Breastfeeding, one of the most natural acts in the world, takes practice. Learning how to hold and support your baby in a comfortable position 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

Cradle hold

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.

Crossover hold

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.

Football hold

Also known as the clutch hold, this position is especially useful if you have:

  • Had a Caesarean Sectionand want to avoid placing your baby against your abdomen
  • Large breasts
  • A small or premature baby
  • Twins

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.

Laid-back

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.

Side-lying

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.