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Breastfeeding Positions

Chin to Nipple Line in Different Nursing Positions

Learn how to hold your baby in the 4 most comfortable breastfeeding positions.

Before a mother delivers, it may be helpful to learn the most popular breastfeeding positions by using a doll or even a teddy bear. Even after the baby is born, she may find it easier to try these nursing positions with a doll or stuffed animal before using them with the newborn.

It may seem complicated to walk slowly through what naturally occurs in less than three seconds. However, we have old habits to overcome.

Cross Cradle Hold

Breastfeeding Position #1

To demonstrate the optimal position for an optimal latch, hold the doll with your left arm as if you were going to feed her at your right breast. This is called the cross cradle hold. The doll's head should be in the palm of your left hand, and her back bone going down your left arm. Hug her to you in a tummy to tummy position, so she does not have to turn her head to take the breast. Pull the doll towards your breast as if she was feeding. Her chin should touch your breast, but usually the nose does not. (Some babies may have their noses touching the breast, which is not a problem if their nostrils are not blocked.) The nipple would be pointing to the roof and back of her mouth; therefore the milk will be ejected to the perfect location for the tongue to draw back towards the esophagus and swallow.

Direction of the Nipple

There are numerous other positions for breastfeeding of course, but before trying them, notice the direction of the nipple in the baby's mouth, the position of the chin, and the amount of physical contact between mother and baby in this position. You want to maintain all of these in all the other breastfeeding positions as well.

A Common but Problematic Breastfeeding Position

Problems with the Regular Cradle Hold

Now, in contrast, hold the baby in your left arm to feed at the left breast, and let her head cradle in the crook of your elbow. This is a common position, but notice how the placement of nose and chin have probably changed; as well as the angle of the milk flow for the nipple, and perhaps the amount of physical contact between mother and baby. This is the regular cradle hold, and if the baby is held in this position in imitation of bottle feeding, a poor latch may result.

The cradle hold CAN be used effectively - in fact it is the most comfortable position for many mothers. However, the placement of the baby's head on the mother’s arm may need to change. Instead of holding the baby’s head in the crook of your arm, you may be able to get the same angle to the nipple that you achieved with the cross-cradle hold by having the head rest on the radial bone. That is the bone on the thumb side. The baby's head will be about 2/3 of the way towards the elbow. Experiment with the doll and see how the cradle and cross cradle holds can be used for an optimal latch. Try it on both sides. Take time to get comfortable with the position for the best latch. The doll will not be confused by the different positions you try (though if you find someone is watching you hold the doll this way, they may!)

180 Breastfeeding Positions?

Since the breast is round, it has 180 degrees. Theoretically, then, there are one hundred eighty different positions you could hold the baby in, in order to get a good latch. Practically speaking, there are really only three or four commonly used positions for breastfeeding. In all of these, you want to maintain:
  1. The position with the chin touching the breast
  2. The nipple angle directing milk to the top and back of the mouth
  3. Physical contact between mother and baby

Chin to Nose Line In Breastfeeding Positions

Imagine drawing a line on the infant's face from her nose to her chin. This would be an extension of the little line between the nose and upper lip. This line is called the chin to nose line.

Also imagine the breast as a clock. The upper most part of the breast would be 12:00, the left side would be 3:00, the bottom of the breast 6:00 and the right side of the breast 9:00.

When using the cross-cradle hold position, the infant's nose-to-chin line would be approximately at the 1:00 to 7:00 line on the mother's left breast, and the 5:00 to 11:00 line on the right breast. In other words, the mother brings the baby towards her left breast at approximately 7:00. As the baby opens her mouth and latches on to the nipple, her nose would be approximately at the 1:00 position.

It would be reversed with the right breast. The infant would approach from approximately the 5:00 position, and the nose would be at about the 11:00 position once he has latched on.

Football Hold

Breastfeeding Position #3

The football hold is one of the favorite breastfeeding positions for many mothers. To hold the doll in the football hold at the left breast, place her head in the palm of the left hand with her back against your forearm. Hold your hand so her head comes to the breast at the 4:00-10:00 line, the nipple towards the back and top of the mouth, and her chin against the breast. Her body should be held so her tummy is against your side.

The football hold has been used by some women whose baby has a strong preference for one particular breast. When the baby has finished the favored breast in the cradle hold, they are unlatched from the breast and quickly switched to the least favorite breast in the football hold.

Sidelying Hold

Breastfeeding Position #4

Lying on your side to breastfeed can be very comfortable, especially at night. Depending on how the mother lies, the chin-nose line may be at the 5:00 to 11:00 position or 6:00 to 11:00 position Some find it a little trickier to get a perfect latch lying down when they first begin breastfeeding. However, considering the value of a good latch, the problems of a poor latch, and the comfort of nursing while lying down; the results are worth the effort.

Some breastfeeding specialists recommend not using the side lying position right away. It may be helpful to wait until the baby has demonstrated a good latch and good swallow pattern in an upright position first.

On the other hand, some midwives recommend using the sidelying hold as the FIRST breastfeeding position right after delivery. It seems to be a natural position many homebirth mothers assume. There is a lot of skin to skin contact and the mother and baby seem to have a strong sense of control over the angle of the nipple.

Summary of Breastfeeding Positions

Here is a summary of the nose to chin line in the different breastfeeding positions.

Cross Cradle Hold
Left Breast: 1:00 to 7:00
Right Breast: 5:00 to 11:00

Regular Cradle Hold
Both Breasts: Approximately 3:00 to 9:00

Football Hold
Left breast: 4:00 to 10:00
Right Breast: 8:00 to 2:00

Side Lying Position
Both Breasts:12:00 to 6:00

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By Karen Newell Copyright 2003 - 2012 Better Childbirth Outcomes - All Rights Reserved
Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, USA