The Ultimate Guide to Breastfeeding Positions

Being successful at breastfeeding can be as simple as finding the right position. 

Certain breastfeeding positions work better for some than for others, depending on the situation and your comfort level.  It’s a good idea to try out various different breastfeeding positions until you find one that is comfortable for you.  You may even use a combination of breastfeeding positions in a single feeding or throughout the day and night.

Check out this guide to ensure that you are utilizing all the breastfeeding positions correctly and getting the most out of your breastfeeding experience.
The Ultimate Guide to Breastfeeding Positions
*This is a guest post and all opinions are those of the author. This post may also contain affiliate and/or paid links. Rest assured that I only work with companies and individuals that I trust. While some of those companies and individuals may work in the medical field, this post is not intended to be a substitution for medical advice. Always speak to your doctor if you have concerns about your mental or physical health.

Most Common Breastfeeding Positions

1. Cradle and Cross Cradle Nursing Position

Both are the most common nursing position of all time where you carry your baby within your arms to breastfeed.

Cradle hold

In which your baby is lying on the forearm of the same breast you use to breastfeed (i.e. if you breastfeed from the right breast, your baby is held with your right forearm and vice versa). 

Cross-cradle hold

The same as cradle hold except your baby is on the opposite forearm of the breast you use to breastfeed (i.e. if you breastfeed from the right breast, your baby is held with your left forearm and vice versa).

Breastfeeding Positions - Cradle Hold
Cradle Hold Breastfeeding Position

Important notes

      • Your baby is on their side with their head and neck in the same straight line. In other words, if your baby’s neck is tilted down, the swallowing process would be hard which affects the milk extraction negatively and hence your milk supply.
      • Your breast is at the same level at baby’s head.
      • Always keep your baby’s head free to move back to enable them to catch your breast deeply and widely.
      • Baby’s stomach should be placed against your stomach.
      • Baby’s legs are around your waist for more comfort and control.

2. Football Nursing Position

This position gets it’s name from the way football players carry the ball under their arm. Your baby is on their side or back and their head is between your armpit and the breast they are feeding from.  Baby’s body is wrapped around your side and back.

Important notes

      •  This particular position is preferred if you have had a c-section as it does not place any additional weight on your abdomen.
      • You can also try a double football hold for breastfeeding twins at the same time.
      • Try to keep your baby’s legs away from any solid surface such as the back of the chair or sofa.  That is because of a natural reflex called the stepping reflex, when their legs step on any solid surface, they instinctively push against that surface.  This makes the latching process hard and unstable.

3. The Laid Back Nursing Position (it is also called Biological Nurturing)

With this position, you are lying on your back in a semi-reclined position by using two pillows under your head and neck and your baby is positioned along your body.  In this breastfeeding position, you can use gravity to help baby latch, without the need of pillows or extra effort to support.

Breastfeeding Positions - Laid Back NursingHold
Laid Back Breastfeeding Position

Important notes

      • It is the most recommended position after birth and within 1 hour.
      • The biological nurturing helps your baby to self-latch by searching for your nipple.
      • This is a great breastfeeding position to encourage skin to skin contact, which can stimulate a let down as well as help you bond with baby.
      • This position is also suitable for moms after c-section, simply rotate the baby 90° degrees clockwise or counterclockwise to avoid the weight on your abdomen.

4. The Side-Lying Nursing Position

Nursing while side lying is another in-bed breastfeeding position which is great for breastfeeding in the middle of the night.  You simply lay beside baby in bed or on a flat, stable surface and they can nurse while lying on the bed beside you. 

Breastfeeding Positions - Side Lying Hold
Side Lying Breastfeeding Position

Important notes

      • It is suitable if you co-sleep with your baby.
      • Once baby is latched, keep the tummy to tummy contact using your free hand by pushing his body gently into yours.

5. Koala Hold or Upright/Sitting Nursing Position

In this position, your baby is sitting upright in front of you.  Make sure to support their neck and shoulders with your hand on the same side of your used breast. The other hand is to support your breast to help baby latch on properly.

