Breastfeeding positions for nursing your baby or toddler

If you have chosen to breastfeed or chestfeed your baby, there are lots of ways you can do it. You can try different feeding positions to see what works best for you and your baby. What works best for you might change over time as your baby gets older. You might need to try a different position if your baby is struggling to latch, if they appear uncomfortable or if you have breast pain.

Breastfeeding positions

4 common breastfeeding positions you can try are:

  • cradle hold – where you sit and hold your baby lying across your lap
  • laid-back nursing – where you lie back between a sitting and lying position with your baby on top of you (sometimes called semi-reclined position or biological nursing)
  • rugby hold – where you hold your baby to the side of you with their feet pointing behind you (sometimes called clutch position)
  • side-lying – where you lie on your side and lay your baby on their side facing you with your tummies touching

The NHS Start for Life website has instructions and pictures of how to do these 4 positions.

Other positions you can try are:

  • cross-cradle position is similar to the cradle hold but you support your baby with the opposite arm to the side you are feeding from
  • koala hold is when your baby is in an upright position straddled on your lap (this is sometimes called upright or straddle hold)
  • tandem nursing is when you are feeding two babies (twins or one older and one younger child) you can try different tandem feeding positions

In any position, it’s a good idea to bring your baby to your nipple instead of leaning towards them. This can help them to latch more easily and help you avoid back, neck and shoulder pain or sore nipples.

Choosing the best breastfeeding position

The best breastfeeding position is what works best for you and your baby. There are some situations where you might need to try some different positions before you find the right hold.

Reflux and gas

If your baby gets reflux or gas, the upright koala hold or laid-back position can be more comfortable for them.

Tongue tie

The koala hold can work well if your baby has tongue tie. In this position your baby won’t need to open their mouth as wide or extend their tongue too much.

Fast let down (fast-flowing breastmilk)

If you have fast-flowing breastmilk, you can try feeding in a position where your baby is above you, so that your milk is flowing upwards more slowly. The laid-back position and rugby hold can help with this.

Caesarean (c-section)

If you’ve had your baby by c-section and you are still healing, try side-lying or using the laid-back position. You can lie your baby across your shoulder so that they aren’t putting pressure on your tummy.

Sore breasts and mastitis

If you are struggling with sore breasts or mastitis, you can try ‘dangle feeding’. This is where your baby lies down, and you lean over your baby so that your nipple hangs over their mouth to feed from. You can do this when sitting, kneeling, crouching or lying. Try supporting yourself with cushions to make it more comfortable.

Chestfeeding if you’re trans or non-binary

If you are transgender or non-binary and you want to chestfeed your baby, your midwife can help you. The NHS website has advice on chestfeeding. La Leche League also has feeding information for trans and non-binary parents.

Breastfeeding pillows

Some parents choose to use a feeding pillow or nursing pillow. This supports your baby in higher position, which can be more comfortable and help with latching. You can also get dual pillows for tandem feeding twins. You can use feeding pillows for breastfeeding and bottle feeding.

Sling nursing

If you carry your baby in a sling, wrap or front carrier it can be helpful to learn to feed your baby in the sling.

Make sure:

  • you can always see your baby’s face
  • their nose isn’t covered
  • their chin doesn’t get pushed back towards their neck or chest

Carrying Matters has advice on feeding your baby in a sling.

Latching on

Whatever position you feed your baby in, you’ll need to make sure your baby attaches properly to your breast to feed. This is called ‘latching on’.

The NHS Start for Life website has instructions, pictures and videos of how to latch your baby onto your breast.

If you’re having problems feeding your baby, you can get support with breastfeeding.

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This advice was written by our experienced Parent Talk coaches. Parent Talk is a free online service for parents and carers, provided by the charity Action for Children. For more advice, message our parenting coaches with our online chat.

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