As a postpartum & infant care doula, I always tell new mothers that if you are comfortable, and baby is growing, it doesn't matter what position you and baby are in! Babies and moms can find themselves draped in all sorts of positions and still be breastfeeding perfectly effectively.
However, if you are just starting out your breastfeeding relationship with your newborn, it can be helpful to have a few positions in your tool bag to try out. These positions are optimized to get your baby to open his or her mouth open wide (essential for a good latch), and for keeping baby close and in good alignment to transfer milk well.
Keys to Getting a Good Latch In Any Position
- Make sure that you are comfortable and supported. Use pillows to help provide extra support under arms or behind your back or head. Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt or be uncomfortable! Comfort is key!
- Make sure that baby keeps his or her head, neck, shoulders, and hips in a straight line, not turning his or her head or neck to one side or the other. If you try taking a drink of water while your head is turned to the side, instead of facing straight forward, you will see why!
- Keep the baby chest to chest with you, not rolled away from mom. This helps with alignment (see above^).
- Position the baby nipple to nose in any position to encourage baby to open his or her mouth wide open for a deep latch!
- Bring the baby to you, rather than scrunching up your back and neck to get your body to your baby. Your back and neck will thank us later.
Here are the top 4 most common breastfeeding holds:
Laid Back or Reclined Breastfeeding
The laid back or reclined position for breastfeeding is perfect for that first latch, and the following days and weeks breastfeeding a newborn. In this position, you get into a 45 degree angle or so (reclined), using pillows as an aid to get as comfortable as possible behind your back, head, and arms for support.
This position allows gravity to assist with getting the baby snug and close for a good latch position, with minimal effort from you. For more info on exactly how to hold your arms, check out the cross-cradle hold next!
The cross-cradle hold is great for the early days and weeks of breastfeeding. Here we demonstrate how to position your arms and your baby to achieve a good latch. Remember, as with any position, your comfort is important, so make sure that's the first thing you try to achieve before latching!
The football hold is great if you are recovering from a c-section and your incision site is still sore, or for babies who struggle with an over-active letdown or fast flow of milk. This position uses gravity to give the baby more control over the flow of milk. The key here is to make sure that the baby is still turned in toward your body, and that his or her body is in good alignment, with the nipple to nose.
The cradle hold is better after the first few days and weeks, when the baby has more head and neck control, and everyone has had good practice with breastfeeding.
Need help working out these positions for yourself and your baby, and in the Dayton or Cincinnati area? Get in touch with our Postpartum & Infant Care Doulas or an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant today!