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Positioning your baby at the breast

How you position your baby at the breast can make a big difference to your comfort and theirs, as well as enabling them to transfer milk more effectively. Babies can feed at the breast/ chest in all sorts of different positions and there's no right way - it's about how you both fit together best. Don't be afraid to experiment and see what works.

Positions you might like to try

Laid back, tummy to tummy

Photo of a baby held tummy to tummy on mum, latching to the breast in a laid back or biological nurturing position, with the mother sitting reclined.

Often our go-to position! A semi-reclined position enables gravity to encourage close contact, tummy-to-tummy, and babies can instinctively tip their head back for a deep latch. Lots of support for tired backs and arms in this position.

Tips to improve comfort

Tip 1: Hug baby close

After your baby has latched, if you look down, can you see your baby’s lips? If so, your baby could be closer. Try hugging your baby’s body into yours, and watch their cheeks come into close contact with your breast. As you look down you’ll see a straight line where your baby’s cheeks make contact with your breast.


It can be tempting to push your baby’s head into the breast to get a deeper latch, but babies need their heads to be free so they can pull back if they need to. If you focus on bringing in your baby’s body and especially their tummy and chest into close contact with your body, their head will follow. 

Holding your baby firmly against you helps them to feel secure and stable so they can focus on latching. It also brings their body into a chest-forward position to enable their head to tip back and allow a deeper latch, rather than a banana shape with their chin on their chest. Imagine you’re drinking from a can - you’d bring your chest forward, tip your head back and chin up to open wide and glug - exactly the position it’s easiest for your baby to drink in too.

Positioning tip 1: Hug baby close. Moving baby from lips visible at the breast, to cheeks in close contact with the breast.

Tip 2: Baby looking up

While your baby is latched and you’re hugging them nice and close, take a look at their nose. Is it buried in breast tissue or is their chin tipped down onto their chest? If so, try sliding your baby’s whole body a little towards their toes so they look up. 


If you are holding your baby across your body (cradle or cross cradle) this means you’ll slide them round your body towards their toes. If you’re holding your baby more up-and-down your body (laid back), you’ll need to slide them down your body a bit (try sliding your foot out to drop your knee into a slope) or lean back.


Because their mouth is fixed on the nipple, this will allow some more space under their chin, allowing their whole face to look up and freeing their nose. It’s almost like your baby is looking up at the nipple while latching or feeding. With their head back and chest out (as above), this will also facilitate a wide open mouth for a big mouthful of breast tissue and effective milk transfer.

Positioning tip 2: allow baby to look up, by moving baby's body around towards their toes.

Tip 3: Angle cheeks equally

Now take a look at both of your baby’s cheeks. Are they equally planted in breast tissue? Or can you see a gap to the breast on one of their cheeks? You can ask your partner or supporter to look from the other side if you can't see.

If you see a gap between either cheek and your breast, try rotating your baby's body to close the gap. You can try either rolling their body towards your chest or bringing them in closer to the breast. Experiment with small movements, allowing baby to adjust themselves to see what is the most comfortable for you.

Whatever position you're feeding in, the same principles apply, move your baby’s body and their head position will follow.


It's a bit like a suction cup on a window, if you pull the sucker to one side, it’ll pop off... same with your baby. If your baby is angled more to one cheek than the other, there will be tension on the breast/ nipple where that gap is. Moving your baby towards that gap or that tension (sometimes you can see the skin of the breast a little tight there too) will help your baby maintain an easier suction to the breast.

 

When feeding in a more vertical/ up-and-down your body or laid back position, you can experiment with ‘rotating’ your baby’s body around your body, to the left or right, to change their cheek angle. You can try your baby straddling either one of your thighs too, to become either more straight or more diagonal on your body. 

Sometimes babies find unusual positions to feed in, often replicating positions they've had in the womb. 

Positioning tip 3: angle cheeks equally. Bring both cheeks into equal contact with the breast by rotating baby's body around.

To summarise

​To improve comfort: 

  1. Hug baby close (pull baby’s back and shoulders right in to your body)

  2. Baby looking up (move baby towards their toes to free their nose)

  3. Angle cheeks equally (rotate baby's body to plant cheeks equally)

 

Our Antenatal Education Video (Breastfeeding section) has more tips on positioning.

In the breastfeeding world you might hear this type of positioning and attachment work called “micro-movements” or “Gestalt breastfeeding”. It can often be easier and less stressful than unlatching your baby and starting the latching process all over again. The trick is making a small movement and watching and feeling what happens after a few seconds, then trying something slightly different and checking how that helped again. It’s all about small experiments and slowly finding your own unique way to fit together with your baby. We hope it helps!

 

If you’d like support with positioning, book a specialist appointment or drop in to speak to our Peer Supporters.

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