Breast-Feeding Positions

How should I hold my baby when feeding?

There are 4 main breast-feeding positions: the cradle hold, the cross-cradle hold, the football hold, and lying down.

  • Cradle hold

    The most common position is the cradle hold. This is when you are sitting with your baby in your lap and the baby's head in the crook of your arm (the bend of your elbow). The baby's chest should be against your chest so that she doesn't have to turn his head to reach your nipple. Be sure the arm of the chair is at the right height to support your arm. Use pillows to support your back, your arm, and the baby's head. A footstool is also very helpful to raise your feet.

  • Cross-cradle hold

    The cross-cradle hold is similar to the cradle hold except your baby is laying the opposite direction, with his head in your hand, rather than in crook of your arm. This is a good position when first learning to breast-feed because it gives you good control of the baby's head while you are helping your baby get the nipple in his mouth.

  • Football hold

    Position your baby with his legs under your arm. Hold your baby like a football along your forearm, with the baby's body on your arm and with his face toward your breast. Use your other hand to support your breast. The football hold is good if you have engorged breasts or sore nipples. It is also a good position if you have had a cesarean section and cannot lay the baby on your stomach. If you often have plugged milk ducts, the football hold can help because it helps your baby empty the ducts at the bottom of the breast. It is also a good position for nursing twins!

  • Lying down

    Breast-feeding when you are lying down is good for night feeding. Lie on your side and place the baby on his side facing you, with his head at your breast. You may want to place a couple of pillows at your back for some extra support. Be sure that the baby can breathe through his nose.

    This position is restful for you. Often both you and the baby will drift off to sleep after feeding. By changing your position slightly you can feed the baby from both breasts while lying on one side. (Make sure that you feed from both breasts. If you don't empty both breasts, you can get a plugged milk duct.)

    After feeding, be sure to place your baby on his back for sleep. Avoid soft sleep surfaces, loose bedding, and situations in which your baby can fall, become entrapped, or be too close to a heating appliance.

How do I get my baby to latch on to my breast?

It is very important to get your baby to latch on correctly to your breast. If the baby is not latched on correctly, you will get sore nipples and the baby won't get as much milk.

To get a good latch:

  1. Hold your baby in one of the 4 positions described above. With your other hand, support your breast with your fingers underneath your breast and your thumb on top (C-hold) or rotate your hand into a U-hold with your fingers and thumb on either side of the breast.
  2. Get the baby to turn his head toward your breast and open his mouth. This is called the rooting reflex. To do this, bring the baby close to your breast. Then stroke the baby's cheek closest to you with your finger. You can also tickle the baby's lower lip with your nipple. When you do this, your baby will naturally turn his head and open his mouth.
  3. When he opens his mouth, put as much of the areola (brown area around the nipple) into the baby's mouth as possible. Make sure the baby has a good hold on the nipple as well as the areola. NEVER allow the baby to suck on just the nipple. You can hold your breast into a good nursing position so that the nipple and areola don't get pulled out of your baby's mouth by the weight of the breast.
  4. Make sure that your baby's nose is not pressed into the breast so that she can't breathe. If your breast is blocking the baby's nose, press a finger against your breast near his nose to allow him to breathe. Also be sure that your baby's whole body is facing the breast.
  5. If your baby does not latch on well, remove the baby from your breast by pressing a finger gently on the corner of his mouth. This will break the suction. Then try again.

Tips on Breast-feeding Positions

  • As a general rule, anything that works is OK as long as the baby has both the nipple and areola in his mouth and he can breathe.
  • Change the nursing position sometimes to make sure all of the milk ducts are drained of milk.
  • Always find a relaxed and comfortable position.

Special Situations

Nursing After Having a Cesarean Section

  • The lying-down position may be more comfortable for breast-feeding after you have had a cesarean section. The hospital nurses will help you change from side to side.
  • If you nurse sitting down, put a pillow on your lap to protect the incision.
  • The football hold can also be used, since it keeps the baby from pressing on your incision.

Nursing Premature Infants

  • Support the baby's head with the crook of your arm while placing your hand under his bottom. Use your other hand to guide your nipple into his mouth.
  • If the baby's nursing reflex is weak, pull down on the baby's chin and direct the nipple into the back of his mouth.

Nursing Twins

  • Use the football hold with pillows under each arm to support the babies. Using pillows helps free up your hands.
  • You can use the cradle or cross-cradle hold and have the babies legs overlap.
  • You can combine holds (for example, use the cradle hold for one baby and the football hold for the other).
  • Alternate between feeding each baby separately and nursing the babies at the same time.
  • Don't let one baby feed from just one breast. Make sure each baby feeds from each breast. This will help keep a good milk supply in both breasts.
  • If you can tell that one of your babies is hungrier than the other, nurse the hungriest baby on the fullest breast.
Developed by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2005-10-25
Last reviewed: 2006-08-22
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.