most common breastfeeding positions

Find the best breastfeeding position for you and your baby

While nursing is a natural act, it can take time (and a supportive breastfeeding pillow!) for you and your baby to really get the hang of it. In the meantime, you might feel like you need an extra set of arms to get the perfect breastfeeding position. But a common misconception is that there’s only one way to hold a baby while nursing. Totally false!

Every mom and baby are a unique pair. Depending on your body, the type of delivery, your baby’s latch or any possible feeding challenges—such as oversupply, reflux or multiple babies—you may find certain positions allow for a more comfortable, successful nursing session than others. To help you find that perfect fit, we’ve rounded up the top breastfeeding positions IBCLCs recommend for new moms. The good news? If one position isn’t working for you, there are plenty of alternatives to try. Get comfy and check out these top baby breastfeeding tips:

Cradle hold

This is the “classic” nursing position. Hold your baby in your lap (or on a pillow) on his side with the front of his body against yours. Rest his head in the crook of your arm on the side you’re feeding from—so if you’re feeding from the right breast, his head will be in your right arm. Use your right forearm and hand to support his back and body. You can use your left hand to create a C-shape around your breast (four fingers underneath and thumb on top) and compress it slightly to help get a deep latch.

Because your baby’s head rests in the crook of your arm, you’ll have a little less control in guiding him to latch, so some moms wait to use this breastfeeding position until their babies are a few weeks old and they’ve gotten more comfortable with nursing. Moms who have c-sections may find this hold puts too much pressure on their incision at first.

Cross-over or cross-cradle hold

This position is similar to the cradle hold in that your baby lies on her side in your lap with the front of her body against yours. But you’ll use the opposite arm to support your baby (hence the “cross” part of this position’s name). If you’re feeding from the right breast, place your left arm behind her body with your fingers behind her head below the ears and guide her to your breast. Your right hand can form a C-hold around your breast to assist with the latch or slide underneath your baby to further support her body.

Moms like this hold for its extra control in guiding their babies to latch, so it’s ideal for those early days and weeks. Again, a mom who’s had a c-section might find it uncomfortable while her incision is still healing.

Clutch or football hold

Imagine a football player tucking the ball under his arm. That’s the idea behind this breastfeeding position: Hold your baby underneath your arm alongside your body with his head near your breast and his legs toward your back. Support his back, neck and head with that same arm. This frees up your other hand to hold your breast in a C-hold, an ideal set-up for a strong latch.

Moms who have had a c-section often find this position comfortable because baby is not lying against the incision. With the maximum control it provides, the football hold is helpful for babies who have trouble latching or moms with large breasts or flat nipples. And it’s a go-to position for moms of twins because it makes it possible to feed two babies at once (multitasking to the max!).

Side-lying

That’s right, you don’t have to sit up to nurse! For this position, lie on your side and support your back with pillows. Have your baby lie next to you with the front of her body close to yours. You can place your bottom arm underneath your baby, or use your top arm to support your baby and tuck your bottom arm under your head and neck. Use a receiving blanket or towel to prop your baby up so her nose is in line with your nipple. You’ll know you’re aligned when neither of you have to strain toward one another.

While it can take some effort and pillow-fluffing to get this breastfeeding position down, it’s a great option while you’re recovering from delivery or when you want to nurse in bed.

Laid-back or reclining

While holding your baby with his belly against your body, angle your upper body back, as if you’re lying in a recliner. Keep a close eye on the latch to make sure your baby is sucking, swallowing and breathing easily.

Reclining helps slow the flow of milk for moms who have an overactive letdown. This can make feeding more comfortable for new babies who are still learning to manage the flow. It’s also helpful for exhausted moms who’d enjoy a more restful position or want to do skin-to-skin.

Holding baby upright

If holding your baby horizontally isn’t working, try positioning him more upright. Place your baby vertically against your body with his feet tucked “froggy-style” or wrapped around your waist. Support his head and body with one arm and hand and use the other hand to hold your breast.

This position is a good one for babies who suffer from reflux. Thanks to gravity, the upright position helps milk flow downward and stay that way. Because newborns have less head control, moms may have to wait to use this position until a few weeks after birth or try it in combination with a reclining position.

How do I know which breastfeeding position is right for me?

Finding the best position for you and your baby takes practice and patience. Experiment and see what feels right. No matter which breastfeeding position you choose, always support your body, your breasts and your baby. Stuff pillows behind your back, prop yourself up with an armrest or footstool, and use your hand to hold your breast if needed. You can also alternate positions based on where you are or to help prevent clogged ducts and sore nipples.

As with any breastfeeding challenge, asking for help is always a good idea. If you need some guidance (and a literal extra set of hands), connect with Ashland Breast Pumps’ IBCLCs. They can help you find the position that works best for you and your baby.