The Best Breastfeeding Positions for Mom and Baby
Whether you offer Baby the breast or a bottle, we'll help you past the feeding and nursing roadblocks. Learn how to breastfeed by trying four popular breastfeeding positions (cradle, cross-cradle, side-lying, and football) to find the best one for you and baby. For moms who are bottlefeeding, get basic tips on how to choose a formula and other ways to position your newborn.
Few moms think breastfeeding will come naturally—and they get put to the test in those first days and weeks. "It's supposed to be the most beautiful time in your life, yet you're full of insecurities, not knowing if you're doing it right," says Irene Zoppi, RN, a certified lactation consultant outside Boston and a clinical education specialist with Medela. Moms who choose the bottle have questions too. But relax—feeding your baby is a process you'll soon master. In time, you'll both fall into a rhythm.
Sit with baby lengthwise across your abdomen (use a pillow to bring him to breast height). Your elbow supports his head and your hand supports his bottom. Your other hand supports the breast. If you're feeding with your left breast, the baby should be cradled in your left arm—and vice versa.
Who likes it? This is a common position for older babies who can easily latch. But Margaret Bauer, of Keller, Texas, used it to nurse her daughter Hailey. "She was so small, and it just felt comfortable to me," Bauer says. Note: it's a little harder to control baby's head when nursing in this position.
The Cross Cradle
Lay baby on her side, well supported (consider a nursing pillow) and touching you. If you're feeding on your left breast, use your right arm to support baby's body and your right hand to support her head. Your fingers support the left breast.
Who likes it? Many moms prefer this breastfeeding position during the first few weeks since it offers the most control. Jennifer Macchiarola, of Basking Ridge, New Jersey, naturally fell into it with her three kids: "It felt instinctual and nurturing—I liked how most of my body touched theirs while nursing."
To feed on the left breast, lie on your left side with your back supported. Lay baby on his side facing you, his chest against yours. Your right arm will support his body, and your right hand will support his head, bringing him toward your breast. Some mothers are more comfortable with the baby supported in the crook of their arm, as pictured here. A pillow behind your baby's back can prevent him from rolling away as he's feeding.
Who likes it? It's a popular hold during first feeds and at night. "This position is a cinch when your baby wakes you in the night or in the morning when you're already lying down," says new mother Christine O'Brien, of Bayside, New York, whose daughter Sophia is three months old. But before trying this breastfeeding position, it's best if baby can latch first.
- RELATED: 31 Breastfeeding Secrets
The Football Hold
Hold baby at your side face up and lengthwise, supported by pillows. If nursing on your right side, use your right arm to support baby at your side, and guide her head to your breast.
Who likes it? Bridget Pelosi, of Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, says this was a favorite breastfeeding position for her with both of her sons, who were on the bigger side. Plus, it's great for beginners: "It's an easy hold, so I could concentrate on the latching and then tinker with mastering other positions," Pelosi says. This hold is also a helpful option after a cesarean section, since it will keep your baby away from your incision.
While breastfeeding is touted as the healthiest mealtime option, formula-fed babies can thrive too. Tips to clear up confusion surrounding feeding time:
Choose the right formula
- Decide whether you'll use ready-to-feed liquid, concentrate, or powder.
- Then pick your base: cow's milk (look for an iron-fortified formula), soy (only if your baby can't digest lactose), or specialized milk (for medical purposes).
When it comes time to feed, position baby (and bottle) just right
- Cradle her in an upright position and support her head.
- Don't feed her lying down -- formula can flow into her ear, causing infection.
- Tilt the bottle so formula fills the neck of the bottle and covers the nipple. (This will prevent Baby from swallowing air as she sucks.)
- RELATED: How to Prepare Baby Formula
Play it safe when it comes to formula
- Make sure all bottles, nipples, and other utensils are clean. Boil them in water if your water is nonchlorinated. Otherwise, wash them in the dishwasher.
- Refrigerate any preprepared formula; toss if not used within 24 hours.
- To warm refrigerated or frozen milk, put the bottle in warm water and turn often until it reaches room temp (test a few drops on the inside of your wrist).
More Quick Nursing Tips
- Switch sides when bottlefeeding baby, just like you do when nursing. This simple move promotes visual stimulation and development.
- Baby won't latch on? Can't position him properly? Call in the experts. A certified lactation consultant can give you valuable information and a major confidence boost. To find one, call your local hospital.
- "Breastfeeding is a process that evolves over time," says Stacey Rubin, MN, author of The ABCs of Breastfeeding (AMACOM). Stick with it, she says, and with practice you'll become a pro.
The Right Combination
Many moms—especially when they go back to work—decide to combo-feed: they nurse when they're with their baby, and a caregiver feeds her formula. This partial approach allows you to still reap the health benefits of breastfeeding and bond with your child. However, to prevent engorgement, it's best to nurse right before you leave for work and as soon as you return. By week's end, your milk supply may have dwindled, so be prepared to supplement with some formula over the weekend.
- RELATED: Combining Breastfeeding With Formula