Updated: Apr 10
Breastfeeding a newborn can feel very challenging. Even when breastfeeding has no barriers, there is definitely a steep learning curve when you think about how to both hold your newborn baby AND help them latch on to the nipple to get a good latch for comfortable breastfeeding. Many times, mothers find themselves feeling like they need more hands than God gave them in order to comfortably breastfeed. The good news is that with a little support (physical and emotional) and practice, most new moms find a breastfeeding position that works well for them and their baby.
The first step to finding your ideal breastfeeding position is to get comfortable! When I’m working with doula clients in the hospital, preparing for that first latch, I often hear nurses recommending they sit STRAIGHT up, hold their newborn in a cradle or cross cradle position, and smoosh baby’s face into the boob. This is NOT how I recommend attempting your first latch! I often guide parents toward the laid back position we will discuss below. However, it is important to work with what feels right for mom and baby. Breastfeeding is never one-size-fits-all.
Today I will share some common breastfeeding positions and share which breastfeeding positions are best for a good, deep latch for feeding your newborn!
Common breastfeeding positions you’ll probably hear the most in the hospital are cross cradle hold, cradle hold, and football hold. But there are a few more positions that aren’t always talked about as much, but that most mothers eventually find themselves utilizing. These are “biological breastfeeding positions” such as laid back breastfeeding, side-lying breastfeeding position, and one of my favorites, and least talked about, “the Koala Hold”!
Let's talk about these six breastfeeding positions and which one might be best for you.
Must Know Secret To Comfortable Breastfeeding Positions
Before we get started, I’m going to share with you the secret to improving all breastfeeding positions when they feel tricky: Belly - to- Body
Baby’s Ear, Shoulder, and Hip are in alignment
Baby’s chin is extended, not tucked
Without ensuring your baby’s belly is against your body, baby’s body is in alignment, and the chin is extended, your baby is likely to end up in an uncomfortable position in which they feel twisted and uncomfortable, making latching difficult or even impossible. For EVERY breastfeeding position, these three criteria should be met.
Cradle Hold Breastfeeding Position
The Cradle Hold is one of the most common breastfeeding positions. Imagine the way you would naturally cradle a baby, except the baby is nursing. This position seems easy and natural enough, but sometimes the cradle hold can feel like you need more hands than you have. It’s also very easy for a baby nursing in this position to end up twisting away from mom’s body, and therefore proper alignment.
If you’re using the cradle hold, I recommend using pillows to support your baby’s body / your cradle arm, and using your opposite hand to facilitate latching. Nursing pillows can be great for this position, however, I often find that they don’t offer enough height, and therefore I still often stack regular bed pillows under the elbow, and under the baby.
Cross Cradle Hold Breastfeeding Position
Cross Cradle is similar to the cradle position, but instead of the baby’s head being near the crook of your elbow, you will use your arm to support the baby's body, with your hand supporting the baby's neck. Most women then use their free hand to assist with latching.
I personally find it slightly easier to ensure baby’s alignment using this position, however it can sometimes feel unnatural and a wiggly baby can make it feel stressful for some parents. Again, I find that using pillows for support can help build confidence with this positon. I’m going to be honest with you… I recommend moms use like 93739389 billion pillows when learning to feed their baby. It won’t always be necessary once you gain confidence, and they gain strength and skill, but there is no such thing as too many pillows in the early days of breastfeeding.
Football Hold Breastfeeding Position
I personally have a love-hate relationship with football hold. When I was first learning to breastfeed, it seemed like a tricky position that I thought would be easier than it was. But as I became more experienced with feeding, I found that there were certain babies who really thrive in this position.
I also break one of my own cardinal rules….Whenever I’m assisting a mom with latching, I recommend baby being down to a diaper and skin to skin with mom, placing a blanket over for warmth once latch is established. However, someeettimeess I find that for a football hold, swaddling baby makes it feel less like a battle. Holding a baby burrito in this position is easier for me personally than holding a wiggle worm. Also… all the pillows help to reduce strain on mom’s arm and simulate more of a relaxing “side lying like position” for baby.
