Hi mamas! I’m Kristin Gourley, IBCLC. I’m a mom to 5 and lactation consultant with Lactation Link. I’m here today to talk about the pros and cons for various breastfeeding positions. Enjoy!
In many breastfeeding pictures you come across on social media or in other places, you may notice that lots of moms feed in a cradle or cross-cradle position. In fact, many hospital nurses are only familiar with cradle positions! Our in-person and video classes, however, go over many different breastfeeding positions commonly used for breastfeeding. It can be great to have all these different tools in your toolbox for when baby is tired, distracted, you need to rest, your nipples are sore, or baby is having trouble latching.
What are the positions?
Check out our classes for detailed information and video how-to’s, but some great breastfeeding positions are:
- Cradle & cross cradle
- Laid back / Biological Nurturing
- Side lying
As baby gets older and more acrobatic in his nursing, you may notice that you experience some very creative and non-traditional breastfeeding positions! In general, any position is just fine as long as mom is comfortable and baby is able to get all the milk he needs.
Which breastfeeding positions should I use?
The answer to what position you should use is just like the answer to so many breastfeeding questions- it depends! Baby’s age and size, your breast size and shape, the type of birth you had and how you’re recovering, and many other things can influence what position you’ll find most comfortable for you and your baby.
I’m going to go over the most common breastfeeding positions and give some pros and cons to them to help you decide what might be best for you. Remember that sometimes you don’t know if you’ll like it until you try!
Pros & Cons to Breastfeeding Positions
Cradle & cross cradle
- The most common positions and your nurse at the hospital is probably familiar with them and can help you adjust some
- When latching baby with the cross-cradle, you can help steady his head and bring him gently and quickly to your breast when he opens wide. Sometimes moms can be nervous and this position can help them feel more in control!
- Many moms find cradling baby’s head in their forearm/elbow to feel comfortable and natural, and leaves their other arm to do something else (hold a remote or reach for that snack!)
- Many nursing pillows are designed for the cradle positions and can help raise baby higher without too much strain from mom, and can help position baby tummy-to-tummy with mom.
- When nursing in public, this position covers your postpartum tummy with baby’s body!
- Many moms use this position successfully from baby’s birth day until weaning day, no matter how old baby is when that happens!
- Many moms who had a cesarean birth find this position most comfortable since it doesn’t press baby’s body onto your abdomen.
- It is usually able to be used with nursing pillows, especially if you rotate the pillow to your side.
- You can steady baby’s head with your hand as you bring him gently and quickly to your breast when he opens wide.
- Some moms find baby latches better and seems more cozy in this position since they are so tight against mom and their legs don’t hang at all. If baby is sleepy, though, it might make baby fall right to sleep due to the coziness.
- Depending on baby’s size and mom’s breast size, football position can be tricky in public. It’s generally easier to achieve a good latch when you have pillows behind you, which isn’t always possible at a restaurant or the mall!
- Usually most compatible with smaller and younger babies.
Laid back / Biological Nurturing
- This is a great position for mom to relax or even catch a little nap with her feet up!
- Some babies are more comfortable on their tummies, and this position allows baby to be on his tummy.
- This is a great position to try when skin to skin.
- Baby takes the lead with this position, which can feel strange for mom at first.
- It can feel very tricky at first, but remember that practice makes perfect! Some moms find that having an IBCLC help them with this position for the first time to be helpful. Many moms I see have their husbands help them the first few times with this one as they learn how to position baby and their breasts. Other times Mom can sit back and watch baby latch unassisted.
- Being laid back can be great for mamas with oversupply or a forceful letdown because gravity helps to slow down the milk flow for baby. Babies who get frustrated by choking on the milk in other positions often like this one.
- Can be used with any age or size of baby.
- Even if you are primarily using another position, reclining some can make any position more comfortable and prevent painful hunching over baby.
- This can be a good position if you’ve had a difficult birth and it’s uncomfortable for you to sit for long periods.
- Some moms find this position comes naturally, but some moms need a little help figuring out where to put their arms, breasts, and baby. Having another person help position baby at first can be helpful, too.
- This is not the best position for nursing in public since we don’t often have access to a bed or comfy spot to lay down and nurse when not at home.
- Of course, this is one of the best positions for mom to take a nap while feeding! Just grab a nursing nightgown and a pillow for your head!
- Many moms use this position over the whole course of breastfeeding, no matter baby’s age!
Feel free to come back and go over these pros and cons when baby enters a new stage and you need to try something new– babies always keep us on our toes! For more information about how to achieve these positions, check out our Breastfeeding Basics class. If you’re trying a position and it’s just not working, don’t hesitate to try another one and contact us for a consult to give you some personalized support. Remember that the only rule when it comes to breastfeeding positions is that both mom and baby are comfortable and baby is getting what she needs!
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Thanks for stopping by,
Kristin Gourley, BS, IBCLC
Wilson-Clay, B. & Hoover, K. (2017). Positioning and latch in The Breastfeeding Atlas, 6th ed. Manchaca, Texas: LactNews Press.
Lauwers, J. & Swisher, A. (2011). Getting breastfeeding started in Counseling the nursing mother: A lactation consultant’s guide, 5th ed. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.