A woman may use one of the many positions to hold her infant while breastfeeding. There is no one ‘ideal’ position for every infant and woman. The best breastfeeding position is one that is comfortable for the mother and allows the newborn to latch-on, suckle, and swallow more easily. A woman may have numerous preferred positions depending on the baby’s size, the baby or mother’s medical condition(s), and feeding location.
In nearly all baby feeding positions, one hand is used to support the baby’s body while the other free hand supports and guides the breast to the newborn’s wide-open mouth. Also, the thumb on the free hand may be placed on top of the areola and the breast supported with the cupped fingers. Care should be taken to position the hand away from the nipple so that the thumb and fingers do not interfere with latching. Some common breastfeeding positions are:
Cradle hold – The cradle hold can be performed while the mother sits in a chair. While feeding the infant from the left breast, the infant’s head and body are supported by the mother’s left forearm. Some women use a pillow to support this arm. The baby’s stomach should be flat against the mother’s chest and the baby’s head should be in line with the body.
Cross-cradle hold – The cross-cradle hold too, can be done while the mother sits in a chair. In this position, the use of hands is opposite to that of the cradle hold while everything else remains the same. While feeding on the left breast, the infant’s head and body are supported by the mother’s right hand and forearm.
Football hold – The football newborn breastfeeding position allows a woman to see the baby at her breast easily. It is often preferred by women who have an abdominal incision, after a Cesarean section, or by women with large breasts or a small or premature baby. The baby is supported by a pillow as the mother sits, which should allow the baby’s head to be at the level of the mother’s breast. While feeding on the left breast, the baby’s body and legs are under the left arm, with the head supported on the mother’s left hand.
Side-lying hold – The side-lying hold allows the mother to nurse while lying down. When using this position, there should be no excess bedding around the newborn. To nurse from the left breast, it is essential that the woman lies on her left side. The baby’s head and body lie parallel to the woman’s body, with the baby’s mouth close to and facing the woman’s left breast. The woman may prefer to have a pillow beneath her head, with her left hand between her head and the pillow.
Laid-back or ‘biological nursing’ – In this breastfeeding position for newborns, the mother is semi-reclined with her arms and torso well supported, and the baby is placed on her stomach between the mother’s breasts. In this position, mothers are more comfortable, and their infants can latch easily, as the infant is positioned securely against the mother’s body and the infant’s reflexes assist in latching on. Also, mothers may find that they do not have to work as hard supporting their infants and tireless.