Breastfeeding Positions - Koala Hold
Koala or Upright/Sitting Breastfeeding Position

Important notes

      • This is a good breastfeeding position to use when your baby is older than 1 year.
      • This position can help if you have a fast/strong milk ejection letdown reflex.
      • If your baby has acid reflux (GERD: gastroesophageal reflux disease), this position can help reduce symptoms during feedings.

Additional Information

After birth, make sure to get your baby checked from a professional health care provider for any anomalies within their mouth like tongue tie or cleft palate.  In such conditions, you may need to use specific positions in order to achieve breastfeeding success. 

Pick the quietest and the most comfortable room in your house for breastfeeding.  Relaxation has a positive effect on the breast milk supply.

Try using breast massage before latching to enhance the blood circulation within your mammary glands.

Make sure to utilize breast compression while breastfeeding to ensure that your baby is getting more of the fattier hind milk with each feed. 

How, When & Why to Do Breast Compression
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It is highly recommended to shift between different breastfeeding positions until baby is done nursing, and your breast have been emptied.

Always support your head, neck, and shoulders using pillows to avoid back pain.  And remember that any type of pain would put you under stress which decreases your milk supply.

During breastfeeding, make sure your baby’s nose is free and you can pass one finger between their nose and your breast. You also want to make sure that baby’s chin is pressed up against your breast.  These are signs of a proper latch.

Consider taking a breastfeeding course for additional tips, resources and information.  I recommend Milkology online!


How, When & Why to do Breast Compression

Breast compression is the underdog of breast feeding techniques. 

Emphasis is rarely put on the importance of breast compression in those first few weeks after the milk comes in.  It sounds self explanatory, right?  You just squeeze your breast, what’s so hard about that?  I did breast compression with my first.  And my second…   I think? 

The fact that I can’t even remember doing them means that they weren’t important to me back then.  After learning how to do them properly with my third one, and learning all the reasons why and when, I realized that I could have saved myself a lot of trouble if I had known about this the first time.  And the second.

Learn more about how to do this important breastfeeding technique!
How, When & Why to Do Breast Compression
*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.

HOW

Step 1: Get your baby latched on properly.

latch-infographic
I like this infographic from The Milk Memoirs 

After baby starts sucking you may FEEL your milk let down (not all women can feel it) and/or SEE your baby’s sucking start to become longer and slower.  

[Related Reading: D-MER: When Breastfeeding Makes You Feel Sad]

Step 2: Grasp your breast with whichever hand feels more comfortable. 

Some might prefer to grasp with the hand closest to the breast, others might be more comfortable reaching across their body.  This will also depend on what position you are holding your baby in to nurse.  You can switch it up throughout the feeding.

Step 3: Hold your thumb on top of the breast and the other four fingers on the bottom of the breast. 

Your hand will form a letter “C” (it helps to imagine you’re holding your breast like a cheeseburger).  Try to keep your hand close to your chest.  You want to stay as far back from the nipple as possible so you don’t affect baby’s latch.  It’s not as effective to squeeze the breast from the sides or to use a “scissor” hold.

Step 4: Squeeze as hard as you can handle.  It shouldn’t hurt, but you want to use firm pressure, especially if your breasts are engorged.

Do not move your fingers around or slide them towards the nipple.  Try not to rub or massage the breast as this can cause irritation on the skin.  If you have extremely full breasts, whether it’s the first morning feed or when your milk first comes in, you may feel “lumps” of milk.  Concentrate on putting pressure on those spots first.

clogged milk duct
Mom Smart Not Hard | momsmartnothard.com

Step 5: Squeeze one spot for roughly 10 seconds (or as long as baby continues to suck) and then release.

You will notice baby take longer, bigger gulps, some milk might even leak out from the corners of their mouth.  That section of the breast will start to soften. Baby may temporarily stop sucking after a few big gulps to rest.

Step 6: Wait for baby to start sucking and compress the breast again.

You can try moving your fingers onto a different spot or switching hands to access the other side of the breast.


WHEN and WHY

DO NOT do them before your milk comes in.  I mean, you can, but there’s no point.

