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Finding the Perfect Breastfeeding Position

A good breastfeeding position is the foundation for the rest of your nursing experience. Without it, you will get sore, frustrated, and discouraged.

Once you've learned these important nursing positions, then you can add the proper latch, which leads to happy feedings for you and a satisfied tummy for your infant. Whether you are breastfeeding one, two, three, or more (God bless you), all you need to choose a good breastfeeding position is here.


Quick Skip to the Positions

In a hurry? Use these links to skip quickly to what you need to know.
  • The Cradle Hold
  • The Cross-Cradle Hold
  • The Football Hold
  • Laying Down (aka "Tired Mom" Hold)
  • Breast Feeding Twins, Triplets and Beyond
  • Tandem Breastfeeding (for moms wishing to breastfeed newborns and toddlers at the same time.)

    The cradle hold is the breastfeeding position most associated with nursing. In this position, you sit up straight in a chair and cradle your baby in your arms (hence the name).

    A good nursing pillow makes a huge difference in using this position. Without it, you may be tempted to bring your breast to your baby (rather than baby to breast) and lean over. This bad habit (of leaning over) will spawn painful back aches in the days to come.

    Cradle your baby on your forearm, with her head resting comfortably in the crook of your elbow. Your forearm will be supporting her back. Your open hand will support her bottom. (See the picture above for an example.)

    Your baby's tummy should be pressed against your tummy. This angle is very important for good latching and problem-free nursing. See "How to Breastfeed: a Step-by-Step Guide" for what to do after you've chosen your position.

    The cross-cradle hold is very similar to the cradle hold above. The main difference is that instead of having your hand supporting his bottom, your hand is supporting his head.

    This is actually a great breastfeeding position to start with, since it gives you good control of the baby's head as you are teaching him how to latch on correctly.

    Compare the photo of the statue to the left with the one at the top of the page. Notice how the statue's hands are placed differently than the picture of the woman using the cradle position.

    In the cross-cradle breastfeeding position, your left hand would be supporting your left breast and your right hand would supporting the newborn's neck, ready to quickly place his widely-opened mouth onto the areola (the darker area) and over the nipple.

    The football hold is so-named because it resembles how a running back carries a football while running for a touchdown. (I swear a husband named this position!) Your infant will rest on your forearm, tucked under and around your body like a "C", skin-to-skin. You will nurse on the same side as the arm holding her.

    With the free hand, gently squeeze your breast to align the nipple horizontally as you move your baby to your breast (ALWAYS baby to breast, never breast to baby). When your baby's mouth opens, quickly pull him in close to latch.

    This breastfeeding position is particularly helpful for mothers who are recovering from a cesarean and need to avoid having any pressure placed on their stitches. Be sure the baby is squarely in front of the breast, or you will experience pain while nursing.

    This is also a good position for mothers who have large breasts, mothers nursing premature or small babies, and for babies who struggle to get enough of the nipple or areola into their mouths. (This would translate into painful nursing for you.) The woman in this photo here demonstrates the football hold on her twins, saving time by breastfeeding them at the same time.

    Nursing while lying down is also a good breastfeeding position if you are recovering from a cesarean. Lie on your side and place your baby on his side facing you (tummy to tummy). His mouth should be close to the nipple of your lower breast. Use the hand on your lower arm to help keep your baby's head positioned at your breast.

    With your upper hand, reach across your baby to grasp your breast and help position your nipple to your baby's lips. After your baby has firmly latched on, you can use your lower arm to support your own head (shown here) and your upper arm to help support your infant.

    Always be careful you do not completely fall asleep and end up smothering your baby with blankets, or worse, rolling over her. If you are worried about this happening, I recommend laying down on the couch to snooze lightly, returning baby to his crib or bassinet before you go to sleep deeply in bed.

    Having twice the fun doesn't have to be twice the work (at least in the realm of breastfeeding!). Statistics have shown that breastfeeding your babies, even a little bit for a little while, can really benefit you and your babies. So even though the idea of breastfeeding multiples may seem overwhelming, it's worth at least giving it a shot.

    Since you'll be taking the time to make them a bottle anyway, why not give breastfeeding a try? Just imagine - no more bags JUST for bottles, formula, and nipples every time you go out.

    Remember the golden rule of breastfeeding: the more you nurse, the more you CAN nurse. In other words, the more your twins are on the breast, the more milk you your body will produce - enough to satisfy both of them.

    Drink plenty of water and continue to take your prenatal vitamins to super-charge your breastmilk with vitamins. You will also need to increase your caloric intake by 400-500 calories a day to sustain the increased production. Breast feeding multiples is a major physical endeavor. Schedule lots of rest, plenty of water and increased calories. (Now's the time to get someone else to help out around the house, if you haven't arranged that already!).

