How to breastfeed your baby


Breastfeeding is beneficial to both a mother and her infant. However, for first time and even seasoned breastfeeders, it can come with its ups and downs.

While breastfeeding is a natural body function, it takes practice and patience and can at times be frustrating, especially if you are breastfeeding multiples or other older children simultaneously.

You will see introductions at the end of some sections to any recent developments that have been covered by MNT‘s news stories. Also look out for links to information about related conditions.

Latching on tips for breastfeeding

There are many different positions you can experiment with when trying to get into the best position for you and your baby. Positioning is important for maintaining nipple health and optimal feeding of your infant.1

Making sure you are comfortable is essential; try different positions and postures such as lying down, sitting up, etc. You may want to consider using back support and pillows, as well as encouraging skin-to-skin contact. At times, women use a footrest such as a nursing stool to maintain a comfortable, supported position.1,2

When you find a comfortable position, your baby should be positioned close to your body in a way that:1,2

  • The baby’s hips are flexed
  • His or her head is supported by your hand
  • The baby’s mouth and nose are facing the nipple so that you can begin initiation of breastfeeding with a good latch by tickling the baby’s lip with your nipple.

Getting a good latch is vital to successful breastfeeding. In order to obtain a good latch, your baby will need to open his or her mouth wide while you pull him or her into the breast. Baby’s back needs to be well supported and their mouth needs to cover a good portion of your breast’s areola.1,2

Bringing your baby into the breast chin first with your nipple pointing toward the roof of the mouth will help get the baby to latch better.1

Once a good latch is obtained, your baby’s chin and nose will be touching your breast and you will feel your nipple being pulled into the back of the baby’s mouth, not just on the tip of the nipple. Breastfeeding should not be painful, so if you are experiencing pain, release the baby’s latch and try again for a better latch.1,2

Before discussing breastfeeding positions, it is important first to understand some terms that describe how you can support the breast that you will be using to feed. There are two holds used to support your breast – the “C” and “U” holds.

To use the “C” hold, the top of you breast will be supported with your thumb and the rest of your fingers will hold the bottom portion of the breast. Make sure your thumb is not too close to the areola.1

To use the “U” hold, you will cup your breast with your fingers in a “U” shape. The La Leche League describes how to do this by placing “your fingers flat on your ribcage under your breast with your index finger in the crease under your breast. Drop your elbow so that your breast is supported between your thumb and index finger. Your thumb will be on the outer area of your breast, and your fingers will be on the inner area.”1

Best positions for optimal breastfeeding

Biological nurturing

This position is also referred to as laid-back breastfeeding because it allows for you to be lying back in a reclined position (leaning back) with the front of the baby’s body in full contact with the front of your body.

Make sure you have adequate head and shoulder support for comfort. As long as your bodies are in full contact, the baby can be in any position that is comfortable.1

Cradle hold

While cradling your infant in the arm of the breast you plan on breastfeeding with, rest the baby on his or her side against your stomach and across your lap.

The baby’s mouth should be at the same level as your nipple, while their head rests on your elbow or along your forearm; the baby’s back and buttocks will then rest on your inner forearm and hand providing cradled support.

You may find it helpful to support your breast with the opposing hand in either the “U” or “C” hold to encourage a good latch.1,2

Cross-cradle hold

Similar to the cradle hold, your baby will rest across your stomach so that you and the baby are tummy to tummy.

The difference between these two positions is that unlike the cradle hold, this position will have you hold your baby in the opposite arm of the breast you are using to feed from.

For example, if you plan to use your left breast to feed, then you will have the baby resting in your right arm and vice versa; use the “U” hold to support the breast.

When supporting the baby’s head, it will rest in your hand with your thumb and index fingers supporting the ears.

Your hand, supports your baby’s neck with the baby’s shoulder blades supported by the palm of your hand, which will be used to push the baby forward when latching.

You may or may not find it helpful to have the baby’s legs and feet straddling the supporting arm or use a pillow for support.1,2

Football/clutch hold

This position can be used by many infants and is a great position for women who have undergone a C-section or those women with a forceful milk ejection reflex or letdown.

Start by holding your baby in the same arm as the breast that you plan on feeding with. For example, if you plan on using the right breast to feed, then hold the baby in your right arm.

Your forearm and hand will be used to support his or her head and back, while your other hand holds your breast in a “C” hold.

In this position, your baby’s hips will be flexed, and their legs and feet will be tucked under the arm supporting your baby’s back. Pillows may or may not be helpful for this hold.1,2


When breastfeeding in the side-lying position, you will be lying on your side (the side in which you will feed from) with your baby facing you on his or her side, tummy to tummy.

Some mothers will place a rolled blanket or pillow along the baby’s back to help avoid the baby rolling backward and away from you, while others will simply use their arm to cradle the baby’s back.1,2

Positions for feeding multiples

Double hold clutch

This position allows for two babies to be fed simultaneously using the football/clutch hold for each baby. Using pillows may be helpful in this position.2

Cradle and clutch hold

This position again allows for two babies to be fed simultaneously using both the cradle and clutch holds. One baby will be fed using the cradle position, while the other is fed using the football/clutch hold. Using pillows may be helpful in this position.2

For more information and or help with your specific breastfeeding needs, speak with your health care provider or lactation consultant.

Recent developments on breastfeeding from MNT news

Do some women feel stigmatized if they are unable to breastfeed?

Breastfeeding has many benefits for mother and baby, which is why it is so highly encouraged. But are mothers who are unable to breastfeed or choose not to condemned for it?

Breastfeeding may protect against childhood leukemia

The benefits of breastfeeding are reiterated in a new systematic review and meta-analysis published in JAMA Pediatrics that reports an association between breastfeeding and lower risk of childhood leukemia.

Breast cancer less likely to recur in women with history of breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is associated with a 30% overall decreased risk of breast cancerrecurrence among women who have previously had one subtype of the disease, according to a new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Breastfeeding for longer leads to smarter adults

A study has found that prolonged breastfeeding is linked to higher intelligence, longer schooling and greater earnings as an adult.

Written by Lori Smith BSN MSN CRNP



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