Do them when your milk comes in.  You will have a lot of it and your newborn baby will get tired of sucking before they get to that hind milk.

Do them when your breasts are really full.  Usually in the morning or if you’ve been away from baby and haven’t fed or pumped in a while.   It’s a great way to empty out full and sore breasts very quickly and make sure that baby is getting to the hind milk before they get too full.

Turn Up The Heat breast pads
TheDandelionShoppeUS on Etsy

The Turn Up The Heat breast pads by TheDandelionShoppeUS on Etsy are perfect for warm relief during engorgement and also cold relief to treat soreness. They have a removable machine washable cover and I love the hole in the middle to avoid irritating sore nipples!

Do them when your breasts are not full.  Doing compression during feeds even when your breasts feel empty will help drain the milk glands completely which will increase your milk supply.

Do them when you have a clogged milk duct. This is when one of those “milk lumps” gets stuck and doesn’t want to empty.  Put a warm wet washcloth on top of the breast first and then apply lots of pressure to that stuck lump while you nurse.

[Related Reading: How to Clear a Clogged Milk Duct and Prevent Mastitis from Mom Smart Not Hard]

Do them while pumping. Breast pumps are not as efficient at emptying a breast  or getting enough hind milk.  A good example of this is to compare a bottle of pumped milk while doing compression vs. without.  You will see a higher fat content in the bottle pumped with compression.

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Do them when you have incredibly sore nipples.  Baby won’t have to suck as hard to get enough milk (giving your nipples a bit of relief) and it will also speed up the length of the feeding.

Do them when baby falls asleep at the breast and/or stops sucking.  Breast compression will either make baby start drinking some more, or spit out the nipple if they are full.

Do them when baby cluster feeds.  The hind milk will help baby to feel fuller for longer and can reduce the amount of time you spend feeding.

[Related Reading: A Complete Guide to Cluster Feeding by Mom Smart Not Hard]

Do them during night time feedings or dream feeds.  Babies are quite drowsy in the middle of the night and may not suck with the “power” that they use during the day.  Doing breast compression can help baby get milk more efficiently so that everyone can go back to bed.

Do them if your baby has greenish-colored poops.  The greenish color could be because they’re not getting enough hind milk.

Do them if your baby gets a slight diaper rash.  Not enough hind milk can change the consistency of baby’s poops and cause their bums to get red.

How to Ensure Successful breastfeeding with postpartum depression
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There are so many benefits to using breast compression!

The biggest WHY is to get baby the hind milk that has a higher fat content.  It will help them to gain weight faster and stay full longer.

I know that breast compression is usually only suggested in the first couple months – during the time when breastfeeding is still trying to become well established.  But I became SO obsessed with doing them because I was able to see the benefits in my baby right away that I continued to do them whenever I felt it was necessary.

Pin It!
How, When & Why to Use the Breast Compression Technique while Breastfeeding How, When & Why to Do Breast Compression How, When & Why to Do Breast Compression

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

The most detailed information specifically about breast compression is by Dr. Jack Newman on the International Breastfeeding Center website (IBConline).


Another good site to check out for more visual aids is Breastfeeding.Support it’s run by IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) Philippa Pearson-Glaze and the site has a ton of breastfeeding articles, tips and advice with some great pictures.


Milkology is a 90 minute online breastfeeding class run by certified lactation specialist, Stacy Stewart.  For less than $20, you can get some amazing tips for breastfeeding success – with a money back guarantee! 


A great breastfeeding resource is the Breastfeeding Handbook from Mom Smart Not Hard.   Download, print and put it into a binder to have access to everything you could possibly need to know about breastfeeding.


A lot of women who experience breast pain during pregnancy might have concerns about breastfeeding and engorgement.  Learn more about breast pain during pregnancy in this article from Mom Loves Best.  


This awesome article from Positive Health Wellness has tons of information about breast changes during pregnancy.

check it out!
Benefits of Breast Compression
How to Use the Breast Compression Technique How to use the Breast Compression Technique How, When & Why to Use the Breast Compression Technique while Breastfeeding