14 Top Breastfeeding Positions For Moms And Babies [Popular Choices + Hidden Gems]

August is National Breastfeeding Month and here at Ready, Set, Food!, we support each and every parent’s decision on how to feed and nourish their families.That’s why we’re proud to join National Breastfeeding Month in helping build a landscape of breastfeeding support. In this article, you’ll learn 14 different breastfeeding positions to help yourself and your baby get comfortable and promote successful feedings. We’ve included popular choices, plus options you may not have heard of before.

Choosing the right breastfeeding position helps you make sure that both you and your baby are comfortable during a feed. Plus, the right position helps baby latch onto your breast properly, and remove milk well. Good positioning also helps keep you from developing breastfeeding problems, including engorgement, soreness, clogged ducts, and mastitis.

It may take time – and a lot of experimenting – to find the most comfortable breastfeeding position for you both. But after you’ve had some practice, you’ll know the position(s) you and baby prefer, and you’ll be able to settle in right away!

Previously, we covered 6 of the most popular breastfeeding positions, including the cradle hold, laid-back nursing, and the side-lying position.

Today, we've brought back a few of the mainstays, plus even more of our favorite breastfeeding positions for moms and babies (including a few tailored to specific breastfeeding needs). So, you'll have even more options to try. 

“Must-Dos” for any breastfeeding position

First, here are the “must-dos” for comfortable breastfeeding – no matter what position you choose. 

  • Baby's whole body needs to face the breast.
    • Face their stomach towards your body.
    • Check that their hip, shoulder, and ear make a straight line.
  • Keep baby’s head straight in line with their body. 
    • It shouldn’t be turned to the side. 
    • Make sure baby's head, neck, and spine aren’t twisted around.
    • As you bring baby to your breast, keep your back straight.
      • Never hunch over baby, as this can make latching a lot more difficult for baby.
      • Never try to force your breast into baby's mouth.
    • Baby must always be well-supported while they nurse, whether that's with your hands and arms, pillows, or a sling.
      • A pillow or nursing pillow can make positioning and supporting baby easier. You can use the pillow to elevate baby so they're in line with the breast.
    • Keep baby's body close to your breast.
      • That way, they won't pull on your nipple while feeding.
    • Use cushions, pillows, or rolled towels to support your back and arms, as needed.
      • These may help make breastfeeding more comfortable.

    If you’ve tried several breastfeeding positions and you can’t find a comfortable one, or you think baby is having trouble latching on, talk to a lactation consultant.

    Without further ado, here are 14 breastfeeding positions to try. 

    cross cradle hold

    1. Cross-cradle hold

    The cross-cradle hold is a great breastfeeding position to start with, or to use if your baby is having trouble latching on. With this position, it's easy to check if baby is latching onto your breast properly, since baby’s mouth and your nipple are in view. Plus, it offers lots of support for baby.

    • If you’re feeding on the left side, hold baby’s head with your right hand. If you’re feeding on the right side, hold baby’s head with your left hand. (So, your arm will go across your body.)
    • Support baby’s head and neck:
      • Put your wrist between baby’s shoulder blades. 
      • Put your thumb behind one of baby’s ears.
      • Put your other fingers behind their other ear. 
    • To support the rest of baby’s body, hold baby’s body close to you with the same forearm you’re holding their head with (the one that’s going across your body). 
    • Keep baby’s stomach touching your body, and let their legs pass under the arm that’s going across your body
    • If baby needs more support, prop up baby with a nursing pillow or other pillow.
    • Use your free hand (the one closest to your breast) to help baby latch. 
      • Form a C-shape with your hand, and cup the breast. 
      •  Your thumb should be right above your nipple and areola, where baby’s nose will touch your breast.
      • Your index finger should be below your nipple and areola, where baby’s chin will touch your breast.
      • Lightly squeeze your breast with your cupped hand.
    • Point the nipple up towards baby’s nose, and let baby latch.
    • Once baby has latched, place your free hand and forearm around them if their body needs more support.
    side lying cradle hold

    2. Side-lying cradle

    This position combines side-lying and the cradle hold (we covered both of those positions on our first breastfeeding positions list). It isn’t as well-known as the two positions it comes from, but this hidden gem offers great support. 

    • Lie back on a bed, sofa, or large pillow. 
    • Shift so you’re resting on your side, with baby positioned right beside you.
    • In this position, get ready to cradle baby. 
    • Rest baby's head and neck in the crook of one of your elbows. 
    • Support baby's torso and back with the same-side forearm and hand.
    • Use your other hand to help guide baby's mouth to the breast.
    • Once baby latches on, you can use that hand to support baby's bottom as needed.

