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Breastfeeding does not come easy to everyone. Many factors affect the success of this feeding method, and it may take some trial and error to figure out what works for you and your baby.

One of these factors is positioning. When you use the right position, your nipples stay healthy, you and your baby stay comfortable, and your baby feeds effectively.

Cradle Hold

The cradle hold is common because many people find it very comfortable. This position is suitable for older babies who latch easily, but it can also work for babies who have difficulty latching because it can help guide the mouth to the breast.

To do the cradle hold, sit with your baby across your abdomen. Use your elbow to support their head and your hand to support their bottom. Support your breast with the other hand.

woman breastfeeding her baby using the classic cradle hold position

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Cross-Cradle Hold

For babies who need extra head support, have a weak suck, or are premature, try the cross-cradle hold. Hold the baby's head to your right breast with their body crossing in front of you, their feet on your left side.

Use your left hand to support the baby's head, placing your index finger and thumb behind the ears and your palm on their upper back. Hold and squeeze your breast with your right hand. Bring the baby to your breast, using your palm to help them find the nipple and latch.

woman nursing her young baby

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Laid-Back

For a baby-led approach, use the laid-back position. This position is very natural and relaxing for the baby and ideal for people who deliver via C-section because it puts less stress on the incision site. Place your baby's tummy against yours, then lean back against a pillow as far back as is comfortable for you and your baby.

Some people sit up relatively straight while others lay back almost completely. In this position, your body provides a lot of support for the baby, leaving your hands free; always ensure your baby's head and shoulders are supported, though.

mother nursing her baby by laying them on her stomach

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Football Hold

The football hold can be beneficial in many situations, including if your baby has reflux or if you have large breasts, are breastfeeding twins, or have flat or inverted nipples. It is also ideal if you have had a C-section because it keeps the baby's weight off the incision.

Hold the baby at your side, supporting their head in your hand and their back with your arm. Their bottom should be near your elbow, with the legs and feet tucked under your arm. Use pillows for support as needed.

woman with large chest nursing her baby using football hold

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Side-Lying

The side-lying position is popular for night feeds, though it is best if the baby already has a good latch. For this position, you and your baby lie on your sides, facing one another, with the baby's mouth level with your nipple.

Pull the baby close, cradling their back with your forearm, and allow them to latch naturally. You can use a pillow to support your back, but ensure there are no pillows or loose bedding around the baby.

woman nursing her baby lying on her side in bed

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Dangle Feeding

Dangle feeding is when the baby lies flat or inclined, and you dangle your breast over the baby. Place your baby on your lap or a safe flat surface for this position. Lean forward from seated or on your knees to get your breast into position.

The primary benefit of this position is it can help with clogged milk ducts because it uses gravity to help the milk flow. Dangle feeding is not a good position for every feed, but you can use it when needed.

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Supporting Your Breast

When you hold your baby in any breastfeeding position, breast support techniques are also essential to successful breastfeeding, as it removes the weight of your breast from the baby and helps them breastfeed more effectively.

One way is to form a C with your hand, placing the thumb on the top of your breast above the nipple and the fingers below, keeping them away from the baby's mouth. This hold works well with the cradle and football position.

The other option is the U hold: place your fingers on your ribcage and use your thumb and index finger to support the weight of your breast. The U hold is helpful with the cross-cradle and cradle positions.

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Breastfeeding Twins

Breastfeeding twins is challenging, but you can adapt many of these positions for tandem breastfeeding. The double football hold is popular because it gives your a good amount of control of both babies.

Before breastfeeding twins at the same time, it might be better to breastfeed them separately to get a feel of how each baby is doing. That way, if one of the twins needs help latching, you can give the baby the attention it needs during every feed.

illustration of different ways to breastfeed twins

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Why Positioning Matters

Using the right breastfeeding position for you and your baby can prevent problems. Some positions may lead to nipple soreness, which may mean the baby is not latching or sucking appropriately.

Trying a new position can alleviate these problems, but if the nipple soreness worsens, it could indicate something else, like thrush or a tongue tie.

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Other Helpful Hints

Breastfeeding can be challenging for you and your baby, but some tricks might help.

When the baby is trying to latch, stroke the baby's lip with your nipple or aim your nipple toward the top of the baby's mouth to stimulate their instinct to latch. Do not bend over toward your baby, as doing so repeatedly can hurt your back. Instead, bring the baby to your breast, and use pillows to support you.

smiling woman feeding newborn with husband nearby

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.