Be patient with yourself as you learn to breastfeed. Know that breastfeeding takes practice. Give yourself 2 to 3 weeks to get the hang of it.
Learn how to position your baby to breastfeed. Know how to hold your baby in different positions so your nipples do not get sore and so you empty your breasts of milk.
You will be more comfortable nursing if you know how to position your baby on your breast. Find a position that works well for you and your baby. Learn about breastfeeding:
- Attend a breastfeeding class.
- Watch someone else breastfeed.
- Practice with an experienced nursing mother.
- Talk with a lactation consultant. A lactation consultant is an expert in breastfeeding. This person can teach you and your baby how to breastfeed. The consultant can help with positions and offer advice when your baby has trouble sucking.
Types of Breastfeeding Positions
This hold works best for babies who have developed head control. Some new mothers have trouble guiding the baby's mouth to their breast in this hold. If you have had a cesarean birth (C-section), your baby may put too much pressure on your stomach in this hold.
Here's how to do the cradle hold:
- Sit in a comfortable chair with arm rests or a bed with pillows.
- Hold your baby on your lap, lying on the side so that the face, stomach, and knees are facing you.
- Tuck your baby's lower arm under your arm.
- If you are nursing on the right breast, hold your baby's head in the crook of your right arm. Use your arm and hand to support the neck, back, and bottom.
- Keep your baby's knees snug against your body.
- If your nipple hurts, see if your baby has slipped down and the knees are facing the ceiling instead of being tucked in next to your side. Adjust your baby's position if you need to.
Use the football hold if you had a C-section. This hold is good for babies that have trouble latching on because you can guide their head. Women with large breasts or flat nipples also like the football hold.
- Hold your baby like a football. Tuck your baby under your arm on the same side where you will nurse.
- Hold your baby at your side, under your arm.
- Cradle the back of your baby's head in your hand so your baby's nose is pointing at your nipple. Your baby's feet and legs will be pointing back. Use your other hand to support your breast. Gently guide your baby to your nipple.
SIDE LYING POSITION
Use this position if you had a C-section or a hard delivery that makes it hard for you to sit up. You can use this position when you are lying in bed.
- Lie on your side.
- Lay your baby close to you with your baby's face at your breast. Pull your baby in snugly and place a pillow behind your baby's back to prevent backwards rolling.
Take Care of Your Nipples
Your nipples naturally make a lubricant to prevent drying, cracking, or infections. In order to keep your nipples healthy:
- Avoid soaps and harsh washing or drying of your breasts and nipples. This can cause dryness and cracking.
- Rub a little breast milk on your nipple after feeding to protect it. Keep your nipples dry to prevent cracking and infection.
- If you have cracked nipples, apply 100% pure lanolin after feedings.
- Try glycerin nipple pads that can be chilled and placed over your nipples to help soothe and heal cracked or painful nipples.
- You may need nipple shields to aid in breast feeding if your nipples are flat and your baby has difficulty latching.
Breastfeeding positions; Bonding with your baby
Balest AL, Riley MM, O'Donnell B, Zarit JS. Neonatology. In: Zitelli BJ, McIntire SC, Nowalk AJ, Garrison J, eds. Zitelli and Davis' Atlas of Pediatric Physical Diagnosis. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 2.
Newton ER. Lactation and breastfeeding. In: Landon MB, Galan HL, Jauniaux ERM, et al, eds. Gabbe's Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 25.
Office on Women's Health website. US Department of Health and Human Services. Breastfeeding. www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/learning-breastfeed/preparing-breastfeed. Updated February 22, 2021. Accessed January 3, 2023.
Review Date 11/21/2022
Updated by: LaQuita Martinez, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Emory Johns Creek Hospital, Alpharetta, GA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.