    Make sure there are no extra blankets or pillows surrounding baby when you use any  side-lying position. Excess bedding could pose a suffocation hazard. Side-lying positions are also unsafe to use on waterbeds, couches, and recliners, as the cushion or mattress could surround and potentially suffocate baby. 

    inverted side lying hold

    3. Inverted side-lying 

    If you want to breastfeed lying on your side, you can also try positioning baby so that their legs are by your head (instead of having their tummy touching your tummy). This may help if you have painful nipples, because it encourages a different-angled latch (baby won't be putting as much pressure on the sore spot). It can also help you drain more of your breasts, and may be more comfortable after a C-section.

    • Lie down completely on your side with your knees bent. 
    • Have baby lie on their side so their tummy faces you and their feet point towards your head. Their face should look right at your breast.
    • Baby's mouth should be lined up with your nipple.
    • Use the hand you aren't lying on to cup your breast. Make a C-shape with your hand and lightly squeeze so the nipple and areola come forward.

    Make sure there are no extra blankets or pillows surrounding baby when you use any  side-lying position. Excess bedding could pose a suffocation hazard. Side-lying positions are also unsafe to use on waterbeds, couches, and recliners, as the cushion or mattress could surround and potentially suffocate baby. 

    Prone breastfeeding hold

    4. Prone breastfeeding 

    “Prone breastfeeding” simply means lying flat on your back. It’s similar to laid-back breastfeeding, but you don’t have to prop up your head, neck, and back if you don’t want to.  

    This is a super comfortable position that can also slow an overactive letdown. It also taps into baby’s natural instincts to move towards the breast if you’re lying down and they’re on top of you. So, it works well when you’re just starting to breastfeed. Just make sure you're awake when you use this position.

    • Lie flat on your back.
    • You can use pillows to support your head, neck, and shoulders, if that helps you get more comfortable. But this isn’t necessary.
    • Place baby tummy to tummy so they’re near your breast. 
      • Ideally, both of your stomachs should be bare, so you can do skin-to-skin contact with baby.
      • You can hold baby so they’re already looking at the breast, or let them find their way towards the breast on their own and settle. Just make sure the front of their body stays touching your body.
    • Support baby’s head with your elbow, and support baby’s back with your forearm. 
    • Baby's arms should be spread out, one on either side of your breast. 
    • If needed, cup your hand in a C around your breast, and lightly squeeze so the nipple and areola move up towards baby, to encourage a good latch.
    • Gravity will help baby stay latched on. 

    adapted reclining hold

    5. Adapted reclining hold

    This variation on laid-back breastfeeding works well after a C-section, as it keeps baby from putting pressure on your wound. 

    • Lie flat on your back.
    • You can use pillows to support your head, neck, and shoulders, if that helps you get more comfortable. But this isn’t necessary.
    • Place baby across your shoulder on the side you want them to feed on.
      • The front of their body should be touching your shoulder. 
      • You can position them so they can already see the breast, or let them find the breast on their own.  
      • Baby's arms should be spread out, one on either side of your breast. 
    • If baby needs assistance, help your baby latch on.
    • Support baby’s head and body with your other arm, as needed. 

    Breastfeeding from a sling or carrier

    You can breastfeed using almost any baby carrier, whether it’s a ring sling, upright carrier, or wrap. There are several positions you can use, but you must always be able to see baby’s face, and you must always keep baby’s chin off their chest. Keep baby’s back supported at all times. 

    sling/carrier upright hold

    6. Cradle Hold: From a sling or carrier

    With a baby carrier, ring sling, or wrap sling, it’s easiest to use the upright hold:

    • Hold baby so their spine and head stay upright.
    • Support their back with the carrier.
    • Also, support their back and lower body with one of your arms.
    • Help baby latch on as needed.
    • Make sure their chin stays off their chest during the feed. 
    sling/carrier cradle hold

    7. Upright Hold: From a sling or carrier

    With a ring sling, you can also try a cradle hold:

    • Support baby’s bottom with the hand closest to the breast you’d like to feed on (don’t lift, just hold.)
    • Loosen the ring sling. 
    • Move the other hand down to support baby’s bottom. Once that hand’s in place, use the hand closest to your breast to support baby’s head and neck. 
    • Turn baby into the cradle position, where baby’s head rests on the elbow closest to your breast, and you support baby’s back and bottom with that forearm and hand. 
    • Make sure the fabric of the sling cups under baby’s bottom, baby’s legs are together, and there’s sling fabric between you and baby.  Tighten the sling with your free hand, if needed.  
    • Help baby latch on. 
    • Use sling fabric to support the bottom of baby’s neck, but never pull fabric over their neck or head. 
    • Once you’re finished, always return baby to a tight and upright position. 

