Practice and patience is key when it comes to breastfeeding. Although a natural act for both mother and child, you need to take the effort to ensure a successful feeding session. It is vital for you to understand how to comfortably hold your baby, particularly if you are a first-time mommy. These tried and tested positions will ensure that you have a smooth breastfeeding session.
The Cradle Hold
This position is a classic breastfeeding position and is popular during the first few weeks of nursing, particularly when you are just getting comfortable with your new job. Dr Joyce Jayaseelan, lactation consultant, Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru, explains, “You need to cradle your baby’s head with the crook of the arm. Hold the baby in your lap, adjust the baby in a way that the face, stomach and knees are directly facing you.” Adding further, Dr Kiran Coelho, consultant gynecology and obstetrics, Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai, says, “You need to sit upright in a comfortable chair with armrests. Position your baby’s head in the bend of your elbow on the side you will be breastfeeding. Cup your breast with your other hand, placing your thumb above the nipple and areola at the spot where your baby’s nose will touch your breast. Lightly compress your breast so that the nipple points slightly towards your baby’s nose, and he is now ready to latch.” You may also take support of a pillow and place it on your lap.
BENEFITS: Dr Mughda Joshi, a certified lactation consultant and a pediatric nutritionist, says, “It is a comfortable position for mothers who may have a weak wrist joint. These mothers can use the cross-cradle hold to get the baby well-latched, then slide their other arm under the baby so they finish the feeding in the more comfortable cradle position.” It is an ideal position because it allows mums to hold the baby closely and support them, particularly when they are newborns as they are incapable of holding themselves up in any way. “The position also improves the baby’s ability to latch on because they will be able to tilt their head back a little,” says Dr Jayaseelan.
LIMITATIONS: Dr Joshi explains, “It can be a challenge for new and inexperienced mothers to learn. It may not be the best choice if the mother and baby are experiencing any problems with latch-on, milk transfer or if the mother has sore nipples.” It is slightly difficult to control the baby’s head when nursing in this position. Dr Coelho advises, “Women who have had a C-section may feel too much pressure on their abdomen.” It is advisable to lean towards your baby to avoid any stress.
SUITABLE FOR: This position is apt for full-term babies who are delivered vaginally. Dr Jayaseelan says, “It is a recommended hold when your baby has strong neck muscles. Older babies can latch on easily.”
The Cross-Cradle Hold
HOW TO: Dr Joshi says, “The mother should remember that at the side she is offering to breastfeed, that hand should hold the breast and the opposite hand should be used to hold the baby. The baby rests in the web between the thumb and index finger, and four fingers will rest on the side of the lower cheek.” Tickle the lips of the baby and wait until the baby opens the mouth wide. As part of the rooting reflex, the baby’s mouth will open wide. This may take a few minutes to happen. Bring your baby to the breast and not the other way around, so as to avoid any back or neck pain.
BENEFITS: The cross-cradle hold allows you to have more control over how efficiently the baby latches on. Many mothers find it comfortable to hold their baby and they latch on more deeply. Dr Joshi recommends, “It can be easier for the mother to latch the baby in this position because it gives her more control in guiding her baby to the breast.”
LIMITATIONS: Sitting in this position for a long time, with her arm out like a wing, there’s a good chance that a mother’s shoulder and arm will start to ache. Even a subtle shift can allow the breast to change position, causing the nipple to start to slide to the front of baby’s mouth. This will lead to a distraction and he will eventually come off the breast. Mothers also have the tendency to push the baby’s head into the breast during the switch, rather than just his body. If you do this, your baby will not be able to breathe with his head pushed into the breast. The switch needs to be quick and smooth.
SUITABLE FOR: Dr Joshi says, “It is good for premature babies and smaller babies, and for babies with low muscle tone.” It is ideal for early breastfeeding and, also works best for babies who face latching issues.
HOW TO: Dr Coelho explains, “It is also known as the clutch hold. Position your baby at your side, facing you, with baby’s legs tucked under your arm like a football on the same side as the breast you’re nursing from. Support your baby’s head with the same hand, and use your other hand to cup the breast as you would for the cradle hold.” Further adding, Dr Jayaseelan advises, “For this position, you need to place one or two pillows at your side, then position the baby under your arm. Use your forearm to support his upper back and hand to support his head.”
BENEFITS: This position is great for beginners and helps the mother in learning how to position the baby correctly. Dr Joshi says, “It is a useful position for mothers who have a had a C-section birthing process. It is helpful for mothers with flat or inverted nipples. It offers mother a better view of the baby and breast and helps in controlling the baby’s head movements.”
LIMITATIONS: Dr Joshi says, “Mothers may find it difficult to use the football hold for big babies and older babies. Some mothers just do not find the position comfortable at all.”
Dr Jayaseelan says, “This position can be used for the mothers who have a premature baby or twins and want to feed both the babies at the same time. Also, this position is ideal for women who have large breasts or inverted nipples.”
HOW TO: This position is also knows as Biological Nurturing. Dr Jayaseelan says, “In this position, you get comfortable with your baby and are able to encourage his natural breastfeeding instincts. Lie down on your back so that it is wellsupported. Now, put your baby on the chest. Gravity will help your baby to be in position with you.” Further adding, Dr Joshi emphasises on the fact that mothers who are trying it for the first time, can latch the baby in a cross-cradle hold and then move backwards in semirecline position. However, Dr Coelho says, “Your baby can rest on you in any direction, as long as his front is against yours and he can reach your breast. You can help by directing the nipple towards your little ones mouth. Once the baby is set up at your breast, you don’t have to do much besides lay back and relax.”
BENEFITS: Dr Joshi opines, “It is a relaxed and comfortable position. Your baby’s weight is supported by the mother’s body, and thus there is no pressure on her arms. This is the optimal position for the release of primitive neonatal refl exes that stimulate breastfeeding.” The baby can naturally latch on in this position without putting in much effort.
LIMITATIONS: The only drawback to this hold is that new mothers could find it challenging. Moreover, make sure that if you’re reclining on a chair or sofa, that you do not fall asleep with your baby. You could lose your hold on him and may even drop him so be extra cautious.
Dr Jioshi says, “It is recommended for babies when facing breastfeeding difficulties due to forceful ejection of milk.” It is also suitable for mothers with small breasts.
The Side-lying Position
HOW TO: Dr Joshi explains, “Both mother and baby lay on their sides facing each other. The mother’s body is at an angle to the bed as she leans slightly backwards into the pillow behind her back. The mother can make use of pillows behind her back and between her knees to help get comfortable. A pillow or rolled blanket behind the baby’s back from his neck below, will keep him from rolling away from her.”
LIMITATIONS: “Make sure the baby doesn’t strain to reach your nipple. Moreover, you shouldn’t bend down towards him. Lift your breasts with your fingers to help your baby reach your nipples,” advises Dr Jayaseelan. It can also be challenging for some new mothers. Before trying this position, it is better if your baby can latch first.
BENEFITS: Dr Jayaseelan says, “It is suitable for mothers who have had C-section and is best for night-time feeds when both of them are sleepy, but essential for the baby to get a good night’s sleep.” Dr Joshi advises, “Mothers also experience less fatigue when nursing in this side-lying position. It is a good way to sooth the baby to sleep.”
SUITABLE FOR: It is usually a comfortable position for both mothers and babies who can latch on with ease. It is ideal for night-time feeding.