How should I hold my baby during breastfeeding?

There are many different ways in which to hold your baby while nursing. Ultimately it is important to find a comfortable position for both you and your baby. A common hold includes cradling the baby in front with either the same-sided or opposite arm. Another popular hold is the football hold, with the baby cradled at your side on the same arm as your breast. Additional options include side lying, with both mother and baby reclining, typically on the bed. For babies who are older or have good head control, a more upright or seated position may be an option.
You may want to try the football hold first. Many women find this position the easiest, in part because it seems to help babies latch on well. Especially good for large-breasted women, this position can also help protect a cesarean incision, provide you with a free hand, or allow you to breastfeed two babies at once. Begin by placing pillows at your side. Lay the baby on a pillow. Support your baby’s neck and head with your hand, and support his back with your forearm. Tuck the baby’s legs between your arm and body, as if carrying a football. If your baby is troubled by gas, adjust this hold so your baby sits slightly upright, leaving less room for air in his tummy.

The cross-cradle hold, also known as the modified clutch, often works well for babies who are having trouble latching on or who are very small. For this hold, position yourself comfortably, with pillows behind you. Lean back slightly so that you don’t have to bend over the baby. Support the baby on your lap on a pillow or cushion in a horizontal or semi-upright position. Hold the baby using the arm opposite from the breast you'll begin feeding from. Support the baby’s neck and head with this hand as his body extends along the length of your forearm. Use the hand on the side of the breast you are feeding from to support the breast. Position the baby’s mouth at the level of your nipple, with his body on his side, facing you.

For breastfeeding in bed or keeping an active baby off a cesarean incision, the side-lying hold is a good choice. Stretch out on your side with your baby facing you, tummy to tummy. Use pillows to provide you and your baby with back support. If you want to switch breasts, gather your baby close to your chest, then roll onto your back and across to the other side.

The cradle hold usually works best when your baby has learned to breastfeed well. For this hold, sit upright, making sure you have good back support. Select a chair with armrests or use pillows to help raise your baby to breast height. Keep your knees even with your hips by putting a stool or pillows under your feet. Now cradle your baby at your breast, with your baby’s tummy facing yours. When looking down, there should not be any space between you and your baby. Your baby’s ear, shoulder, and hip should be in a straight line.
Improper latch-on can cause pain and really interfere with breastfeeding. Here is a walk-through on proper latch straight from my own lactation consultant, Elisa Hirsch, RN, BSN, IBCLC.

Position your baby with her body facing yours and with her nose close to your nipple. Allow your baby’s head to tilt back so she’s looking up at you. Wait for her to open her mouth widely. When she does, bring her closer to you with
her chin in very close to your breast. With your finger, guide your nipple into the top half of your baby’s mouth. When your baby is positioned properly her chin will be against the breast and you’ll see more areola (darker area) showing near your baby’s nose than chin. When your nipple comes out of your baby’s mouth it may look a bit longer, but the shape of the nipple should look the same as it was before the feed. A feeling of tugging is normal, but pain is a sign that you should ask for help.

Mommy Calls: Dr. Tanya Answers Parents' Top 101 Questions About Babies and Toddlers
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
The major key to successful breastfeeding for both you and the little one is relaxation on your part. Any anxiety or stiffness you exhibit is immediately picked up by your baby and then the act becomes a struggle.

Holding your baby to your breast isn't like lugging groceries to the car. The best way to make sure he or she is feeding well (and comfortably) is to employ one of these four positions. (Besides making sure he or she gains easy access, your other goal is to support his or her head and back during the feeding.)
  1. The Cradle Hold (the classic position)
  2. The Cross-Cradle Hold (gives more control over his or her head)
  3. The Football Hold (good for nursing twins)
  4. 4. The Side-Lying Hold (especially good for women who have had C-sections because it takes any pressure off the incision, as well as for nighttime feedings)
YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.