Best Breastfeeding positions for newborns

There is no right or wrong way to breastfeed your newborn baby, but in the beginning you might like to try different positions to find your preferred one. The most important thing is that you’re both comfortable. Some positions can cause poor attachment, which can result in sore and cracked nipples, and usually means that your baby is not taking enough milk. This can then in turn impact supply, and possibly lead to a blocked duct or mastitis. They don’t always teach you these important things in prenatal classes or in hospital after the birth, so knowing a few different positions and techniques can be helpful in preventing any breastfeeding issues.

Baby-led attachment position

Breastfeeding is a learned skill, and although natural, it can also be very difficult (read about that here). No woman gives birth and immediately knows how to breastfeed, but don’t worry, your baby is hardwired to breastfeed. ‘Baby-led attachment’ is the term used to describe the process of a baby seeking out their mother’s breast, making it a natural introduction to breastfeeding while you get to know one another. Here is how to let your baby lead the way:

 

  • Start with a calm baby. They’ll be more likely to let their instincts guide them. If they’re unsettled, try to calm them first with some skin-to-skin contact (read about the benefits of ‘Kangaroo care’) or gentle rocking movements.
  • Get to know your baby’s hunger cues. Crying is a late feeding cue, so look for them sticking their tongue out, turning their head from side to side, and putting their hands to their mouth.
  • Sit down, and get comfortable. You might find it more helpful not wearing a bra and just having your baby in a nappy.
  • Get into position. You might find that a reclined position works well, with your baby lying between your breasts, supported by your arms. This makes it easier for the baby to make their own way to the breasts.
  • Allow your baby to find your breast. They may bring their fist to their mouth, and suck on that, but be patient— he or she will soon work out that it’s not a breast!
  • When your baby finds the breast. They might start to lick at the breast, press into you with their fists, move their feet up and down, and dig their chin into your breast before reaching up with an open mouth, attaching, and then sucking.
  • Let your baby use their instincts like this as often as possible, especially in the early weeks. If you’ve had a caesarean, you can still do baby-led attachment by encouraging your baby to lie more to one side of you, supported by pillows, angled away from your scar. Read our Helpful Tips for Successful Breastfeeding After a C-Section. 

Mother-led attachment positions

Once you’re going well with breastfeeding, you can try different positions to find what works best for you and your baby. Here are some positions to help you take the lead and bring your baby to your breast:

Front hold or cradle position 

cradle hold

  • Sit upright comfortably in a chair, with your baby positioned on his side in this classic tummy-to-mummy position.
  • This position might not always be easy with a newborn because it doesn’t give your baby as much support. You’ll need a breastfeeding pillow across your lap plus a cushion behind you to avoid strain on your back or shoulders.

Underarm position or Rugby/football hold 

rugby hold

  • Sit upright comfortably in a chair, with your baby resting along your forearm and his body tucked alongside your side with his feet towards the chair.
  • This position supports your baby well, and makes your baby feel safe. It’s a good position for mums who have larger breasts, or have had a C-section, twins, or a premature baby.

Double Rugby/Football hold

double rugby hold

  • Sit upright comfortably in a wide chair, bed  or couch, with your babies resting along each forearm and babies body tucked alongside each side with feet towards the chair.
  • This position supports your babies well, and makes your babies feel safe. It’s a good position for mums who have larger breasts, or have had a C-section, twins, or a premature baby.
  • You may also find a support pillow such as a triangle shape or twin breastfeeding pillow will take some of the weight and allow you to sit upright.

Side-lying position

side lying position

  • Good for night feeds and afternoon rests, you and your baby lie on your sides next to each other, belly-to-belly.
  • This position may be more comfortable if you’ve had a C-section, but Raising Children warns not to go to sleep with your baby in this position.

Koala hold or upright position

 

  • In this position, your baby sits straddling your thigh or hip with his back and head upright as he feeds. You can sit in a chair or the bed, slightly reclined.
  • You can do this hold with a newborn if you give your baby support, and it is often the most comfortable position for babies who suffer from reflux or ear infections, or babies with tongue tie, according to Medela. 

dangle feeding

 

These are just some of the breastfeeding positions you could try, but whichever ones you prefer, gather everything you need first, such as a glass of water, a book, and a snack. Make sure you’re both comfortable, and check that your baby is latching correctly. A good latch is vital for a comfortable and successful breastfeeding journey. If you’re not sure about your baby’s attachment, or you’re in pain or uncomfortable, seek support from a lactation consultant.

 

MedelaRaising ChildrenAustralian Breastfeeding Association

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