    I recommend connecting with a mentor or consultant to help you as you adjust to breastfeeding twins. The support will boost your confidence and increase your likelihood of succeeding.

    At the beginning, right after birth, it is generally a good idea to nurse them one at a time until your milk comes in. Once that happens (4-7 days) you can cut your nursing time in half by breastfeeding them both at the same time. Keep a breastfeeding diary (like this one) to track approximately how much infant is eating.


    Finding an Effective Breastfeeding Position for Multiples

    Nursing twins and triplets is just a simple matter of combining the breastfeeding positions mentioned above. For example, you could try...

    • Both in the football hold (like in the picture for "football hold" above).
    • Feed both babies in the cradle hold, crossed in front of you. This is usually best only for newborns, since they quickly can outgrow this position! See the drawing above for an example.
    • Combine the cradle and the football hold. Lay both babies in the same direction, the first in a cradle hold, and the second resting his head on the first's leg for support (like in the picture below).

    Who Gets What?

    You can "assign" a baby to a breast, keeping it consistent at each feeding. Sometimes mothers experienced lop-sided breasts using this approach, since one baby may feed more than the other. On the other hand, sometimes lop-sided breasts just come with the nursing territory, no matter your technique to resolve it.

    You can also choose to alternate your breasts. Some studies have shown vision enhancement in babies who switch sides. Not only can it help even out your milk supply (and your breasts), if one baby sucks more vigorously, the switching can help ease a tender nipple.

    For triplets, try to rotate them around during the day. Feed "Alice" and "Bill" in the morning first, and let "Carrie" finish off on both breasts. The next time, rotate so "Bill" and Carrie" feed at the same time, letting "Alice" finish off the breast. And so on, letting each baby rotate around and ensuring they all get enough to eat.

    By most accounts, you will produce enough to satisfy. It's all about supply and demand. However, some parents choose to supplement the third baby (whoever that is during a feeding session) with formula. Be aware, though, that if you do decide to use formula, your milk supply will reflect that decision. If later you decide you want to drop that formula bottle, it will take time and dedication of constant-nursing to get your supply up again.

    If you have quads or quints, supplementing with formula is probably going to have to be a necessity. Although your body can make enough for three exclusive feeders, more than that may be too much (even for your amazing body). Follow the suggestions for breastfeeding triplets, adding a bottle for the others, making sure to rotate around so each baby is getting a mixture of breastmilk and formula.


    Feeding Preemies

    If your multiples were born premature, your breastmilk is even more important. You can help boost their tiny bodies by pumping with an electric pump. Once they're old enough to feed on their own, you can introduce them to your breast. Speak with a lactation consultant before birth (if at all possible) and definitely after birth to help you breastfeed. It will take determination and perseverance, but your babies will thank you for it...eventually!

    Tandem breastfeeding is when you are still breastfeeding an older sibling while starting to breastfeed a newborn. Just as in breastfeeding multiples, tandem breast feeding will require you to be very deliberate about your food choices. You'll need to choose nutrient-dense foods that will squeeze out every nutrient possible per calorie. Specifically, you should aim for foods at are high in calcium, zinc, iron, folic acid, and protein.

    Many people may not be encouraging of your choice to tandem breastfeed. They may feel you are robbing your unborn or newborn child of valuable nutrition by continuing to nurse an older sibling (which isn't true, by the way). Having a supportive spouse is a huge blessing for mothers wanting to give tandem breastfeeding a try.

    If you don't find yourself with that blessing, go out of your way to create one. Find an older woman who has tandem nursed for support and guidance when things get tough. La Leche League is a great place to start that search.

    The book, Adventures in Tandem Nursing, by the La Leche League is a great resource for mothers who are pregnant and currently breastfeeding an older child. It gives helpful tips not only on the physical act of nursing two (or more!) children, but can help you with scheduling, naps, and other emotional issues toddlers go through when introduced to a new younger sibling. I highly recommend this wonderful book if you are thinking of tandem nursing. Click here to see Adventures in Tandem Nursingat Amazon.

    flower logo
    Finding a good breastfeeding position is the first step toward nursing success. Learning and practicing these different nursing holds will greatly encourage you, and soothe your infant in his frantic quest for milk. Visit this page to see how to breastfeed from start to finish.

    The more you breastfeed, the easier it becomes. In time, these breastfeeding positions will become second-nature. You'll even forget their names! It will quickly go from "the football hold" to "Carter's favorite nursing position".

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    Photos used on this page were found at and were used with permission and according to guidelines.


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