baby care

Here are the best breastfeeding positions

Breastfeeding is a skill that both mom and baby must learn.  It requires extensive education and practice to become a skilled breastfeeding mother.  Fortunately, there are a number of options when it comes to breastfeeding holds and positions.  These positions involve football hold, cradle and cross cradle, side-lying, and laid back breastfeeding. 

Each position has specific benefits and detriments.   It can be awkward at first to find the best position for you and your baby to breastfeed in.  If you experiment with several positions, eventually you will find the hold that works best for the two of you.

a) Football Hold

The football hold is the ideal position for moms who have a scar from their cesarean section surgical birth.  In this hold, you sit up straight and place your baby beside you with your elbow bent.  Your baby’s toes should be pointed towards your back with baby curled around your side. You must support your baby’s head and face her towards your breast with your baby’s back on your forearm.

For cesarean section mamas, this position is typically the most comfortable seated position and does not put pressure on the scar on the abdomen.  This breastfeeding position is easily done with nursing pillows, especially if you rotate the pillow to support your baby’s head and body. 

Football hold makes it easy to steady your baby’s head to enable a wide-open latch as you bring the baby to your breast.  In this position, babies often latch better and seem cozier as they are tightly wrapped around their mom.  The football hold is compatible with smaller babies.  It is ideal for moms with larger breasts who are struggling in other positions.

There are several drawbacks for moms who use football hold.  These include the fact that a sleepy baby might fall asleep due to feeling too cozy.  Depending on baby’s size and mom’s breast size, football hold may be tricky in public.  Finally, it is difficult to do football hold with older babies and young children.  Most mothers find themselves shifting away from this position as their baby grows.

b) Cradle Hold

Cradle hold is an early breastfeeding position that enables you to support your baby’s head in the crook of your arm.  This is one of the first breastfeeding holds that many moms attempt.  The cradle hold means that the baby’s head in the crook of your arm on the same side as the breast you are feeding on.  If you are nursing on the right breast, the baby’s head is in the crook of the right arm.

To perform this breastfeeding hold, sit up straight.  Start by cradling your baby in your right arm with your baby’s head resting comfortably on your elbow.  Turn the baby’s face to your breast and place the baby tummy to tummy.  Bring the baby to your breast to nurse, do not bring your breast to the baby!  You can use a pillow on your lap to support the baby and prevent yourself from hunching over.  This is similar to the next position, the cross-cradle hold.

c) Cross-Cradle Hold

Cross-cradle hold is also known as crossover hold and is ideal for early breastfeeding.  It is the exact opposite of cradle hold.  Sit up straight in a comfortable chair and bring the baby across your body.  It is important to always maintain contact between the baby’s tummy and yours.  Hold your baby in the crook of the arm opposite from the breast that you are feeding your baby from.  If you are nursing on your left breast, hold your baby in your right arm.  If you are nursing on your right breast, hold your baby in your left arm. 

With the other hand, make your fingers into a U shape and support directly underneath the breast you are feeding your baby on.  Guide the baby’s mouth to your breast.  Do not bend over, lean forward, or pull your breast to the baby’s mouth.  Cradle the baby close to your chest.  Support the baby’s skull just below the curve towards the neck as to not disturb your baby during the feed. 

If the crossover hold is used improperly, it can cause the baby to nurse poorly and break their latch.  Make sure to sit up straight and bring the baby to you.  A concern for this hold is back pain from poor posture.  Your shoulder and arm may begin to ache.  Reposition, using pillows or shifting your hold.  If you do not reposition and your arm is in pain, it may cause the nipple to start to slide to the front of the baby’s mouth.  The other concern is that the wrist supporting the baby’s head is at risk for injury.  This wrist pain is a concern with the aforementioned cradle hold, as well.  Try to use the ideal position to promote ideal posture and decrease back pain.

d) Laid Back Breastfeeding

This type of breastfeeding is also known as biological nurturing.  Mom should recline in an armchair, sofa, or on the bed propped up by pillows.  It is important for mom to choose the place where she feels the most comfortable.

Baby is placed on mom’s tummy to baby’s tummy. The baby can approach the nipple from any of the 360 degrees surrounding the breast and still get a good latch.  This includes baby lying vertically below mother’s breast, diagonally below the breasts, across the breasts, at her side, or even over the shoulder. 

Laid-back breastfeeding is less work for moms and allows young babies to take the breast deeply.  This is the perfect position for new moms to relax and put their feet up or catch a nap while they nurse. (Note: If you are going to nap, make sure that you are with a trusted family member to ensure that your baby is in a safe position.)  It is helpful to have a support person to assist with positioning the baby at the breast at first. 

In the beginning, gravity helps rather than hinders your baby’s feeding reflexes.  This position promotes cuddling, relaxation, and breastfeeding.  Often mom and baby are able to find the best position by trial and error.  The best part about this breastfeeding hold is that there is a variety of options in which babies can approach the breast This increases opportunities for that valuable skin-to-skin time with your new baby.

It also allows babies to snuggle with mom on their tummies.  This position allows baby to direct the breastfeeding session and is ideal for moms with oversupply or forceful letdown, as gravity slows down the flow of milk for your baby.  Laid-back breastfeeding can be used for babies and toddlers of all ages and sizes. Since you are not hunched over your baby in an awkward seated position, laid-back breastfeeding reduces back pain.  The only drawback for this breastfeeding hold is that it is hard to perform laidback breastfeeding in public while you are outside of the house.

e) Side-lying

Side-lying hold is a position where you are able to lie on your side and you’re your baby toward your breast.  This is a position that provides an intimate relationship with your newborn.  Make sure baby is snuggled close to you and support the baby with one hand.  Grab your breast with the other hand and put your nipple to the baby’s lips.  After the baby latches, use that arm to support your own head.

This breastfeeding position is good for moms with painful lacerations or swollen bottoms after birth.  It allows mothers to avoid sitting for long periods of time.  It is also the best position to take a nap while you are breastfeeding.  You can also do side-lying breastfeeding with a child of any age.  The drawback is that it is difficult to do in public.

There are many breastfeeding holds that have different advantages and weaknesses.  It is so important to find the best breastfeeding positions that work for you and your baby.  Moms who bottle-feed are not told how to hold their baby.  They learn based on trial and error.  You can find the best position by attempting the holds and seeing what works.  It is best to have plenty of information and support concerning breastfeeding. 

If you are having trouble breastfeeding, it is imperative that you get lactation support as soon as possible.  There are private postpartum doulas that can provide you and your baby with TLC.  There is the La Leche League, which has local meetings.  The meeting times vary from several times per week to once a month.  You can also check your local hospital to see if they have a breastfeeding support group.

If your need for breastfeeding help is immediate or specific, you should look into a breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant.  A breastfeeding expert can provide personalized assistance and knowledge. A breastfeeding counselor is a support person who is trained in breastfeeding encouragement and can troubleshoot initial breastfeeding problems.  An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is a healthcare professional, often a Registered Nurse, specializing in the more advanced management of lactation issues.  These lactation consultants can work at hospitals, doctor offices, clinics, and private practice. 

Some health insurance companies will completely cover lactation services. Call your health insurance provider for local lactation consultants and you’re your insurance coverage benefits allow.  Lactating moms are likely to be successful at breastfeeding if armed with a wealth of information and the support of their family, health care providers, and society. 

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