While breastfeeding is natural and has been around for thousands of years, it is a new and unique experience that doesn’t always come naturally for every mom. One of the most important components of successfully breastfeeding your new baby is finding a comfortable position. When you and your baby are comfortable, it will be easier for you to relax, which can help prompt milk let-down. Relax and enjoy nursing with these nursing tips and common breastfeeding positions.
Establish a Nursing Area
Because babies can nurse as often as every two hours during growth spurts, it’s important to set up an area for you to breastfeed that has all of your needs within reach. Make sure that your nursing area has:
- A comfortable chair that offers back and neck support
- Pillows or a nursing support pillow to place under your arms and/or back
- A small footrest to support your feet and legs
- A nearby table with water, snacks and burp cloths
Ensure a Proper Hold and Latch
Each breastfeeding position begins with holding your baby close to your body. Never bend, stretch or move to conform to the baby’s position, but use pillows, folded blankets and nursing supports to bring your baby up to your breast. Doing so will prevent your back, neck and arms from becoming strained and tired during breastfeeding.
Always properly support your breast. This can be done with your hand or a rolled-up cloth diaper placed underneath your breast. Your baby’s chin should drive into your breast when properly supported rather than your breast resting on your baby’s chin.
While the sensation of breastfeeding will be different than anything you’ve experienced before, one thing it should never be is painful. If you are experiencing any pain, it’s important to place your finger gently inside of the baby’s mouth, release the latch and pull baby off and try again. Never pull your baby straight away from your breast, as this can hurt your nipple. It is a myth that breastfeeding should cause cracks, bleeding and extreme pain during the beginning as your breast “toughens up.” If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, a nurse or lactation consultant can help.
Use your nipple to gently tickle your baby’s lip until he or she opens their mouth wide. Bring your baby to your breast and ensure that at least one-half inch of your breast is inside of your baby’s mouth. Nurse until your baby comes off, burp him or her and finish nursing on your opposite breast.
Begin with the Cross-Cradle Hold
The cross-cradle hold is an excellent position to try for brand-new babies as the position allows you to support your baby’s neck and gives you the best view of the baby’s mouth to ensure your baby is latching properly. Begin by placing your baby on his or her side, touching your stomach. Hold your breast with the hand on the same side (i.e. if you are breastfeeding with the right breast, hold your breast with your right hand). Hold your breast with your hand under the breast with a “U-hold.” Next, use your other hand to hold baby’s neck and head and bring him or her to your breast.
Try the Football Position if You’ve Had a C-section
If you had a c-section during delivery, your incision area may be too sensitive to try other breastfeeding positions that place baby on your abdomen for the first several weeks. Try the football position, also known as the clutch hold, to prevent baby from placing any pressure on your abdominal area. This position is also helpful for women who have larger breasts or who have a forceful letdown. Place the baby on your side with his or her body facing yours. Your baby’s legs and feet should go under your arm, with your baby’s feet facing up next to your backrest. Support your baby’s head with the same arm as the side you are breastfeeding. With your opposite hand, hold your breast with a “C-hold.” Use plenty of pillows to bring your baby to the right height.
After Several Weeks, Try the Cradle Hold
This position is one of the most common positions for babies who are older, have more body control and who have already established a regular breastfeeding routine. Because the cradle hold makes it more difficult to control the baby’s latch and provides less neck support, try this position after your baby is several weeks old. To get into the position, lay the baby lengthwise across your abdomen. Place your baby’s head in the crook of your elbow on the same side as the breast you are using to feed. Your hand should rest on your baby’s back. With the opposite hand, hold your breast in a “C-hold” or “U-hold.” When properly positioned, your baby’s ear, shoulder and hips should be in a straight line.
Try the Side-Lying Position When Nursing at Night
Keeping your baby in a dark, comfortable room lying next to you can help encourage your little one to stay asleep at night and help you get back to sleep after your nursing session. To try side nursing, lie down on the same side as the breast that you are planning on using to breastfeed. Place your baby on his or her side, facing you. Use a pillow behind your back for support and a rolled blanket or cloth diaper behind your baby’s back to ensure that he or she doesn’t roll away. Cradle the baby’s neck in your forearm and bring your baby close to your breast. Because you may be too tired at night to try a new position, master this one during the day to help your little one nurse easier at night.
With the proper position and plenty of support, you and your new little one will soon establish a nursing routine that will be rewarding for the both of you. Don’t be afraid of trying a new position and never sacrifice your own comfort to nurse. Get comfortable and relax with one of these four common breastfeeding positions to help your and your baby have a satisfying nursing experience.