There are a number of breastfeeding holds. Some of the most well known and best positions for breastfeeding are the cradle hold, the cross cradle hold, the football or clutch hold, and the side lying or lying down position. There is also a less heard of but amazingly natural position called laid back breastfeeding or Biological Nurturing. The best position is the one where you and your baby are the most comfortable.
When nursing your baby in any position make sure you are somewhere comfortable and supportive. A nursing pillow or any type of pillow can help. I found the most comfortable places to nurse to be good recliners, gliders, in bed, or on my couch. You will need to make sure your back is supported. Try not to lean over your baby too much because this can result in a back ache. You may need to support your breast with your free hand in some of these positions.
The cradle hold
This is probably the most traditional and common way of holding your baby while feeding. It works better with an older baby who has head control. This is my most used daily position once my babies are past the newborn stage.
Hold your baby with the arm that is on the same side as the breast you are using to feed. Your baby's head rests on your arm while you support her back and legs with your forearm and hand. It's important to make sure that your baby's body is aligned facing you while you bring your baby's head to your breast.
The cross cradle hold
This position is usually better for newborns. When I had my second baby I tried to feed him using the cradle hold but was having trouble keeping my son attached. The lactation consultant at the hospital pointed out that the cradle hold was better for an older baby. She showed me how I would get a better latch and make things easier with the cross cradle hold. She was right, and it worked much better.
For the cross cradle hold you hold your baby with the arm that is opposite from the breast you are using to feed. Your baby's bottom and legs will rest in the crook of your arm while your hand holds his neck and head. Your baby should be aligned facing you. You can then you use the hand on the same side that you are feeding to help guide his head to your breast and add additional support.
The football hold
This is a good position for women who have had a c section or twin mothers. Your baby is placed on your side, near the breast you want to feed him with and tucked against you while your arm and hand support his neck and head. This position keeps weight off of your stomach and can also give you good control of your breast and baby's head .
It is much easier to understand these positions by seeing them. I have included a brief video that covers these three positions.
The side lying or lying down position
This is a comfortable position for getting some rest because it allows you to lay comfortably or sleep while baby is nursing. If you do co-sleep with your baby make sure you read about safe sleeping here.
To nurse your baby in this position lay down on your side with as many pillows as you need to support your head and back. Hold your baby facing you with his head supported by your lower arm. You can also use this arm to guide your baby closer to you. You can use your other hand to help get him latched on. Once baby is comfortably nursing you can prop a pillow behind him and move your arm away if it is getting sore.
To switch sides some like to roll over and nurse on the other side or some use a small pillow to raise baby up to the other breast. I just kind of leaned forward and could nurse easily from either breast depending on how much I leaned over.
The side lying position is a life saver for those times you just need sleep. Or you're sick, or your baby is sick and will not sleep, or you're traveling and baby won't sleep anywhere but near you... you get the idea!
The laid back breastfeeding position
Also called, Biological Nurturing. This is probably the most comfortable and natural way to nurse your baby. I don't believe it is heard of or taught as frequently as the more common positions. This is when you lay back but somewhat upright in a comfortable place and let your baby lay on top of you. Make sure your back and neck are well supported. This worked best for me on a couch, recliner, or a bed with pillows propping me up. Lay baby on top of you with their head near your breast. Your baby should be able to latch on and gravity will keep him on top of you.
I wish I had heard of laid back breastfeeding when I had my daughter. Every time I attempted to nurse her in the early days I was sitting up using a cradle hold and very uncomfortable. While it seems so easy and obvious to me now, back then I really thought I needed to be completely upright and supporting her on a pillow. We did get the hang of it but it was hard in the beginning. When I had my son I used a combination of cross cradle hold and laid back breastfeeding from the beginning and it was much easier.
I would love to hear from you. Let me know, what's your favorite feeding position?