Breastfeeding Positions

Holding On Basic Breastfeeding Positions

“Women tell me, ‘I was so worried about labor and birth that I didn’t give a thought to breastfeeding,'” says Angela Hewitt, R.N., IBCLC, in Katy, Texas. “An important part of my job is teaching women that if they are comfortable when breastfeeding, they’ll nurse longer.”

Whether you’re a first-time breastfeeding mother or merely in need of a refresher course, the following guide takes you step-by-step through the basic breastfeeding positions. These are the most common positions used by moms due to ease and comfort.

The Cross Cradle Hold

The cross cradle hold is also known as the transitional hold, the crossover hold or the transverse hold. This hold is achieved when you use your opposite hand (left hand for right breast and right hand for left breast) to support the back of the baby’s head, neck and shoulders, so that the baby is on his side with his stomach facing toward you. The baby’s body should be in a straight line with his head. The other hand (right hand for right breast and left hand for left breast) is used to cup the breast – placing your fingers beneath your breast and your thumb on top of your breast. Your nipple should be placed within the baby’s mouth and then the baby pulled against your body.

“At first, I could only get my son to latch with the cross cradle hold,” says Lucille Fanson of Chicago, Ill. “He is my second child. His mouth was a lot smaller than my daughter’s, and my nipple was larger than last time. He was also very sleepy, so this hold was great for rubbing him to keep him awake.”

This hold allows a higher level of support for both Mother and Baby. “A mother has more control of her baby and her breast in this position,” says Hewitt. “When I instruct new mothers, I first teach them the cross cradle hold.”

Newborns who are struggling to latch on are good candidates for this hold. “My son, Jacob, didn’t want to breastfeed,” says Hanna Bracker, mother of four in Denver, Colo. “He had a hard time breathing. When he relaxed, his larynx would cave in on itself. I called the La Leche League for help. Using the cross cradle hold and a few of their other suggestions, Jacob would curl up next to me and nurse.”

breastfeeding mother
breastfeeding positions

The Football Hold

The football hold, also known as the clutch hold, is when you use your same hand (left hand for left breast and right hand for right breast) to support the back of the baby’s head. The baby’s body and feet are tucked underneath the arm on same side the baby is nursing, so that his legs dangle behind you. Pillows can be used to bring the infant to the right level. The baby’s body should be in a straight line with his head. The other hand (left hand for right breast and right hand for left breast) is used to cup the breast – placing your fingers beneath your breast and your thumb on top of your breast. Your nipple should be placed within the baby’s mouth and then the baby pulled against your body.

“With my daughter, I used the football hold,” says Fanson. “My father-in-law was dying of cancer, and often he would sit right next to me and look at my daughter. Once, he picked up the blanket a little too soon and was sprayed right in the eye! We all had a good laugh over that.”

The football hold assists babies in fitting with their mother’s body type. “I am quite large-breasted,” says Evelyn Dogers of Bellevue, Wash. “When Dylan was first born, it was rather humorous, because my breasts were larger than his head. In order to give him some breathing space, I sometimes used the football hold.”

Smaller babies and those who struggle to latch on are excellent candidates for the football hold. This is because mothers can better control their baby’s position and their breast using this hold. “The football hold also works extremely well with premature babies,” says Hewitt.

Breastfeeding Positions for Newborns

The Cradle Hold

The cradle hold, also called the Madonna hold, is when you use your same hand (right hand for right breast and left hand for left breast) and forearm to support the back of the baby’s head and body, so that the baby is on his side with his stomach facing toward you. The baby’s body should be in a straight line with his head, although his legs may dangle to your stomach or thighs. The other hand (left hand for right breast and right hand for left breast) is used to cup the breast, placing your fingers beneath your breast and your thumb on top of your breast. Your nipple should be placed within the baby’s mouth and then the baby pulled against your body.

Leslie Moons of Baton Rouge, La., and Joyce Hamilton of Volga City, Iowa, both agree that the cradle hold is their favorite. “The cradle hold allows my daughter Laura to relax and nurse,” says Moons. “Now at 16 months, it keeps her feet and butt out of my face so we are both more comfortable. It also lets her know ‘Mama isn’t an all-day buffet.’ When I put her in the cradle hold, she has to choose to ‘eat or go and play.'”

The cradle hold also works well in public. “On our last anniversary, we all went to New Orleans for some shopping in the quarter,” Moons says. “When Laura decided it was time to eat, I put her in the sling and she nursed. A lady came up to me and pulled the sling aside and said, ‘Aren’t sleeping babies just the most precious?’ I said, ‘Yes, but she is having her lunch right now.'” According to Hewitt, the cradle hold is the most popular way for mothers to nurse their babies, whether at home or in public.

The Side-lying Hold

The side-lying hold, also called the reclining hold, is when you lie down on your side and hold the baby in the crook of your same arm (right arm for right breast and left arm for left breast) to support the back of the baby’s head and body. The baby should be on his side with his stomach facing toward you – stomach to stomach. The baby’s body should be in a straight line with his head. The other hand (right hand for left breast and left hand for right breast) is used to cup the breast, placing your fingers beneath your breast and your thumb on top of your breast. Your nipple should be placed within the baby’s mouth and then the baby pulled against your body.

The side-lying hold can be extremely comfortable, especially when pillows are used to relieve stress on the back. “It takes a little practice to get the baby to latch on properly,” says Fanson. “But at night, I breastfeed either lying down on my side or back.” Pillows can be placed under the arm or head and between the knees to find the perfect position.

Although Dogers first used the football hold to help her child breathe, she says, “The most comfortable position throughout has been lying on my side with Dylan nursing. It gives me a chance to relax. It also helps him to relax and not get distracted by other, more interesting things.”

A Combination of Holds

These positions are not exclusive. When a mother uses her dominant hand to hold her child, it can result in using a combination of positions. “For example, the left-handed mother might use the football hold on the left side and might use the cross cradle on the right,” says Karen Berry, R.N., IBCLC, and the director of Lactation Education Consultants in Wheaton, Ill. “Of course, once the latch is well established, the mother might slide her right arm around the baby, and then it will look like the traditional cradle hold.”

Regardless of the position you end up using, there are a few rules that apply to all of them. First, the baby should always be brought to you. Second, your posture should include sitting upright (except when using the side-lying hold). And third, pillows can make the experience even more comfortable. “When Emily was born, I used a pillow,” says Joyce. “This helped in positioning her little body. It also helped with the pain after my C-section.”

So what’s best for you? “Mothers should experiment with various breastfeeding positions,” says Hewitt. “After all, different ducts are emptied in the breast, depending on the child’s position.”

Berry sums it up nicely when she says, “If the mother is not comfortable, and she thinks she ‘has’ to hold her baby in a particular position, then it is possible that she might get discouraged. The best position is the one that is most comfortable and easiest to get the baby latched on well.”

Click on the link to reach our previous article: Breast Milk to Go – Helping Infants in Need of Nutrition

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