    Laurna of Oscha Slings walks you through the cradle hold in a ring sling: 

     

    football hold

    8. Football hold

    The football hold (clutch hold) is one of the most popular breastfeeding positions, So, even though we’ve covered it before, we decided to include it on this list as well.

    • On the side you want baby to nurse from, position baby at your side and under your arm, so they’re facing you. 
    • Let their legs go under your arm, so they extend past your back. This will look like you’re holding a football. 
    • Using your hand from the same arm, support baby’s head. 
    • Let baby’s body rest along that forearm for support. 
    • If you and baby need more support, place a nursing pillow or other pillow under baby. 
    • Baby’s chin should touch the lower part of your breast.
    • Help baby latch – cup and lightly squeeze your breast with your free hand.
    alternative football hold

    9. Alternative football hold (upright football hold)

    This modified football hold can assist babies who have a cleft palate, or simply offer added support during a feed. In this variation, baby is slightly upright. 

    • On the side you want baby to nurse from, position baby at your side and under your arm, so they’re facing you. 
    • Prop baby’s head, neck, and back up using a pillow, so they are upright. They should look like they’re wrapped around your body. 
    • Keep their stomach and chest facing your body. 
    • Support their back with the hand closest to your breast, and support their back and upper body with your forearm.
    • Baby’s arms should be on either side of your breast. 
    • Help baby latch with your free hand. 
    dancer hand hold

    10. Dancer hand hold

    If baby has Down syndrome, low muscle tone, is a preemie, or struggles to latch for any reason, the dancer hand position can help baby get the deep latch needed for successful breastfeeding. It gives you more control of their positioning and latch, so it’s easier for you to help them. Plus, the latch is in clear view.

    • Sit up on a bed, recliner, or couch.
    • Support baby’s back with one arm and hand. 
    • With your other hand, cup your breast from underneath, so your hand forms a U shape. 
    • Move that hand forward, so your thumb and index finger stay in a U shape, in front of your other fingers. Support the breast with the other fingers as well.
    • Rest baby’s jaw between your thumb and index finger.
    • Your thumb should gently hold one of baby’s cheeks, and your index finger should gently hold the other cheek.
    koala hold

    11. Koala hold

    In this position, you hold baby upright and let their legs straddle one of your legs. 

    Although the koala hold (or straddle hold) is most commonly used with older babies who can sit unaided, you can still use it with younger babies, and even newborns, if you give them lots of support. If baby had an ear infection or reflux, they might like being upright best. And if your baby has Down syndrome or otherwise has low muscle tone, a supported koala hold also works well.

    • Sit upright. 
    • Position baby on your thigh (on the same side as the breast they'll be feeding from).
    • Have their legs straddle your thigh.
    • Hold baby so their spine and head stay upright. 
    • Use one arm to hold them up so their back is supported. Baby's side should be be in the crook of your elbow, and your forearm should support their torso.
    • Your hand (on the same side) should support their head.
    • Use your other hand to help them latch.
    • Once they've latched on, use that hand to support baby's lower body.

    Bonus: Breastfeeding positions for holding two babies at once

    If you’re breastfeeding twins or multiples, there are some breastfeeding positions that let you feed two babies at once. Here are the most common ones:

    Double football hold

    12. Double football hold

    • Position each baby under one of your arms, and facing your breast, in a football hold. 
    • Support their heads with your palms and their backs with your inside forearms. 
    • You may need a nursing pillow to help support your babies in this position.

    double cradle hold

    13. Double cradle hold

    • Have each baby’s head rest in the bend of one of your elbows. 
    • Support their backs with your hands and forearms, with your wrists crossed over each other. 

    combined football and cradle hold

    14. Combined football and cradle hold

    • Position one baby in a football hold – under your arm and facing the breast, with that hand supporting their head and forearm supporting their back.
    • Position the other baby in a cradle hold –rest their head on the crook of your elbow, and support their back with that hand. 

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