Breastfeeding, one of the most natural acts in the world, takes practice. Learning how to hold and support your baby in a comfortable position for you calls for coordination and patience. Yet finding a nursing hold that works for you and your infant is well worth the effort. After all, the two of you will spend hours breastfeeding every day. Here are some of the best breastfeeding positions to try, plus tips to make nursing go smoothly.
Basic Steps for Optimal Positioning
- Position yourself comfortably with back support, pillows supporting your arms and in your lap and your feet supported by a footrest or a telephone book.
- Position baby close to you, with his hips flexed, so that he does not have to turn his head to reach your breast. His mouth and nose should be facing your nipple. If possible, ask your helper to hand you the baby once you are comfortable.
- Support your breast so it is not pressing on your baby’s chin. Your baby’s chin should drive into your breast.
- Attach or latch baby onto your breast. Encourage him to open his mouth wide and pull him close by supporting his back (rather than the back of his head) so that his chin drives into your breast. His nose will be touching your breast. Your hand forms a “second neck” for your baby.
- If you are feeling pain, detach baby gently and try again.
These steps may need to be repeated frequently during the early weeks. You and your baby will find a technique that works for you after some practice.
Best Breastfeeding Positions;
Position your baby so his or her head rests in the bend of your elbow of the arm on the side you’ll be breastfeeding, with the hand on that side supporting the rest of the body. Cup your breast with your other hand, placing your thumb above your nipple and areola at the spot where your baby’s nose will touch your breast. Your index finger should be at the spot where your baby’s chin will make contact with the breast. Lightly compress your breast so that the nipple points slightly toward your baby’s nose. Baby’s now ready to latch.
Hold your baby’s head with the hand opposite to the breast you’ll be nursing from (i.e. if nursing from the right breast, hold the head with your left hand). Rest your wrist between your baby’s shoulder blades, your thumb behind one ear, your other fingers behind the other ear. Using your free hand, cup your breast as you would for the cradle hold.
Also known as the clutch hold, this position is especially useful if you have:
- Had a Cesarean Section and want to avoid placing your baby against your abdomen
- Large breasts
- A small or premature baby
Position your baby at your side, facing you, with baby’s legs are tucked under your arm (yes, like a football) on the same side as the breast you’re nursing from. Support your baby’s head with the same hand, and use your other hand to cup your breast as you would for the cradle hold.
This one can be particularly helpful for moms who have smaller breasts. Lean back on a bed or couch, well supported by pillows, so that when you put your baby tummy-to-tummy onto your body, head near your breast, gravity will keep him or her molded to you. Your baby can rest on you in any direction, as long as the whole front of the body is against yours and he or she can reach your breast. Your infant can naturally latch on in this position, or you can help by directing the nipple toward your little one’s mouth. Once baby is set up at your breast, you don’t have to do much besides lie back and relax.
This position is a good choice when you’re breastfeeding in the middle of the night. Both you and your baby should lie on your sides, tummy to tummy. Use your hand on the side you’re not lying on to cup your breast if you need to. You may want to place a small pillow behind your baby’s back to hold him or her close.
Your baby may first display some hunger cues, signaling that he/she is ready to feed. He might suck on his lip, tongue, finger, or fist. Fidgeting and fussing at this time are also indicators that your baby is hungry. Crying is a late hunger cue and may make it more difficult to begin breastfeeding.
Try to pay attention and learn those earlier hunger cues. Keep in mind that swaddling, pacifiers, and mittens can inhibit the hunger cues, as the baby’s mouth and hands are restricted.
A good latch is vital to successful breastfeeding.
The following techniques used with proper positioning can help ensure a good latch:
- Get in a comfortable chair with great back support to feed your baby. Using a stool to rest your feet on will help with good posture and prevent you from straining your neck and shoulders.
- Use your breastfeeding support pillow if you have one. (And if you don’t, use whatever kind of pillows you can find to help support you and the baby.) A good breastfeeding pillow can make a huge difference in getting the baby in a proper position to latch on well.
- Make sure your baby is tummy-to-tummy with you at all times.
- Make sure you bring your baby to you, and do not try to lean into the baby. Not only will this cause severe strain on your neck and shoulders, but it can affect the baby’s position.
- Remember to keep your baby’s ear, shoulder, and hip in alignment, which will make swallowing easier.
- The baby’s nose should be opposite the nipple.
- You might need to hold your breast to help guide the nipple to your baby’s mouth. Grasp the breast on the sides, using either a “C” hold or “U” hold. Make sure to keep fingers far from the nipple so you don’t affect how baby latches on.
- Aim the nipple toward the baby’s upper lip/nose, not the middle of the mouth. You might need to rub the nipple across the top lip to get your baby to open his/her mouth.
- The baby’s head should be tilted slightly back. You do not want his chin to his chest.
- When he opens his mouth wide with the chin dropped and tongue down, he should latch on to the nipple. If he does not open wide, do not try to shove the nipple in and wiggle the mouth open. It is best to move back, tickle the lip again with the nipple and wait for a wide open mouth.
- Try to get as much of the lower portion of the areola (the area around the nipple) in the baby’s mouth.
- The baby’s chin should indent the lower portion of your breast.
- Look to see if the baby’s bottom and top lip are flanged out like fish lips. If they are not, you may use your finger to pull the bottom one down and open up the top one more.
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Time to stop?
Ideally, your baby will decide he’s had enough when he’s drained one or both breasts. If you need to change your baby’s position, switch him to the other breast, or end his feeding for any reason, gently insert your finger into the corner of his mouth. A quiet “pop” means you’ve broken the suction (which can be remarkably strong!), and you can pull him away.
Take Care of Your Nipples
Your nipples naturally make a lubricant to prevent drying, cracking, or infections. In order to keep your nipples healthy:
- Avoid soaps and harsh washing or drying of your breasts and nipples. This can cause dryness and cracking.
- Rub a little breast milk on your nipple after feeding to protect it. Keep your nipples dry to prevent cracking and infection.
- If you have cracked nipples, apply 100% pure lanolin after feedings.
- Try glycerin nipple pads that can be chilled and placed over your nipples to help soothe and heal cracked or painful nipples.