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Breastfeeding and Breastfeeding Positions

Updated on November 17, 2014

How do you breastfeed your baby?

Having a baby is not always straight forward and deciding how you are going to feed your baby is something you may be thinking about in your pregnancy. If you choose to breastfeed, how do you do this? Can baby breastfeed itself with no problems or is it more than that? The following article explains the main principles behind attachment and positioning of your baby to feed and the feeding cues you need to look out for.

Breastfeeding a Newborn is not as easy as it looks but done correctly will end up with a happy baby!
Breastfeeding a Newborn is not as easy as it looks but done correctly will end up with a happy baby! | Source

When to start breastfeeding.

The best time to start breastfeeding is immediately after birth, this is where your baby is most alert and the rooting reflexes kick in. Skin to skin contact with your baby will help to facilitate or initiate breastfeeding.

What is Rooting?

Rooting is where the baby displays some actions or 'feeding cues' such as

  • Finger sucking and knitting of fingers, (clenching and un-clenching)
  • Mouth gape
  • Head bobbing
  • Turning its head to the sides along with mouth opening
  • Lips smacking together
  • Sucking movements

These are all the signs that your baby will want to feed, they may be doing all of these or one or two of these but the feeding cues are very important in order to get to know when your baby will need feeding.

What happens if my baby does not want to feed?

If your baby is not displaying any of these signs after delivery, then the feeding cues can take a little time. You need to keep baby next to you and warm, the best way of doing this is to have Skin to Skin Contact immediately after delivery.

Skin to skin contact is beneficial for you and your baby in the following ways

  • It will keep baby warm
  • Keep baby calm
  • Stimulates the initiation of Breastfeeding - Your baby will produce saliva and start rooting, the feeding cues you need to look out for which tells you that baby may want to feed.
  • It also helps the production of Oxytocin which is a hormone involved in the production of milk.

Side Lying hold, notice the mother has her right arm raised and baby is facing in towards her
Side Lying hold, notice the mother has her right arm raised and baby is facing in towards her | Source
This is the Rugby ball position, baby is tucked in on right side feeding from the right breast.
This is the Rugby ball position, baby is tucked in on right side feeding from the right breast. | Source
Cradle hold, baby is feeding on the right side, mum has her left hand across baby's body supporting the head, the right hand is then free to assist.
Cradle hold, baby is feeding on the right side, mum has her left hand across baby's body supporting the head, the right hand is then free to assist.

Breastfeeding Positions

Before you start breastfeeding your baby it is a good idea to become comfortable to start with. If this is your first baby then this can be a fiddly job trying to handle baby into position, ask for some help from your health professional until you become confident.

A baby can be breastfed in varying different ways and these are just a few.

Football hold/rugby ball hold

Baby is tucked in under your arm with its legs and body tucked in under your elbow at the side of you as if you are carrying a rugby ball, it is easy to support baby's head this way and also have a spare hand to ensure you can see what you are doing.

Cross Cradle hold

This is the traditional method of holding your baby when breastfeeding, baby is across your body tucked in, if you are right handed then baby's head will be in the crook of your left arm with your right hand free to assist, and vice versa.

Cradle Hold

This is similar to the cross cradle except that your hand, arm positions are different, again your baby is laying across you with its body parallel to yours if you are right handed then your right hand supports your baby's head whilst your left hand is free. Your right arm is also tucked in against your baby. This one takes a little practice for some women

Side Lying Hold

You are laying on your side, if you want to feed off the left breast then you lay on your left side and do the same with feeding off the right breast you need to lay on your right side.

The arm you are laying on you need to lift up above your head to support your own head along with pillows.

Your baby can then be placed right next to you and facing you to latch your baby on.

How often do I need to breastfeed baby?

  • You usually breastfeed baby when they want to feed, it's called baby led feeding.
  • In the first few days of a baby's life breastfeeding can be a little erratic in the fact that baby may wish to feed very often, as it needs the colostrum which is quite thick but full of nutrients.
  • This is not a problem as the more often you feed baby, the more you stimulate your breasts to produce more milk.
  • If you wrote down how often you stop to eat or drink something during the day, you will not want to go 3-4 hours without anything would you? The same goes for your baby. When your milk comes in then there maybe longer gaps between feeds and shorter feeds when established as baby is drawing off milk effectively to be satisfied and full.
  • A baby will take itself off the breast when it has finished a breastfeed, babies that look like they are asleep but still actively sucking will still be feeding.

How does my baby Latch on for a breastfeed?

Now you have the positioning for your baby, you need to latch your baby on. Its not as easy as you think as it depends on the way your baby reacts to this and how you overcome problems, ill explain this later.

  1. Brush your nipple gently on baby's top lip.
  2. You wait for your baby's mouth to open fairly wide
  3. Bring your baby to your breast, never try to bring your breast to baby as you baby will not latch on correctly and have an insufficient feed and/or make you have sore nipples!
  4. If baby is already actively rooting it may well latch on quite quickly, if you have a more sleepy baby then this may take some time, but don't give up straight away as there are ways and means to latch on a sleepy baby, it is a learning curve for both you and your baby.
  5. If your baby is latched on correctly the its chin will be tucked into your breast or the areola and the nose will be free and not squashed in. Your baby should be able to look up at you.
  6. Initially the first Latch your baby will do a series of quick suckling at the start of the feed
  7. This will then turn into more deeper and prolonged suckling at the breast.
  8. Your baby will have a pattern of Suck, suck, pause - the pause will be your baby swallowing the milk. This is seen more when your milk comes in after day 3 as the first few days there is colostrum which is much thicker.

Source
Source
Baby is latched on correctly, chin is tucked into breast whilst the nose is free and the head is tilted slightly back.
Baby is latched on correctly, chin is tucked into breast whilst the nose is free and the head is tilted slightly back. | Source

A non effective latch

I would not say this was a good latch as the baby's nose is squashed in, the chin is free, the baby's head is more of a right angle to the breast.
I would not say this was a good latch as the baby's nose is squashed in, the chin is free, the baby's head is more of a right angle to the breast.

Breastfeeding latch video

Take a look at the video below, its very quick, with Dr Jack Newman a breastfeeding consultant based in Canada. He demonstrates how your baby should be latched on to get an effective feed.

Video showing best latch for your baby with Dr Jack Newman

Quick Overview of Breastfeeding

  • Skin to Skin contact immediately after birth of your baby will initiate breastfeeding
  • Keeping baby warm next to you, baby will to root for food look out for any feeding cues above
  • When you think your baby is ready to feed you will need to adopt a good position for breastfeeding as shown above
  • Latching your baby on to feed may take a bit of practice but the midwives will help you gain confidence
  • Make sure baby is latched on with the nose free from the breast and the lower chin tucked into your breast.
  • A good latch should not be sore all the way through a feed
  • Baby will adopt a pattern of sucking and swallowing and you should be able to hear a baby swallowing milk down


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    • Jaya Sanghita profile image

      Sanghita Chatterjee 4 years ago from Kolkata

      Thanks for this useful post!

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