Even if breastfeeding is often touted as the best method of feeding the baby, it can be troublesome. It’s safe to say that the majority of moms have gone through a period of breastfeeding troubles. Be it too little or too much milk, breast pain, engorgement and even mastitis. However, many do get the hang of it, eventually, and become breastfeeding pros.
Of course, the reasons why other moms can’t manage to breastfeed can vary. After all, every mom and every baby varies. Some may be able to manage to breastfeed eventually, while others might breastfeed a bit along with some formula supplementation. Yet others may go full-on formula at all. This is all a choice that each mom has to make given her own specific situation.
For those who are adamant about breastfeeding however, don’t lose hope if it may be rough early on. Many experts say that many times breastfeeding can be initiated, or even improved with the proper positions. Proper breastfeeding positions put less strain on mom’s back, allow for a good latch and is comfortable and safe for the baby as well.
It can be difficult to tell when you’re been doing it right, so we’ve compiled a list of some of the breastfeeding positions and tips recommended by experts. As well, we’ve also thrown in a few of the things that many moms are probably best off not trying. With persistence and a bit of luck, moms who have trouble breastfeeding might find that, all of a sudden, it’s no sweat at all!
15 Breastfeeding 101
Before delving into the do’s and don’ts of breastfeeding positions, it’s first important to understand a few things about breastfeeding and how, exactly it works. We already know that it’s the feeding method that experts around the world recommend as best for both mom and the baby. But even if milk often only comes out late during pregnancy or after childbirth, there were numerous events that led to it.
Throughout the entire pregnancy, mom’s body has been preparing to lactate. The hormone progesterone, in particular, encourages the growth of breast tissue. Once the hormonal levels drop after childbirth, the breasts begin to produce milk. However, the milk is only released from the breast when there are sufficient levels of oxytocin. This hormone is produced when the baby sucks on the breast, both squeezing out milk and sending out signals for letdown. Without adequate breast development or proper stimulus, breastfeeding can be tough.
14 Do: The Cradle
The cradle hold is among the classic pregnancy positions. Many moms find this the go-to position for regular feeding. However, moms who have had C-sections might find this position puts pain on their scar. As such, post-C-section moms might want to look for an alternative position instead. Otherwise, it’s a great hold that keeps the baby safe and secure, while also putting little strain on mom’s arms and back.
The cradle is done by resting the baby horizontally on the crook of mom’s arm on the same side of the breast where she will be nursing first. The other arm can be used for support. The baby should be lying comfortably on her side, the entire body facing towards mom. Once both mom and the little one are comfortable, allow the baby to latch onto the breast. It can be tricky to get a latch initially, but mom can use the free, supporting hand to guide the baby.
13 Don’t: Hold Too Loosely
When breastfeeding, mom must ensure that she manages to keep a firm grip on her baby. She’s at particular risk of holding the little one way too loosely if she is tired or sleepy. This is dangerous because there is a possibility that mom might lose grip on the little one. If there was inadequate support on the little one to begin with, this will result in a possibly dangerous fall. While most moms do manage to catch this in time, those who are particularly exhausted may not be able to.
As such, make sure that the little one is secure in arms while breastfeeding. Keep a firm grip and make sure that the arms are absolutely comfortable. If mom begins to feel a bit weary through the course of breastfeeding, she might want to think of adding a few more support pillows so that her strength does not waver.
12 Do: The Cross-Cradle
The cross- cradle hold is a variation of the cradle hold. The difference is that the main arm supporting the baby is the one opposite of the side she will be breastfeeding. The other arm can be tucked under to support the rest of the baby’s body. As such, baby’s position may not be quite horizontal. Instead, she will be in a bit of an angle, with her tummy against mom’s tummy.
In this position, mom will not be using the supporting hand to guide the baby onto a good latch. But since her hand is directly below the baby’s head, it’s much easier for her to guide the baby onto the nipple. Again, if moms who have just had a C-section find this painful, it’s probably not the best position. Mom might have to wait until the scar has healed. However, moms with babies who have difficulty latching onto the breast find that this position makes thing easier.
