Parenting tip

The important thing is that your position is comfy for both you and your baby and that it makes it possible for your baby to get just the right big mouthful of breast to feed effectively and easily.

Breastfeeding positions: which are best for you?

Here we provide tips on the best breast feeding positions including lying down or sitting in a chair, with advice on underarm positions and other breastfeeding tips.

The way that you hold your baby (positioning) will make it more or less easy for your baby to feed effectively. There are lots of different positions for breastfeeding so try different positions and see what feels most comfortable for you and allows your baby to get just the right mouthful of breast to feed effectively and easily.

If you are having problems breastfeeding, or with latching or attachment, your midwife or a breastfeeding counsellor can help you get comfortable in one or more of the best breastfeeding positions described in this article.

Whatever nursing positions you use, your baby will feed better if she is calm. Holding her against you, talking to her or perhaps wrapping her securely in a towel or shawl may help if she needs to be calmed. Later she may want to have her hands free to touch and stroke your breast.

It helps to hold your baby really close, her whole body towards you, her back and head in a straight line. If you line up her nose so that it’s level with your nipple, she will have to tilt her head back slightly when she latches on in order to get a good mouthful. Your baby will prefer to be able to move her head freely when she is feeding. She also needs to open her mouth really wide to attach well.

Before you start positioning your baby for breastfeeding, it may also be helpful to gather some useful items together, such as a drink and snack for you or tissues or muslins, for instance. 

Laid back, relaxing

Choose a comfortable position for yourself, such as lying back (reclining), cuddling and holding your baby whichever way feels comfortable to you, for as long as you wish. Your baby’s body is completely supported by your body, facing and closely touching it. New research suggests that this encourages your baby’s instincts, such as rooting, and is often more comfortable, thereby helping breastfeeding.

Sitting in a chair

  • Let your baby lie across your lap, with her head supported on your forearm, her nose towards your nipple.
  • Make sure her ear, shoulder and hip are in a line, not twisted round.

Or you could...

  • Lay her across your lap, with your opposite hand and wrist supporting her upper back and neck.

These are the positions that you see most women using when they are out and about with their baby. Its worth getting comfortable yourself, so that you don’t have to support your baby’s weight. She may seem small, but you need to be able to relax as well.

Underarm

  • By placing cushions at your side, your baby can rest on them, with her legs pointing behind you. You will probably need cushions behind you to leave enough room for her legs to go past your back.
  • She will be tucked under your arm for support.
  • You can support her behind her shoulders and neck with your right hand when she’s at your right breast; and vice versa, or support her with pillows.
  • Starting nose-to-nipple generally helps her attach well.
  • This position can work well for twins as each baby has their own space.

Lying down

  • If you lie on your side and rest your head on a pillow, your baby can tuck in close to your body. You can guide her to your breast and support her with your free hand.
  • A pillow behind you will support your back.
  • A thin pillow or folded towel under your rib cage will lift your body slightly – helpful if you have large breasts.
  • If you have had a caesarean or need to stay in bed, breastfeeding lying down can be very relaxing and help you get more rest.

Whatever position you choose, remember:

  • Bring your baby to your breast or let her attach herself rather than leaning towards her.
  • Tuck her in closely to you.
  • Check that her ear, shoulder and hip are all in a line – not twisted round.
  • Make sure she’s facing your nipple – she shouldn’t have to turn her head.
  • Using cushions, special breastfeeding pillows and other supports might help in the early days, but you might be equally comfortable without them.
  • Many mothers take a while to get used to holding their baby comfortably, but once breastfeeding is established, find that breastfeeding in public is discreet and easy too.
     

Further information

NCT supports all parents, however they feed their baby. If you have questions, concerns or need support, you can speak to a breastfeeding counsellor by calling our helpline on 0300 330 0700, whether you are exclusively breastfeeding or using formula milk. Breastfeeding counsellors have had extensive training, will listen without judging or criticising and will offer relevant information and suggestions. You can also find more useful articles here.

National Breastfeeding Line (government funded): 0300 100 021.

Useful reading

Bump to Breastfeeding DVD: available from your midwife or library – see more at www.bestbeginnings.org.uk

For further information on how to breastfeed, including positioning and breastfeeding attachment, and a section on expressing your breastmilk by hand, go to www.babyfriendly.org.uk/pdfs/bfyb_english1.pdf

Breastfeeding for beginners by Caroline Deacon available from www.nctshop.co.uk

'Breastfeeding – a good start' available from www.nctshop.co.uk

NCT Book of Breastfeeding by Mary Smale (Vermilion) available from www.nctshop.co.uk

The food of love (book and website) by Kate Evans – a down-to-earth humorous and helpful approach to breastfeeding with cartoons