Your position during breastfeeding should help the baby latch on to your breast. Remember to hold him as close to you as possible (the nipple can't slide out of your baby's mouth). The most important thing about the position is that you're comfortable (set yourself so that you don't feel tension, tiredness or pain). There are many positions to choose from - both sitting and lying. Each one of them is good as long as it's comfortable for you and your baby.
Just remember about a few important rules:
- the child should face you with his tummy
- his head has to be on the level of your breast, whereas his mouth should be on the level of your nipple
- when suckling, your baby mustn't bend back or forth
- your baby's spine and head must be positioned in one (straight) line
- always make sure your baby is able to breathe freely through his nose (your breast mustn't block his nose); if your baby can't breathe freely through the nose, he won't suckle correctly
- your baby's chin and tip of the nose can touch your breast.
Choose one that is most comfortable for you and your baby:
Lie down on the same side as the breast your baby will be feeding from, put a pillow (or two) under your head, and another one under your shoulders. When feeding on the side, you can also put a pillow or rolled blanket between your bent knees for extra comfort. You can also use the side position to feed the baby from the breast that is on the opposite side to your lying position: you should lean on your elbow and turn your upper body towards the child, or place your child higher, on a hard pillow or rolled blanket, so that his mouth is on the level of your nipple. This is a comfortable position, especially in the beginning (as sitting can be difficult right after birth). It's also a good position for night feeding, when you don't want to be completely awake. Many mums find this position to be the most comfortable one in general and use it to feed their children for months. Remember, that also in this position your baby's head should be higher than the rest of his body and remain in symmetry with the spine.
When feeding in a sitting position, remember to keep your back straight and your feet flat on the ground. Your legs shouldn't bee too close to your chest (which happens if your chair or armchair is too low), but at the same time your hips shouldn't slide down to the floor (which happens if your chair is too high). You might find pillows helpful - you can put them on your lap to help lift the baby closer to your breast. You can also put a pillow behind your back or shoulders, in order to help you sit straight, or under the arm that is holding the baby.
Remember not to lean back or forward too much. Place the baby across your lap, holding him with your arm and forearm. Some women prefer to breastfeed while sitting on the floor. Just remember to sit straight (it's best to lean against something) and sit in a cross-legged position (in a so called Indian style). You can put a pillow or rolled blanket in between your legs, and lay the baby on it.
Lie down on your back, and place the baby on your belly. When he latches on, make sure he is breathing properly. You should be able to find a position, in which your baby will be able to latch on and breathe freely. Some women prefer this feeding position because it allows them to deal with the sudden flow of milk that occurs in the beginning of feeding. Sometimes this position is used by women after a caesarean section. When you feed in this position, remember to make sure the baby gets a good mouthful of breast, and not just the nipple.
Place the baby so that his legs are under your arm, and his face is turned towards you. It's best to lay the baby on a pillow. Use your hand to support your baby's head like a "ball" and guide him to your breast, supporting his neck and back at the same time. This position is recommended for: women with large breasts, women with flat or inverted nipples or other nipple problems, women suffering from blocked ducts, as well as newborns who are small or have trouble suckling or latching on, or just as an alternative feeding position.
Regardless of whether you feed with breast or bottle, always remember these rules:
- First of all, always feed your baby in your arms. Do not feed your baby when he's lying, especially on his back. He could choke on milk, babies often suffer from reflux which means that the feed flows back from his stomach to the esophagus (foodpipe). Remember also that your baby feels safest in your arms. Try to also switch arms from time to time, i.e. support your baby first with one hand and then with the other. Thanks to variation, your baby's muscles will develop evenly.
- Secondly, remember to always keep your baby's head higher than his torso (rest it on your arm). It's the best suckling position for the baby. If you breastfeed, make sure that your baby latches on and suckles properly. Whereas if you feed from bottle, make sure that the part of the teat that is in the child's mouth is completely filled with milk. It minimises the risk of swallowing air (i.e. prevents colic). Make sure your baby doesn't lean his head back or forward too much.
It makes suckling much more difficult, and might even cause the feed to get to your baby's airways.
- Thirdly, never feed your baby when you're irritated or stressed. First take a moment to yourself, take a deep breath and try to relax. When you feel calmed down, take a seat in a comfortable armchair, lay a pillow under your arm, rest your baby on the pillow and start feeding, while talking gently to your baby. Your child senses your emotions easily. If you're stressed, he too will feel uneasy. Also never feed your baby when he's agitated, crying or screaming. When he's in such a state, his airways aren't protected and the feed could get to his larynx instead of his foodpipe.
- Fourthly, take breaks after and during every feeding and feeding, during which you hold your baby in a vertical or semi-vertical position. Rest his head on your shoulder and support his back with your hand. Hold the baby in an upright position until he brings up wind, swallowed with the feed. Usually this takes only a moment, although sometimes it can take a little longer.