Breastfeeding is a deeply personal experience. There’s no rulebook for which breastfeeding positions will work for everyone. In many cases, we can get off to a messy and awkward start.
The more we learn about our own body and our baby, the better chance we’ll have of finding the feeding positions that work best for us.
Getting into the right position is what can make breastfeeding a comfortable experience for you and your baby. Plus, correct positioning encourages deep latch and attachment (the essential ingredients for proper milk drainage).
The link between breastfeeding positions and latch
Breastfeeding is instinctual for babies. However, it’s also a dance between nature and nurture.
Once our baby reaches the breast, the work to find the correct position begins. As you guide and gently manoeuvre, you’re working towards finding a good latch (consciously or unconsciously).
Good attachment is what can help prevent breastfeeding problems (from cracked nipples to engorgement and even infections, such as mastitis). That’s because this deep latch ensures babies are receiving every sip of our milk, draining our breasts completely of milk.
The research tells us that achieving a strong latch (meaning our baby is rooting, gaping, sealing and sucking successfully) can reduce the chance of pain or discomfort during feeding, too.
Breastfeeding positions to try
Learning a range of breastfeeding positions and techniques can help you play and experiment with what feels best for you and your baby.
No two days are the same, and life is bound to throw us curveballs. So, having a range of positions up your sleeve can allow you to pivot, change your approach and embrace versatility.
Front position or cradle hold tends to be one of the most popular breastfeeding positions. While sitting upright, your baby will be positioned on their side, with their head and neck laying along your forearm.
With tummy to tummy and a cushion ready for extra support, the cradle position allows you to watch as your baby feeds. The key is to use soft props to avoid straining your neck and to keep your breasts at their natural resting height.
Here’s how to try the cradle position:
- Lie your baby on your lap, facing you.
- Place your baby’s head along your forearm with their nose towards your nipple.
- Place your baby’s lower arm under your own.
- Check to make sure your baby’s ear, shoulder and hip are positioned in a straight line.
Under arm position or football hold is when you hold your baby tucked close to your body with their legs positioned in the opposite direction to cradle hold.
This position can be helpful to clear blocked ducts in the outer part of our breasts.
If you’re navigating sore nipples, this position can also give your damaged areas a much-needed rest. And if you’re feeding twins, this can allow you to feed both babies at once.
Here’s how to try the underarm position:
- Sit in a chair with a pillow along your side.
- Position your baby at your side (whichever side you want to feed from), under your arm and with their hips close to your own.
- Check that your baby’s nose is level with your nipple and support your baby’s neck with the palm of your hand.
- All that’s left to do is gently guide them to your nipple.
Side lying position is perfect for relaxed night feeds. It’s also beneficial if you’ve had a caesarian as it allows you to have close contact with your baby (without putting pressure on your stitches).
Here’s how to try the side-lying position:
- Begin by getting comfortable lying on your side. Place your baby on their side facing you, tummy to tummy. Check your baby’s ear, shoulder and hip are in a straight line.
- Place cushions behind you for support and use a rolled up baby blanket to support your baby.
- Tuck the arm you’re lying on under your head or pillow and use your free arm to support and guide your baby’s head to your breast.
Laid-back nursing is often referred to as “biological nursing” because it's often the first position we try when giving our baby the space to follow their instincts and find their way to our breast naturally after birth.
But this position isn’t just for newborns, and can be especially helpful if you have a forceful let down or don’t find success with other feeding techniques. It involves feeding laying back in a comfortable, semi-reclined position (perhaps on a couch or bed).
Here’s how to try the laid-back nursing position:
- Lean back on a sofa or bed (but don’t fully recline).
- Use cushions and pillows to support your back, shoulders and neck.
- Once comfortable, place your baby on your front - tummy to tummy.
- Check your positioning by making sure you’re upright enough to look into your baby’s eyes.
- With your support, gently guide your baby to your nipple.
Give each breastfeeding position a try, see what feels right for you and don’t be afraid to experiment along the way. Every day is different.