Early breastfeeding success is dependent upon so many things lining up correctly. There are unplanned factors that weigh in and cause havoc to unravel in almost every mother’s early nursing journey.
A newborn with tongue-tie, lip tie, or a posterior tongue-tie may not remove milk well and end up not gaining enough weight. This may also lead to mastitis for the mother. A new mom may have an over-supply and fast let-down in which the newborn cannot handle. A baby may be colicky or suffer from thrush. There is a laundry list of problems that possibly happen without notice to the mother and newborn; struggling with holding the baby while nursing should not be one of them.
You would think that holding a baby while breastfeeding would be easy, and at times, it is. Most mothers just don’t know that there are so many options, many of which can make a hard situation easier.
A few things to note:
A baby who is not gaining weight is not transferring milk well. It is most likely a tongue-tie issue and can be easily handled by an ENT. There may also be latch issues. Talk to your lactation consultant.
Sore nipples are not normal. Baby’s latch is the cause. Kellymom.com and Dr. Jack Newman both have amazing resources to watch and read on latch techniques. There may be an easy fix, or there may be more to it, again a lactation consultant is of value.
Different positions can be used and loved for different reasons. An over-supply mom may lie reclined with baby vertical on her chest so that gravity helps prevent such an over-active let down. Babies and mothers with no issues may resort to the basic cradle hold. The lesson to take away is that there are options. Finding what works for you is crucial to a successful breastfeeding relationship.
Always bring baby to breast and not the other way around.
Notice baby’s body alignment: ear, shoulder and hip should align.
Baby’s lips should be opened and exposed, around the areola.
Laid-Back Breastfeeding (Biological Nursing): Letting baby’s instincts work, this position encourages comfort and human nature to work together.
La Leche League tells a new mother:
- Find a bed or couch where you can lean back and be well supported— not flat, but comfortably leaning back so that when you put your baby on your chest, gravity will keep him in position with his body molded to yours.
- Have your head and shoulders well supported. Let your baby’s whole front touch your whole front.
- Since you’re leaning back, you don’t have a lap, so your baby can rest on you in any position you like. Just make sure her whole front is against you.
- Let your baby’s cheek rest somewhere near your bare breast.
- Help her as much as you like; help her do what she’s trying to do. You’re a team.
- Hold your breast or not, as you like.
- Relax and enjoy each other.
Cradle Hold: Support the baby with the arm on the same side as the nursing breast. As with the cross-cradle hold, sit up straight — preferably in a chair with armrests. Cradle your baby in an arm, with your baby's head resting comfortably in the crook of your elbow while he or she faces your breast. For extra support, place a pillow on your lap.
Cross-Cradle: The cross-cradle hold is ideal for early breast-feeding. Sit up straight in a comfortable chair with armrests. Bring your baby across the front of your body, tummy to tummy. Hold your baby in the crook of the arm opposite the breast you're feeding from — left arm for right breast, right arm for left. Support the back of the baby's head with your open hand. With the other hand, support your breast from the underside in a U-shaped hold. Guide the baby's mouth to your breast. Don't bend over or lean forward. Instead, cradle your baby close to your breast.
Side-Lying: A lying position might be a good choice when you're tired but able to stay awake — although it's important to return the baby to his or her own bed to sleep. Lie on your side and face your baby toward your breast, supporting him or her with one hand. With the other hand, grasp your breast and touch your nipple to your baby's lips. Once your baby latches on, use one arm to support your own head and the other to help support the baby and bring him or her close.
Football Hold: This position might be a good choice if you're recovering from a C-section or you have large breasts. Hold your baby beside you, with your elbow bent. With your open hand, support your baby's head and face him or her toward your breast. Your baby's back will rest on your forearm. It might help to support your breast in a C-shaped hold with your other hand. For comfort, put a pillow on your lap and use a chair with broad, low arms.
Football Hold for Twins: If you have twins, you might choose to breast-feed them separately. This can be helpful when you are first starting to breast-feed. Later, if you'd rather breast-feed them at the same time, try the football hold — with one baby in each arm. Hold each baby at one side, with your elbows bent. Your baby's backs will rest on your forearms. For comfort, put pillows on your lap and use a chair with broad, low arms.
As you become a more seasoned breastfeeding mom, you will start labeling your own positions:
And the list will go on….
Descriptions of breastfeeding positions taken from Mayo Clinic and La Leche League. Please watch videos, work with a lactation consultant, and practice until you feel comfortable and confident in your breastfeeding journey!
What is your favorite breastfeeding position?