No matter how much research you do, how many birth classes you attend or how many YouTube videos you watch, nothing can truly prepare you for motherhood. The first few weeks after your little one arrives is a whirlwind of love, magic, and emotion. But you're also met with a super steep learning curve. There are so many new but wonderful skills to learn, from swaddling to nappy changing, burping, and bathing.
One of the more challenging albeit essential skills you will need to master is breastfeeding. We have so many women come to us saying; I didn't realise how difficult it would be. But the beauty of breastfeeding is it's a skill that you and bub will learn together, and once you have it down pat, it's the most beautiful and natural thing you will ever do.
In the beginning, breastfeeding is painful for many women. But it makes sense, right? Your hidden away nipples are now being pulled and tugged 24/7. The initial pain is entirely normal, but if your little one is feeding well and attaching correctly, the pain should subside within 1-3 weeks.
However, if the pain persists or you're starting to get cracked or bleeding nipples, it's likely there is an attachment issue. And the best thing you can do is book in with a lactation consultant in your area as soon as possible. The longer you push through with damaged nipples, the longer they will take to heal and the higher chance you will need to stop breastfeeding temporarily or permanently.
So, how do you know if your baby is attaching correctly?
Suppose you're having severe issues like bub can't attach to the nipple at all. In that case, milk is spilling out of their mouth, they're continuously popping on and off the breast, or not having wet nappies/not gaining weight, there's a big chance your little one may have a physical issue, like a lip or tongue tie. Both conditions are super common and can be corrected by a healthcare professional or, in many cases, corrected by themselves as bub grows. If you're concerned your baby has a lip or tongue tie speak to your paediatrician as they will get bub assessed.
If it's not a physical issue creating feeding problems, it's usually the positioning. Everyone's body is different, and that's why sometimes women need to change up their feeding position to ensure bub and themselves are in a comfortable placement that allows bub to attach and drink effectively. Below, we'll take a look at the most popular feeding position.
Six Most Popular Breastfeeding Positions
Lying Back Position
The laying down on your back position might be the first style of feeding you try. Most women are still lying in their hospital bed when their little one is lifted for their first feed. Particularly if you've had a caesarean delivery, the epidural or the need for stitches, laying on your back might be the only possible/comfortable position. Placing your little one on a diagonal across your chest will allow bub to find a comfy spot and won't put any pressure on your midsection.
Side Lying Position
It's possibly the comfiest position; it's a fantastic one for when you want to relax and watch a movie on the couch or for overnight feeds when you can't muster the energy to sit upright. Many women find the side-lying position super relaxing, so it's a good one if you're experiencing that initial nipple tenderness. Pop a movie on for distraction and snuggle in with your little one.
Cradle-hold is the position that comes to mind when you picture a mother breastfeeding. It's the most common style, especially for women out in public, as it allows you to sit in an upright position and have one hand free for eating breaky or sipping coffee.
The position involves holding your little one on her side, nestled into your chest, along your stomach while laying along your forearm. Because newborns are so teeny, women often find that it helps to put a pillow under their arm to help push bubs up a little higher for the first few weeks or months.
The cross-cradle hold is like the cradle hold, but it adds a little extra support. So if your bub is teeny tiny, it might be good to use cross-cradle and then graduate to cradle as she gets a little bigger. Your baby still lies across your body, nestled in, but you use your opposite arm to support them. In this position, your supporting hand is up around bubs head and neck, whereas cradle hold is down by their feet. The benefit of cross-cradle is you can guide your little one into feed. This can be helpful for babies with feeding difficulties or for women who are experiencing sore nipples, as they have a little more control over the way baby attaches.
Don't be thrown off by the name 'football' hold; there's nothing aggressive about this position. It's actually a super comfy and cosy style of feeding and another great one for when you're snuggling on the couch. To perform this position, you hold bub along your arm and tuck her feet behind or towards your back, so she is essentially snuggled into your side. Women like this position because it's comfortable for bub and allows mum to have plenty of control. And again, you have a free hand to use the remote or have a snack.
Koala hold is a position where your baby straddles your leg and sits upright. It's an excellent position for any babies who experience reflux because it's easier for them to swallow and begin to digest their milk when sitting upright. If you're using the koala hold for a newborn, you will need to provide a lot of support as they can't hold their necks up yet. This position can also work well for babies with lip or tongue ties as they don't need to use as much force to latch to the nipple when upright.
So, there are our top six breastfeeding positions. Some women find one they like and stick to it, and others prefer to run the positions on rotation. You'll find that finding what works for you will come naturally, and you and your little one will figure it out together.
And a little reminder for all the new mums in the throes of breastfeeding; we know it's challenging, and some days it feels like you're chained to the couch, but it gets easier. The feeds get quicker, the reflux goes away, the sleep stretches longer overnight, and before you know it, you'll be missing those days and nights spent huddling on the couch together.
Shevi is a qualified nutritionist with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and food sciences. As a new mum herself, she is passionate about postnatal-related nutrition. Shevi has worked alongside some of the most famous leaders and celebrities in the fitness industry throughout Australia and the UK.
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