There is a set of common breastfeeding positions which you can use to comfortably and confidently hold your baby while nursing. You can test these out with a teddy bear before Baby is even born!
This post supplements my eBook
Breastfeeding or Formula? A Real Simple Guide to Feeding Your Newborn Baby.
A fascinating development in newborn breastfeeding is natural breastfeeding. I realize that this sounds a bit redundant, so let me explain.
Essentially newborns are equipped at birth with special reflexes, which allow them to “belly crawl” from Mother’s abdomen to her breast to initiate nursing on their own! Combine this ability with the fact that mamas are often exhausted right after giving birth, natural breastfeeding allows the baby to do what they’re literally programmed to do. They don’t have to fight gravity, can easily get a deep latch (which means no pain for Mom!), and there are no worries about the right position or hold. I personally haven’t gotten to try this with my babies, but I am so excited to do this if I ever have another baby! Reading more about it and watching videos really helps you to see that this makes so much sense, especially when you think about what all other mammals do right after birth to initiate nursing. I’ve also seen this position called the “laid back” position, and it works well lounging in bed supported by pillows. Here’s another article about natural breastfeeding.
The football hold is a great position for newborns – it only requires one arm, and is also great for women healing from C-section because the baby does not need to go across your abdomen. This position works best if you are sitting up in bed, propped up by pillows. Put your baby on his back, with his feet pointing behind you. Put your hand on the back of his head and guide him up to the breast he is going to nurse on. If you have a very large newborn, or once your child starts to gain weight, you may find that you do better with an extra pillow under your forearm for support. (You’ll feel like a wide receiver going for the touchdown with the baby tucked under your arm – hence the name).
The cradle hold is another great position: you hold your baby with one arm like you are cradling them, and guide them across your body to the breast. Usually the back of their head will fit into the crook (inner elbow) of your arm, and your hand will support their bottom. This position will work best when your baby is quite small, or if you have smaller breasts. Even with my 6 pound newborn, this position didn’t work for us for long!
One of my personal favorite positions is the cross cradle hold – this is where you use one arm to guide baby to the opposite breast. For example, if it is time for me to nurse on my left breast, I would use my right hand and my right forearm to support Baby as I bring him up to nurse. Make sure you keep their little heads supported at all times! I usually wrap my other arm around underneath to prevent fatigue, and to give extra support. When I’m out and about and need to nurse without a pillow, this is still my go-to… and my baby is nearly a year old. It feels stable and secure.
The side lying position is another great position for newborns, and is also super easy for both Baby and Mama. You lay on your side on a flat firm surface (a mattress is ok as long as there are no blankets or pillows near Baby’s face) and bring your baby to your breast. Keep your baby on their opposite side, facing you and remaining tummy-to-tummy with you. As Baby gets older, many families find that the side lying position is so enjoyable that they bedshare at night as well. It’s just so lazy and fantastic. (You also have a few options regarding what to do with the arm you’re laying on – you can tuck it behind your head, wrap it around Baby’s back, or just stick it out away from you).
Lastly, it’s super easy to learn how to nurse while wearing your baby. Using a sling or a carrier, you keep your baby close to you so they can sleep or eat, and you can do anything from vacuum to enjoy a hot cup of coffee. Babies love to be worn and I love wearing my kids – here’s an article I wrote about all the benefits, but most cultures wear babies for many reasons. Oh, and one more thing: if your baby spits up a lot or is fussy, nursing while babywearing allows your baby to be vertical (or upright), so it helps a lot with reflux and gassiness.
Let me know what tips and experiences you’ve had while nursing!