6 Breastfeeding Positions for You and Your Baby

AngelaRD, LDN, CBS

Read time: 8 minutes

What to know about positioning your baby for breastfeeding

  • How to keep you and your baby comfortable during feedings

  • Learn 6 common breastfeeding positions

  • Tips to help your baby latch

While breastfeeding is natural, it doesn’t always come easily. One way to help your breastfeeding journey be a little smoother is finding the position that works best for you and your baby.

The most important thing to know about breastfeeding positions is that there is not one “right” position. Every mother and baby pair may breastfeed differently, and the position you use with your newborn may morph into others as your baby grows and develops.

The goal is for both you and baby to be comfortable and safe; as well as for your position to allow baby to latch deeply, suckle well, and feed adequately.

Learning to breastfeed

It can take a few weeks to discover what breastfeeding position and hold works best for you and your little one. Holding your baby at the breast in the right way can help prevent nipple damage and help your little one empty the breast better.1,2

Many factors may influence which position works best for you and baby, including: breast and body size and shape; baby size and shape; and preference when it comes to comfort.3

Have questions about positioning or latching your baby? Reach out to our team of registered dietitian nutritionists and lactation consultants for free! They’re here to help on our free to live chat from Monday – Friday 8am-6pm (ET).Chat Now!

Here are the 6 most common breastfeeding positions

Cradle Hold

This position is very common and is often the one most people think of when they imagine breastfeeding.

The cradle position may be good if:

  • You and baby are comfortable in this hold

  • Your baby has a tough time latching. This hold allows you to help guide baby to the breast

  • Some mothers transition to this position after latching in cross-cradle

  • This position may not be good for preterm or very young babies who do not have good muscle tone yet3,5

How to get into the cradle position:

Your baby is positioned belly-to-belly in front of you, so that baby’s stomach, knees, and feet are facing you.3 Support baby with the same arm as the breast baby is latching onto, holding baby across your abdomen. Baby’s head and neck will be supported by your forearm near the crook of your elbow.

Your other hand can be used to support your breast if needed.

Cross-Cradle (Transitional) Hold

The cross-cradle position may be good if:

  • You and your baby are comfortable in this hold

  • Baby needs extra head and neck support

  • Your baby is small or premature

Baby has a difficult time maintaining latch and suction. This position can help keep baby closer to the breast to help maintain a latch.3,6

How to get into the cross-cradle hold:

Your baby is positioned belly-to-belly in front of you, with baby’s stomach, knees, and feet facing you – baby is lying across your abdomen.3 Support baby with the arm opposite the breast baby is latching onto (hence the ‘cross-cradle’ name, as you cross the opposite arm over to support your baby).

Use this hand to support baby’s head and neck: fingers behind baby’s ears (not pressing on the back of baby’s head) with your palm between baby’s shoulder blades.6

Your other hand can help support the breast baby is feeding from if needed.

Football (Clutch) Hold

The football position may be good if:

  • You and your baby are comfortable in this hold

  • You have heavy or large breasts

  • You underwent a caesarean delivery

  • You are breastfeeding twins

  • Baby has difficulty maintaining a latch3,7

How to get into the football hold:

Hold your baby at your side facing up or slightly turned toward you.3 Make sure baby’s legs and back are supported with a pillow; hips and buttocks near the back of the chair or bed headboard.

Baby should be level, or head and shoulders slightly elevated. Your hand will gently hold the base of baby’s head and neck, forearm under baby’s shoulder and upper back, so that baby’s head is near your nipple.7

Think of holding your baby like a football player running with the ball. Your other hand can help support the breast baby will be feeding from.

Read more: How To Tandem Nurse Your Newborn and Your Older Child

Side-Lying Position

The side-lying position may be good if:

  • You and your baby are comfortable in this position

  • You underwent a caesarean delivery

  • It’s too painful to sit (such as with hemorrhoids)

  • You’d like to rest while breastfeeding, such as for night feeds

  • Your breasts are heavy or large3,8

How to get into the side-lying position:

Both you and your baby lay on your sides facing each other. You can lie with your bottom arm under your head or under baby. If your arm is under your baby, support baby’s back with your forearm, baby’s head and neck in the crook of your elbow (similar to the cradle position). To do this, you may need to be leaning slightly back, supported by a pillow behind you. Baby should be slightly below your breast to allow baby to tilt their head up while you hug baby in to latch.

