuddle and bring your baby closer to you.

You can also place your baby on a firm pillow by your side. Offer the upper breast for feeding. Having the baby on the pillow can help some very large- or small-breasted women see their baby more easily.

The side-lying position is a good option when you have delivered by cesarean delivery or are tired.

Australian hold

In the Australian hold, your baby is held vertically and straddles your thigh, facing you. Your knee supports your baby on his or her bottom, while one hand is low on the baby's head to give control as you bring your baby to the breast to latch. It may work best to have your baby sitting slightly "side-saddle." The other hand (on the same side as the breast being used) supports the breast to help the baby form a good, deep latch on the areola.

Credits

Author Sandy Jocoy, RN
Editor Kathleen M. Ariss, MS
Associate Editor Terrina Vail
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Anne Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Deborah A. Penava, BA, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Updated May 4, 2009

related physicians

related services

Bon Secours International| Sisters of Bon Secours USA| Bon Secours Health System

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Privacy Policy. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2010 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.