When it comes to breastfeeding there's a lot to learn – for many, it’s not as natural and simple as they imagine. But, learning what to expect from your body and your baby before you start on your breastfeeding journey can set you up for success. 

We asked our expert Dana Czuczka (IBCLC), the instructor for our Breastfeeding 101: What to Expect in the First 30 Days online class, to help explain one of the first few things you’ll need to learn when it comes to breastfeeding: the different breastfeeding positions. Below we go over each position, how it should feel, what it should look like, and how to find what works best for you and your baby. 

5 Common Breastfeeding Positions: 
Laid-Back/Reclining Position: 
The “reclining” or “laid back” nursing position may be the first position to try once baby is born. After delivery, when baby is placed skin-to-skin on parent’s chest, baby usually finds the breast all on their own and ends up breastfeeding for the first time in this position. Be patient, keep baby calm, and encourage them, you’ll be amazed they just know what to do and can find their way to the breast!
Keep in mind: 

  • Start baby high up on your chest and let them lead the way. 
  • There’s no specific angle you need to be at -- play around with different places to sit like the couch, bed, or glider and how many pillows you like to support you. Find what works best for you and baby. 
  • This position isn’t just for newborns, older babies can also breastfeed in the reclining position. Once you and baby get the hang of it, you won’t have to start with baby so high up on the chest, you can start with them closer to the breast. 

Side-Lying Hold: This is a helpful breastfeeding hold for the parent if they are uncomfortable sitting up or those who want to relax while nursing. For most breastfeeding parents, the side-lying position is easier once baby is a little older and breastfeeding has become very second nature. This is because nursing in the side-lying position does not give the parent as much control over baby’s positioning, making it harder for a young baby who is still learning to breastfeed to establish a good latch. Once parent and baby are comfortable breastfeeding, side-lying is a great position to try - especially for those nighttime feeds!

Keep in mind: 

  • Both parent and baby lie on their sides facing each other. 
  • Parent can place an arm under baby or just support baby on their back. 
  • Parent lines baby up with her breast.

 *Just remember, you don’t want to fall asleep with baby in your bed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants share a bedroom with parents, but not the same sleeping surface.

Cradle Hold: Even though this is the position most people think of when they think of breastfeeding, it is not necessarily the easiest for a new baby and parent.

Keep in mind: 

  • Parent holds baby with the same side arm as she is nursing baby on. For example, if the parent is nursing with the right breast, they are holding baby with the right arm. 
  • Baby is belly to belly with parent. 
  • Hold baby close. Baby’s chin is touching the parent’s breast which means baby’s nose is usually clear to breathe.

Cross Cradle Hold:  This tends to be one of Dana’s favorite positions to teach to new parents and babies because it allows the parent to have good control over the latch. 

Keep in mind: 

  • Parent holds baby in the opposite arm from the breast she’ll be nursing on. For example, if feeding from the left breast, parent holds baby in her right arm.
  • Baby is resting on the inside of the parent’s forearm. 
  • Parent holds baby at the base of their skull with her thumb and finger near baby’s ears - baby’s head should be resting in the webbing between the parent’s thumb and first finger. 
  • Baby is belly to belly with the breastfeeding parent. 
  • Hold baby close. Baby’s chin is touching the parent’s breast which means baby’s nose is usually clear to breathe.

Football Hold: This position is particularly good for parents after a c-section, as it keeps the baby away from the incision. It’s also good for parents with larger breasts or with multiples. In this position, the baby is being held on the same side they are nursing on. Baby is tucked around the side of the parent's body (for smaller babies, try propping up on some pillows!), feet towards the back and the parent is supporting baby’s head at the base of the neck, gently. 

Keep in mind: 

  • Baby nurses on the same side the parent is holding baby. For example, if feeding from the left breast, the parent holds baby on her left side. 
  • Baby is tucked into the parent’s side and is resting in/on the parent’s bent forearm. 
  • Parent is supporting baby’s head at the base of the skull with baby’s head resting in the webbing of the parent’s hand between thumb and first finger. 
  • Baby’s face is toward the parent’s breast and baby’s feet are toward the parent’s back. 
  • Parent places pillows under her arm to help support both the parent and baby.

Remember, for all these positions, we always want the baby in a neutral position with their ear, shoulder, and hip all in one line — which helps with latching. 

When it comes to breastfeeding, there’s a lot of experimenting to find the position that works best for both you and baby. Don’t be afraid to continue to try different holds as your baby grows and you both get used to breastfeeding. And remember, you can move around…you’re not stuck in any one position. Our breastfeeding classes will walk  you through these common positions step by step and provides real demonstrations of each so you know what to look for when trying it at home. It also provides tips on getting a good latch, ways to know baby is getting enough milk, common challenges such as clogged ducts and mastitis, and more.