If you are having difficulty seeing how baby is latching, you can try supporting your breast on a small pillow or by coming up on your elbow until baby latches, then readjust into a more comfortable position after baby is latched.3

Saddle (Upright, Australian, or Koala) Hold

The saddle breastfeeding position may be good if:

  • You and your baby are comfortable in this position

  • Your baby is slightly older with good neck control and can hold their head up

  • Your baby has a cold with a blocked nose / congestion

  • Your baby has reflux11

How to get into the saddle position:

In this hold, you and baby are both sitting upright, backs straight, belly to belly, and baby is straddling your thigh. Since baby’s head will be tilted back slightly while breastfeeding, support the bottom of baby’s head, neck, and shoulders with one of your hands. Pull baby close to allow latching. Once baby is latched you can recline slightly to help support baby’s head better.11

Laid-Back (Biological Nursing or Semi-Reclined) Position

This position is considered to be a more natural and baby-led approach.10

  • The laid-back breastfeeding position may be good if:

  • You and your baby are comfortable in this position

  • Your baby is small or premature

  • You have a strong let down (gravity will help slow your milk flow slightly)4

  • You feel comfortable with a baby-led approach

How to get into the laid-back position:

Using pillows for support, recline anywhere from 45 degrees to almost flat, depending on what feels best to you. Nestle your baby to you, belly to belly, using gravity to support baby against you.3

Baby can come onto the breast from any angle: parallel to your body or even angled from the sides. Just make sure baby is lying on their belly. If needed, gently support baby’s head and shoulders.

With your baby’s head between your breasts, or cheek against your breast, allow baby’s natural instincts to kick in to find the nipple and latch on.9 Baby will bob their head around until they find the nipple. Try not to restrain baby or force the latch.10

Which breastfeeding position should you use?

These positions are simply suggestions. It’s important to experiment to see which may work best for you and your little one. If your baby likes a cross-cradle position on the right and a football position on the left, go for it! If you and baby are both comfortable, baby is transferring milk efficiently and effectively, and baby is satisfied after feeds, that’s all that matters.

Learn more: Top Breastfeeding Latching Tips

Tips to help baby latch well in each breastfeeding position

Use pillows for support as needed

Pile as many pillows as you need to bring your baby level to your breast and to help you be comfortable and relaxed. Use them in your lap to support the baby, behind you to support your back, or at your side to support your forearm and wrist.12,12

Feet flat on the floor or a stool

In many of the more upright positions, your feet should be firmly on the floor so that your legs can be relaxed. Use a stool (or stack of books) if needed to help achieve this more comfortable position. This will also help your lap be flat, or with knees slightly elevated, to help support your baby well at the breast.3

Hug your baby into you

Bring your baby to your breast rather than bringing your breast to baby by hunching over.12 Keep in mind that you should be able to stay in this position comfortably for 20-45 minutes (the length of a feed), so don’t begin the feed in a position that you can’t sustain or that strains your shoulders, back, and neck.

Learn about: Understanding Your Baby’s Hunger and Fullness Cues

Support your breast

Often it can be helpful to support your breast in a C- or U-hold. These will help compress your areola and nipple for baby to get a nice deep latch. Holding the breast can also help you position your nipple for a good latch. Your nipple should be aimed toward the top back of baby’s mouth.13

Nose to nipple, chin first

Baby should come to the breast with head tilted back, looking up. To accomplish this, start with baby’s nose at the level of your nipple. As baby tries to reach your nipple, they’ll open their mouth wider while tilting their head back, and their chin will come onto your breast first.10 This will help to achieve a deeper and more comfortable latch.

You’ll notice in a good latch that baby will take in more of the bottom part of your areola (where their lower lip is), all of the nipple, and some of the top part of the areola.

Learn about: Top Breastfeeding Latching Tips

Reevaluate your position if you’re experiencing discomfort

If you feel pinching during the latch (as opposed to comfortable tugging or pulling), re-latch baby. If that does not help, try a new position. Keep experimenting until you find something that works for you and your baby.

Practice makes perfect for both of you. Try positions again in a few days or in few weeks. What was once uncomfortable for you or your baby may end up being a preferred position as your baby matures.

Learn about: What to do About Sore Nipples While Breastfeeding

Pay attention to your baby’s cues

If your baby fusses when you turn them a particular way, they may be uncomfortable in that position. Keep experimenting until you both feel comfy and satisfied.

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Our Happy Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET).Chat Now!

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For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

Avoiding and Managing Blocked Ducts

Breastfeeding: How to Support a Good Milk Supply

Managing Leaking while Breastfeeding

How do I Avoid and Manage Blocked Nipple Pores

How do I Manage Gas in my Breastfed Baby?