11 Don’t: Multitask
One dangerous thing to do while breastfeeding is to hold the baby with just one arm, and doing way too much stuff with the other hand instead of using it for support. Of course, mom might manage to make this safe if she’s sitting down and has an adequate number of support pillows all around. However, the other hand must always be available just in case she needs it for extra balance. The most dangerous scenario is when mom is actually walking around doing stuff while breastfeeding.
As busy as our lives may be, breastfeeding is something that requires mom’s full attention, after all. It can be challenging enough to carve time for breastfeeding, but if you must do it, might as well do it in a way that is safe for the little one. The bonus? Being truly focused in it can allow for better bonding between mom and the little one.
10 Do: The Football Hold
As the name might suggest, in the football hold, mom will be holding the baby in pretty much the same way she might hold a football. That is, the baby is tucked under the arm, with the head supported by the arm on the same side that she is feeding. As such, the rest of the baby’s body will be balanced behind the mom. This is best done when there are pillows to support the little one on the side. This way, the free arm can help guide the baby to the nipple, as well as support the little one where needed.
Moms who have gone through C-sections find this is a pain-free hold for them. This is because the baby puts virtually no pressure on mom’s tummy. It’s also a great position for moms who have twins, as it allows mom to feed both babies on either breast at the same time.
9 Don’t: Hunch Over
As a general rule, when breastfeeding, it’s important that mom must be able to bring the baby closer to her breast or, alternatively, move her body towards the baby so that her back and hips remain aligned. Hunching over is not recommended as it bends the spine, putting unnecessary strain on the back. It may not seem painful at first. In fact, it may even seem natural and convenient to do so. However, after several minutes of this, mom may begin to notice that it wasn’t such a good idea after all and that it makes breastfeeding uncomfortable. What’s more, since the little one is so invested in feeding, mom may be reluctant to change position in fear that this might interrupt her.
It’s therefore best to avoid hunched over positions while feeding. After all, mom probably has had way too many back troubles during pregnancy. It simply will not do to sustain them until now.
8 Do: Reclining Back
The reclining of the lying down position is a comfortable position that is great for moms who are feeding the little one during the night, especially if she’s co-sleeping. Moms who have gone through C-sections also find this a comfortable position, especially when they don’t want to have to sit up to breastfeed. If done well, it puts very little strain on mom, so it’s great for those with back problems.
This is done by lying on the side on which the baby will be feeding first. The baby should be position parallel to mom. Mom can then use the arm opposite the feeding side to draw the baby close to nurse on the breast that is down. It may require a bit of effort to transfer the little one to the other side to feed, though. So dad or another caregiver may want to assist mom in doing so.
7 Don’t: Twisted Baby Body
In some (incorrect) breastfeeding positions, the baby’s body will be twisted. That is, the torso may be facing one direction, and the pelvis another. Worse, the head may be facing towards the breast, but the body may be turning away. This position isn’t good practice as it strains the baby’s muscles, resulting in pain and discomfort. As such, the little one may not feed for as long as she likes.
In addition, this position may either distort the position of the little one’s throat or put unnecessary pressure on her abdomen. Both these scenarios can increase the risk of the little one aspirating in the milk. That is, the milk might either slip into her airway or get regurgitated due to increased abdominal pressure and end up there. In serious cases, this can lead to aspiration pneumonia, a condition in which the milk manages to go all the way down to the lungs and introduces infection there.
6 Do: Support Pillows
One great way to vary the different breastfeeding positions is to place support pillows. These support pillows can allow mom to recline a little bit during different feeding positions, or to ensure that there is the least amount of strain on her arms and back as she supports the baby. Standard pillows or rolled-up blankets can usually do the trick. Stuff these into any hollows or parts of the body that easily get tired during feedings. However, many moms also favor those that are designed specifically for nursing. These pillows are great for breastfeeding on-the-go, especially when it’s difficult for mom to look for a nice, comfortable spot to feed.
