Choosing the Best Breastfeeding Position for You and Your Baby
Breastfeeding should be instinctive for both mother and infant. However, there are various breastfeeding skills you can learn to help make it easier and more enjoyable. That said, every mother and child will find what works for them, including the position that makes breastfeeding most comfortable.
The good news is that if you are struggling with a sore back, sore nipples or are generally not feeding as efficiently as you would like, it may be possible to change or improve your positioning for better breastfeeding.
Best breastfeeding positions – the laid-back breastfeeding position
Recline your body to about 45⁰ on a bed, sofa or suitable chair. Prop yourself up with pillows, cushions, rolled up blankets or whatever you have to hand. Your baby rests on your stomach with her belly against yours and her head level with your breasts. This position is great for encouraging your baby’s rooting instinct as she can move her head back and forth as she searches for your nipple. You can help her as much as is necessary of course.
Best breastfeeding positions – the rugby hold (or the clutch)
This position may be ideal if you’re recovering from a c-section or have a preterm baby. It is also great if you have large breasts or have twins as each twin can have their own space.
Place cushions at your side to support your baby. With her legs pointing behind you, hold your baby beside your waist with your elbow bent and support her head with an open hand while facing her towards your breast. Bring your baby’s nose to your nipple to encourage a good latch. She will be tucked under you arm, like a rugby ball!
Best breastfeeding positions – the lying down position
This breastfeeding position may be particularly good if you are recovering from a C-section or are feeling generally tired. Lie on a bed with your head and one arm rested on your pillow with another pillow behind your back for support. Position your baby close in to your body and gently steer her to your breast. If it works for you, you can place a thin pillow or folded towel or blanket under your ribs in order to prop yourself up – this can be particularly helpful if you have large breasts.
Best breastfeeding positions – sitting down (or the cradle) position
This is the “classic” breastfeeding position and is the one most commonly used by women in cafes, parks, playgroups, waiting rooms and train stations across the world. You simply sit in a chair with your baby lying across your lap, your forearm supporting her head and her nose positioned towards your nipple. Try using cushions and blankets for support, and to find the arrangement that works best for you, but be sure your baby’s ear, shoulder and hip are all in a line to assist with the flow of milk into baby’s mouth and reduce the intake of air.
Breastfeeding — positions you should avoid
There are certain positions and postures you should avoid while breastfeeding your baby as they may be harmful to both you and your baby. These include:
- Any position in which your baby’s head and body are twisted in opposite directions. If your baby has to turn her head to feed, it will impede her ability to latch on, will produce tension and may even cause injury.
- Hunching or leaning over your baby may cause you to suffer back, neck or shoulder strain and may result in you developing sore nipples.
- Feeding with your baby positioned too far away from your breast.
What to do when you’re in position
Bring your baby against you, so that she can reach your breast without turning her head. Bring your baby’s chin to your breast so that they are just touching and then bring your nipple to your baby’s nose.
At this point, with your hand supporting your baby’s neck, she will smell you and hopefully will begin to open her mouth to feed. The more often you attempt and repeat these steps, the more used to it you and your baby are likely to become. It may take some practise, but this basic feeding routine should allow you to develop some confidence.
And remember that it is important to alternate between breasts during a feed. Not only does this help boost milk production, it will also help to prevent mastitis and will encourage your baby’s healthy development. You should also do your best to ensure that you are relaxed and in a calm environment before and during feeds. Ultimately, this will make breastfeeding a more pleasant experience for both you and your baby.
Breastfeeding in the first few days
Nipple soreness or excessive tenderness in the first few days may be sign that your baby is not latching on in the right way this could be attributable to the feeding position.
Even a small change in your baby’s latch or positioning may make for an easier breastfeeding experience. However, if you try adjusting your position and the pain continues or gets worse, it may be that you have thrush or a bacterial infection.
In some cases, the pain may even be attributable to a condition in your baby called ‘tongue tie’. (ankyloglossia), in which the strip of tissue (the frenulum) which attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth is shorter than normal. Tongue tie is easily treated. It simply involves a procedure called a “frenulotomy” in which a doctor, nurse or midwife, snips the frenulum. It may sound drastic but is relatively painless and could help your baby feed better almost immediately.
Some mothers find that they can get their babies to latch on by using their nipple to tickle their baby’s bottom lip. This should trigger your baby to open her mouth wide and you can then direct your nipple at a slight angle towards the roof of her mouth. If the latch is causing you pain or discomfort, you can carefully insert your finger between your baby’s gums to detach her and then begin the process again.
Signs of a good latch include:
- Your baby’s nose is nearly touching your breast – i.e. it is just a few millimetres from making contact.
- Your baby’s cheeks are rounded, maybe even stretched, but they are not going in and out as they suck
- At least half an inch of your breast is in your baby’s mouth.
- No pain – maybe some tingling or discomfort at first, but breastfeeding should not be painful.
Finding the right position for breastfeeding your baby may take time, but with perseverance and the right support and information, you will almost certainly get there.