There are several different types of breastfeeding positions, and each can be useful in varying situations. For newborns and mothers recovering from C-section, the football hold, and cross cradle position may be appropriate. For older babies, the cradle hold and side-laying position may be the most comfortable. On-the-go toddlers often prefer sitting up to nurse.
The football hold is usually one of the first positions a new nursing pair learns, especially when the mother has large breasts, is recovering from a C-section, or is nursing twins. In this hold, the baby faces up toward the mother, with its body laying on the side of the breast it will be nursing from, and its feet pointing straight back. The mother's hand on the nursing side supports the infant's head, while her arm supports the back.
The baby latches on facing the mother, allowing eye contact and easier breathing for nursing from a mom with large breasts. When nursing twins, each baby can nurse on either side. This position is best done in a chair sitting straight up, with a pillow under the arm supporting the baby for extra stability.
The cross cradle position is considered to be one of the most comfortable breastfeeding positions for moms. The baby's body is supported in the opposite arm of the side he or she will be nursing from, with the mother's hand on the same side of supports the head. The baby is lifted to the breast while mom sits straight in a chair, thereby allowing the baby to latch on and nurse. This position is best done using a nursing pillow or a chair with arm rests. It is important to bring the baby to the breast rather than bringing the breast to the baby; this will allow for a more comfortable latch.
The cradle hold is similar to cross cradle breastfeeding positions. The baby is held as if mom is rocking him or her to sleep; the arm on the side to be nursed from supports the baby's upper body and the opposite arm supports the bottom and legs. This position is usually most comfortable with a pillow placed underneath the mother's arms; this reduces the strain on the arms and back. Sitting straight, the baby is brought to the breast to latch on.
Once an infant is able to support his or her head, one of the most popular breastfeeding positions is the side-laying position. Often used by co-sleeping nursing pairs, baby and mom lay down facing each other, with the infant's nose in line with the nipple. The baby tilts his or her head back, thereby latching on to the breast. Keeping the baby at this angle allows for optimal air flow and is usually most comfortable for the child.
After a child begins to walk, he or she generally prefers sitting breastfeeding positions. The toddler will often sit in the mother's lap or right next to her and latch on with little help from mom. As with all of these breastfeeding positions, sitting to nurse may not work for everyone. Each nursing pair, as they get more comfortable with breastfeeding and as the child grows, will find their own best breastfeeding positions.