One of the key components of successful breastfeeding is positioning. It is important to ensure that both mum and baby are well positioned. As explained on this page, the baby needs to face the mum’s body (tummy-to-tummy) and the mum should be able to give the baby face-to-face attention and make eye contact during the feed. Mum also needs to be seated in a comfortable position with her back supported in order to avoid developing aches and pains due to poor posture.
As shown in the illustrations above, there are many ways to position your baby when breastfeeding but regardless of the position in which the baby is held, mum and baby’s bodies are touching with no barriers between them, and mum is able to make eye contact with the baby.
It is also possible to see that even in the different positions, baby’s ear and shoulder remain aligned with each other, meaning that the baby’s head and body are facing the same direction, and this is important because the baby will not have difficult swallowing. To understand this better, turn your head to the left or right as your body is facing forward and then try to swallow. Can you feel how uncomfortable it is? However, when your head and body are facing the same direction, with ears aligned to the shoulder, the neck and throat are not twisted and swallowing is comfortable.
Newborns are unable to correctly position themselves because they have no control over their neck muscles, so it is important to make sure from the beginning of a feed that both the body and the head of the baby are facing the same direction and most importantly, that they are facing the mum’s body.
These second set of illustrations above demonstrate how to hold a baby in the different positions and they also clearly show how a mum should hold her breast when supporting it during a feeding. It is important to position the fingers and thumb to form a C shape because this allows a mum to support the breast without her fingers getting in the way of the baby’s latch or restricting milk flow.
Unfortunately it is common to see mums supporting their breast using the “scissor hold”, which is when the aureola is held between the forefinger and middle finger.
This is NOT the recommended way to support the breast because:
* the fingers can get in the way of a baby’s mouth when latching
* it can also lead to restriction of flow if the fingers inadvertently press together during a feed.
Good positioning helps to achieve a deep latch and can prevent nipple pain, therefore a mum should not be afraid to experiment with different positions illustrated in this post as long as she sticks to the basic principles of holding her baby and breast that have been highlighted above.