Pillows allow mom to vary the angle of feeding, ensuring that all parts of the breast are as empty as possible. This is great for when mom is prone to problems such as engorgement and mastitis, as draining the entire breast is a surefire way to prevent them.
5 Don’t: Hold Away
Correct breastfeeding positions involve holding the little one close to mom’s body. Each position might hold the little one close to mom in different ways. In most cases, the baby’s tummy will be pressed against mom. For the cradle positions, it’s tummy-to-tummy. For the football hold, it’s tummy to side. This is safe as it allows mom to clip the baby towards herself, putting her at less risk for falls.
In addition, keeping the baby close reduces the risk that the little one will pull or bite at her nipple. Mom is particularly prone to this in the reclining position, especially if the little one is quite a distance away from her nipple. It might help if mom places baby on a pillow to bring her closer to the nipple. After all, a mom whose baby pulls at her nipple is likely to experience problems such as nipple cracks and soreness.
4 Do: Full Coverage
Mom can try to vary breastfeeding positions if she likes. The general rule, other than that it must not break mom’s back, is that the position must allow the baby’s full coverage over the areola. This allows for a good latch in which the baby can suck properly, giving her as much milk as possible. As well, it’s less irritating to mom’s nipples, therefore making it less painful and less prone to injury.
This can be done by grasping around the nipple with the fingers and thumb cupped to a letter “C” shape. Bring the baby closer to the nipple and aim towards the baby’s upper lip. The baby should attempt to latch ones the nipple stimulates his lip. Make sure that the baby’s tongue is tucked below the nipple. This indicates an improper latch which could also be painful for mom. As such, it’s best to unlatch the baby and try again.
3 Don’t: Cover The Nose
Make sure to look out for the little one’s nose when breastfeeding. The breast should not cover her nose. Apparently, this can make it difficult for the little one to breathe! If the little one is not getting enough air while feeding, she is likely to release the breast to breathe for a bit before latching on again. This can be troublesome as it irritates the breast, possibly causing pain. As you can imagine, this process can also be stressful for the baby as well. After all, it air and milk are two things that she needs. It can be difficult when she has to sacrifice one for the other at any given time!
This is particularly troublesome for moms with big boobs. After all, the soft breast tissue can get everywhere! It might help to support the part of the breast that covers the nose with the non-supporting hand. Placing the hand in a C-shape and using it to retract the breast tissue might help the little one breathe easier while feeding.
2 Do: Change It Up
Another thing that all moms must do when it comes to positioning is to change it up. This is so that all the parts of the breast gets drained. Of course, many moms do get comfortable with specific breastfeeding positions and so use these repeatedly. However, without variety, there is a risk that parts of the breast that seldom get drained will become engorged. This can make breastfeeding painful for mom. The pain can be so bad that it can put her off breastfeeding altogether. But it gets worse. If the breast is engorged for long periods of time, there is a possibility that an infection will develop in the stagnant milk, resulting in mastitis.
As such, mom might want to put a bit of variety in breastfeeding positions. Of course, not all positions are fair game. There are some things that must not be done, and we’ll discuss these in the following points.
1 Don’t: Standing Up
Finally, breastfeeding is best done while sitting down or reclining. It’s generally a bad idea to breastfeed while standing up. This is not only because standing moms will be tempted to multitask, possibly putting the baby in danger. This is also because breastfeeding takes quite a while, and standing through the course of it can put a strain on mom’s back, hips and feet. She may also experience strain on her arms, as a standing mom does not always have the same opportunity to support her arms with pillows. Breastfeeding slings might be used, but even these don’t bear up the baby’s weight as good as when mom is seated.
Mom should always try to make breastfeeding as stress-free for both herself and the little one as possible. As such, it’s best to take on a position that she and the baby can maintain through the course of the feeding. After all, a comfortable mom is more likely to breastfeed longer than moms who find it a chore!