Breastfeeding positions

Feeding | | Louise Broadbridge


There are a number of different ways you can breastfeed your baby and it’s a good idea to try out different positions to work out which you prefer.

Different positions can work well in different situations, so there’s no need to stick to one, although many mums will have a tried-and-tested favourite they use more than others. Always remember: breastfeeding is a skill to be learned, not some innate talent. It can take a little bit of practice to master a new position. Stick with it; you’ll get there.

Support for a good latch

A breastfeeding or nursing pillow can help make sure your baby is supported and at the right height to latch on. But if you don’t have a product designed specifically for breastfeeding, you can create the same effect with ordinary pillows or cushions.

Below are the different breastfeeding positions you can try and why they work well.

Cradle hold

This is a very popular breastfeeding position and will often be the first one a new parent tries with their newborn. In a cradle hold, your baby lies on their side across your lap so they are facing you; you are tummy to tummy.

Your baby’s head will go on your forearm and your hand should go on their back to support their body. Make sure their body is straight and not curled up – their ear, shoulder and hip should all be in line with each other.

The benefits of the cradle hold is it is quite easy to get the hang of, making it a great starting point for new mums. The position gives you a good view of your baby’s latch so you can carefully guide them onto the nipple.

It is also comfortable if you are sat in a chair with arm rests or you have pillows or cushions around you in bed. For smaller babies, it is a good idea to use a breastfeeding pillow to raise your baby up to the right height for feeding.

This hold might not be ideal if you have just had a caesarean section as the position of your baby is likely to irritate your scar while it is healing. However, once you have had some time to recover, you will be fine to use the cradle hold if you want to.

Cross-cradle position

The cross-cradle position is very similar to the cradle but uses the opposite arm to support your baby while feeding. Like the cradle, your baby is positioned on your lap using a nursing pillow or cushions to raise them to the same height as your breast.

If you are feeding from the left breast, use your left hand to hold the breast in a u-shape and your other hand will support your baby’s head with their neck resting between your thumb and index finger. Your arm will then lie behind your baby to support them and hold them in position.

Laid back nursing

This breastfeeding position encourages your baby to use their natural instincts and is sometimes referred to as biological nursing. It can be done in bed, on the sofa or in a recliner but make sure your back, head, shoulders and arms are supported with pillows or cushions.

Lean back and place your baby tummy down on your chest so their cheek is near your breast. Laid back nursing is a great opportunity for skin-to-skin contact and works best if your breast is uncovered and easily available to your little one.

Try rubbing your nipple on your baby’s top lip to encourage them to open their mouth nice and wide. Then bring them in to help them latch on, making sure their chin touches your breast first.

Make sure your baby’s feet aren’t dangling but are supported by your body and use one of your hands to hold their bottom or thigh. You may want to use your other hand to hold your breast.

This relaxed position is great for the first few days and weeks after birth and can be really useful in helping to get breastfeeding established. Gravity will help support your baby and help them latch on properly, reducing the risk of you getting sore nipples.

It is also a great position if you are recovering from a c-section delivery when it might be uncomfortable to sit upright. If you have had a caesarean, make sure you keep your baby away from your healing wound – they can lie across you rather than down your body.

You can continue to use laid back nursing when your baby gets older too but other positions are likely to work better for breastfeeding on the go.

Rugby or clutch position

This breastfeeding position is a good option after a caesarean section as it keeps baby well away from your stomach and scar. It can even be used by mums of twins to feed both babies at the same time.

With the rugby hold, you need to sit in an upright position with a cushion or pillow next to you on the side you want to feed from. Place your baby facing you with their hips near your own hips so their legs goes under your arm and their nose is level with your nipple.

Use the palm of your hand to support the back of your baby’s head and gentle guide them onto your nipple. Their back will lie along your arm.

One of the major benefits of this position is it leaves you with one hand free- unless you are feeding twins or you want to support your breast. It is also a great hold for mums who have a strong and powerful let-down reflex as it is easier for babies to cope with the flow of milk in this position.

One thing to watch out for is that if your baby is fairly long, they may push their feet against the back of the chair, especially as they get bigger and stronger. You can get around this by making sure their legs are resting along the back of the chair with the soles of their feet pointing upwards.

Lying on your side

This position is ideal for night-time feeding and for the early days and weeks when you are recovering from the birth, especially if your baby was born via c-section or you had a long and difficult delivery.

Get yourself into a comfortable position where you are lying on your side with your baby facing you, tummy to tummy. Make sure your baby’s body isn’t curled up or twisted by checking that their ear, shoulder and hip are in a straight line.

Place some cushions or pillows behind your back for support and make sure if you have your head on a pillow, it is well away from your baby’s head. You can also roll up a baby blanket and place it behind them for support, but remember to take it away once they have finished feeding.

Tuck the arm that you are lying on under your pillow or head and then you can use your free arm to bring your baby nearer and guide them onto your breast.

You can find more advice on breastfeeding here