Laid-Back Breastfeeding Position
Laid Back Breastfeeding is often referred to as “biological Breastfeeding”. This is one of my FAVORITE positions to teach a new mom. It’s actually one of the most natural breastfeeding positions, but since we rarely hear about it or see it, it can seem awkward at first.
For laid back feeding you literally just need to lay back. Get comfy. This is a GREAT position for the first latch! Usually if this position isn’t working it’s because you’re not laying back enough. I don’t usually recommend flat on the back, but reclined significantly so that you’re comfortable and your baby can just lay on top of you. Baby can lay on you whichever way works best, across your body, with feet down toward your pelvis, or whatever creative way works best for you. This position requires the baby to be belly to belly. It usually facilitates neck extension, and relaxes mom enough that feeding goes smoother. Sometimes mom’s physical tension can cause the baby to feel physically tense, making feeding more uncomfortable.
This position is especially great for baby’s dealing with tongue ties, inability to control let down, and other nursing challenges.
Side-lying Breastfeeding Position
Sidelying breastfeeding position is similar to laid back in that it encourages great alignment and foundations of a good position. Sidelying is a great position to get used to as it helps mom relax and can be great for sleepy feeds for baby. Sidelying position is fantastic for families who are bed-sharing, to reduce energy consumption during night feeds.
The Koala Hold
The Koala Hold is when you nurse your baby in a sitting up position against your body, where they look like a cute little Koala bear. This position is especially useful for babies dealing with laryngomalacia or symptoms of acid reflux as it helps them stay in an upright position which is important for managing their symptoms.
Getting Help With Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is never one size fits all, and there are times that any of the above positions could be the best option for you and your baby. If breastfeeding isn’t working in one position, try another. While changing positions may not solve underlying feeding issues, the switch up could help reduce discomfort while other breastfeeding challenges are being addressed.
If you are pregnant and ready to learn more about breastfeeding, book a prenatal breastfeeding appointment today. When you book a prenatal breastfeeding appointment with Jaimie, you’ll get FREE Access to Breastfeeding With Confidence, a self paced online breastfeeding basics course valued at $45. You’ll learn the basics of breastfeeding positions, latching, how milk is made, how to know your baby is getting enough milk, common breastfeeding challenges and simple solutions for overcoming most breastfeeding challenges. Additionally, you’ll get a 1:1 Private meeting with Jaimie where you will discuss all of your personal breastfeeding questions and concerns, evaluate your medical history to assess for any possible risk factors, and work together to create a personalized feeding plan so that you can begin breastfeeding with confidence.
If you’re a new mama needing help navigating breastfeeding challenges, including painful latch, low milk supply, reflux, sore nipples, or other concerns, you can book a postpartum breastfeeding support visit with Jaimie where she will evaluate your feeding skills, evaluate your breasts, evaluate baby’s oral motor skills, and help you determine the best next steps toward improving your breastfeeding experience.
CLICK HERE to learn more about booking a prenatal or postpartum lactation consult with Jaimie. Jaimie offers insurance covered and self-paid options for both in-home lactation consults in Wichita Falls, Texas and via Telehealth.
Jaimie Zaki is a mother of 4, Air Force Wife, Birth Doula, Licensed Practical Nurse, and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) living in Wichita Falls, Texas. Jaimie offers insurance covered home visits for families in North Texas and Telehealth Lactation Support for families outside of her service region. Jaimie has been breastfeeding her own babies since 2015, supporting breastfeeding women as a La Leche League Leader and Certified Breastfeeding Specialist since 2016, and has been an IBCLC since 2020. Jaimie is eager to support you on your breastfeeding journey by providing prenatal and postpartum breastfeeding support. If you need help breastfeeding, connect with Jaimie now!