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Breastfeeding positions

Time to read: 3 min.

For most mums, breastfeeding is a learned skill. Mothers may therefore require additional breastfeeding support when learning how to breastfeed. In particular, mothers may require assistance with learning how to position and attach the baby to ensure they are able to feed the baby comfortably and that the baby is able to successfully transfer milk. There are many breastfeeding positions that may work for each mother. An important consideration or breastfeeding tip for the mum is that she should always feel comfortable. In general, the infant should be positioned so that they are facing the mum's body and their head, shoulders and hips are in alignment. Some of the most commonly used positions include the cradle position, cross-cradle position, clutch position and side-lying position.

Cradle position

The cradle hold is the most common breastfeeding position.

The mum's arm supports the baby at the breast. The baby’s head is cradled near her elbow, and her arm supports the infant along the back and neck. The mother and baby should be chest to chest.

Cross-cradle position

The cross-cradle position uses the opposite arm (to the cradle position) to support the infant, with the back of the baby's head and neck being held in the mother's hand. Her other hand is able to support and shape the breast if required.

In this position the mum can guide the baby easily to the breast when they are ready to latch on.

Clutch position

The baby is positioned at the mother’s side, with their body and feet tucked under the mum's arm. The baby’s head is held in the mum's hand. The mum’s arm may also rest on a pillow with this hold.

This position may be advantageous for mums who have undergone a caesarean section, since it places no or limited weight on the mum’s chest and abdomen area.

It may also work for low-birth-weight babies or babies that have trouble latching, since their head is fully supported.

Side-lying position

The mum lies on her side and faces the baby. The baby's mouth is in line with the nipple.

The mum may also use a pillow for back and neck support.

This position may also be advantageous for mums who have undergone a caesarean section, since it places no or limited weight on the mum’s chest and abdomen area. 

Study abstracts

Optimal positions for the release of primitive neonatal reflexes stimulating breastfeeding

Despite widespread skills-teaching, 37% of UK mothers initiating breastfeeding stop by six weeks suggesting a need to reappraise current support strategies. Rooting, sucking and swallowing ...

Colson SD, Meek JH, Hawdon JM (2008)

Early Hum Dev. 84(7):441-9


Latching-on and suckling of the healthy term neonate: breastfeeding assessment

Increasing breastfeeding duration and exclusivity is an acknowledged public health priority. Breastfeeding problems, especially with the healthy term neonate latching-on or feeding with a suboptimal ...

Cadwell K (2007)

J Midwifery Womens Health 52(6):638-42

References

American Academy of Pediatrics and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Breastfeeding Handbook for Physicians 2006).

Colson, S.D., Meek, J.H., & Hawdon, J.M. Optimal positions for the release of primitive neonatal reflexes stimulating breastfeeding. Early Hum Dev. 84, 441-449 (2008).

Cadwell, K. Latching-On and Suckling of the Healthy Term Neonate: Breastfeeding Assessment. J Midwifery Womens Health. 52, 638-642 (2007).

Henderson, A., Stamp, G., Pincombe, J. Postpartum positioning and attachment education for increasing breastfeeding: a randomized trial. Birth 2001;28(4):236–42.

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