Breastfeeding and cocaine use
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Sally Tedstone
Breastfeeding Expert Midwife and Breastfeeding Educator with UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative
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Breastfeeding positions

You can feed your baby in any position that you find comfortable. It’s a good idea to change positions sometimes to help avoid blocked ducts, or to alter positions if you feel like you are getting a blockage. Whichever position you use, try to be relaxed and don’t lift and push your breast into your baby’s mouth. Make sure that you can reach for things like a glass of water and that you have everything to hand so you don’t need to stop and get up! Each baby and mum will work out their own favourite breastfeeding positions. It’s important to remember that we are all different shapes and sizes. Some of us have longer and shorter arms. Some have us have breasts that fall in different ways. You may not be able to manage the position your friend is using in quite the same way if you have a different body shape.
Video Tutorial
In Short

The most common breastfeeding positions include:

Cross cradle - A good position for most mums as you can sit down and support your baby at the breast with the opposite arm and once the feed is underway the other arm can add support and cradle the baby.

Rugby Hold - A good position if you have big breasts or have had a caesarian section.

Laid back breastfeeding - A good natural hold especially in the golden hour after birth when you may have a bare chest.

Lying down on side - A restful position for night feeds in bed and if you’ve had a caesarian section.  

Here are the most popular breastfeeding positions.

Cradle hold

This is the traditional hold that you see most Mums using. The baby’s body is across the front of yours, feeding on the opposite breast to the arm that’s supporting them. Their tummy is close to your tummy, and they are facing the breast. Your arms cradle the baby close to your body. It’s really important to make sure that your baby’s head is free to tilt back. The cradle hold is quite a nice position as you’ve got quite a lot of control over what the baby’s doing. You need to wait until the baby opens its mouth, really, really wide and at that moment, you then bring the baby in quickly to latch on to the breast and take all the nipple and lots of breast tissue If the latch doesn’t feel right and you want to start again, gently pop your little finger into their mouth, and the latch will break. This method means you don’t have to pull the baby off your breast and hurt your nipple.

To recap:

  • Hold baby close, supporting their neck but allowing the head to move.
  • Your baby needs to start with their nose opposite your nipple.
  • Your baby’s head should be free to tilt back.
  • Tease your baby to open his mouth by rubbing your nipple between his nose and top lip. Wait for baby to open his mouth really wide.
  • Your baby will come to your breast with his head thrown back and his chin first.
  • Your baby should take a big mouthful of breast and your nipple just slips under their upper lip.
  • When effectively attached you will notice that his cheeks are full, you may see more of the brown area around your nipple above his top lip and you will notice that he begins to take short fast sucks before moving onto a steady feeding rhythm.
Rugby hold or underarm hold

Another really nice position is the underarm position, some call it the rugby ball (or American football) position. In this breastfeeding position, you are holding them on the same side you are feeding on, rather than them being across your body as in the cradle position. So with this position, you can even feed one baby on each side at the same time!

Support your baby’s body and shoulders along the arm of the side you are feeding on. It can usually help to have a pillow under your arm to support your baby’s weight. Your baby needs to start off with his nose near your nipple so their mouth can take a big mouthful of breast and nipple when they latch on. You’ll need to have space behind you so your baby isn’t squashed against the back of the chair or their chin ends up being level with the nipple instead of their nose. If you feel tempted to move your breast around, that’s a clue the baby’s body might need to be in a different place. The rugby hold is a good position if;

  • you are tandem feeding twins
  • you’ve had a caesarean
  • you’ve got bigger breasts
  • you’ve got a toddler because you can have the baby tucked on one side and you can play/read with your toddler on the other
  • you have a blocked duct at the side of your breast. From this position, your baby will have this part of your breast in his mouth and will be massaging and help to drain this part of the breast and remove the blockage

To recap:

  • The baby goes under your arm, on the same side as the breast they are feeding from, like you’re holding a rugby ball!
  • The secret is to make sure the baby is far back enough so that the nose still starts off near the nipple and the baby gets a big mouthful.
  • This hold is good with two twins feeding at once, and nice too if you have a toddler, so the baby is tucked out of the way and you can read stories to your toddler!
Biological nurturing position or laid back position

The biological nurturing or laid back position means that you lie back with your baby on your chest allowing them to have more control over their feeding. This position relies on your baby’s instinct (which is really strong) to do the right thing. This position can be really lovely after the birth when you are both in skin to skin contact and your baby has a strong rooting instinct and tries to ‘crawl’ (or nudge) to the breast. This is also a very useful position if baby has a sore head following a forceps or Ventouse birth as it is more comfortable for baby. When you are really laid back, this position is about using gravity to get the right latch. The aim is to get no gaps between your bodies. For this breastfeeding position, ideally, you’d have head support, for example, reclined on your sofa. Your baby needs complete contact from their chest all the way down to the feet and then this triggers their natural feeding instincts.

After the birth, this baby led breastfeeding is referred to as a breast crawl and babies use their arms and legs to push themselves towards the breast (this is interesting as mums often find that their babies arms “get in the way” using other positions as the baby is using her arms and legs instinctively).

To recap:

  • Mum is in a laid back position, leaning on cushions on for example.
  • Mum lies baby on her chest in a vertical position and just lets the baby rely on its own instinct to find the breast, position himself and feed.
  • This is a lovely position which promotes more instinctive behaviour, but is not convenient if you’re out and about at a cafe, for example.

Feeding lying down

Lying down is a really helpful breastfeeding position for evening and night feeds. Start on your side with your baby facing you. Have your baby’s nose at the same height as your nipple. When baby opens their mouth wide, you can bring them even closer to your body. If you started nose to nipple and encouraged them to tilt their head back, it will be nice and easy for them to breathe. In this position, they should take a lot of breast tissue from underneath your nipple into their mouth. This also makes it a good position if you feel like you have a blocked duct in any of the areas at the bottom of your breast. It is also a great feeding position if you’ve had a Caesarean section because your baby’s weight is not on your scar.

To recap:

  • You’ll need a firm mattress and no covers over the baby.
  • Don’t use this position if you’ve been drinking or are on medication that can make you drowsy, since you risk falling asleep and smothering the baby (which wouldn’t happen normally).
  • Lie facing each other.
  • When you want to feed from the other breast, rather than have baby in between you and a partner who isn’t breastfeeding, go top to tail and put your head at the other end of the bed so you are still breastfeeding on the outside breast and baby is on the outside (ideally with a co-sleeper cot or bed guard behind them if there isn’t much space on the mattress). Depending on your breast shape and size, you may be able to feed from the other breast with the baby staying in the same position.
Feeding from above on all fours or ‘dangle feeding’

This isn’t really a breastfeeding position so much as how to feed when you have engorged breasts or a blocked duct. You can use any position of the ones described above, but the trick is to first hand express some milk out gently, so your breasts are relaxed again and your baby can latch on without the pain usually involved with a baby feeding from engorged breasts. After hand expressing, you can dry your breast with a muslin so it’s not too slippery for your baby to latch on. Another actual breastfeeding position that can be good for mums with engorged breasts is to feed your baby from above. To do this, lie your baby on a firm surface like a mattress and crouch over them in a comfortable position so the nipple meets your baby’s nose. Then they can scoop the nipple and lots of breast tissue into their mouths.

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This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.