Comfortable positioning and attachment are important for all mothers. You will have time to practice with your baby while your breasts are still soft before your milk increases. The earlier you start, the easier it is. Hold your baby in skin-to-skin contact right after birth -continue this for as much time as you can during the following days and weeks.
Use your baby’s natural reflexes to encourage them to latch on: skin-to-skin contact helps give your baby easy access to your breast.
Find a comfortable position where you feel well supported: sitting, lying back or lying down.
Avoid using pillows and cushions under your baby—use them just for your own comfort to support your head, shoulders, body, arms and legs.
Bring baby to breast, not breast to baby. Relax comfortably with your breast in its natural position. Your body can support your baby so your arms don’t take all their weight.
When your baby’s whole front is in close contact with your body their movements will be more coordinated. They can search for your breast with a little help and encouragement from you. It helps your baby if their feet are resting against something firm like your thigh or hand.
It’s normal for a baby to bob at the breast and lick the nipple. These are signs that he is preparing to latch on.
Help your baby approach your breast ‘nose to nipple’ with their chin on or close to the breast and their head tipped back a little. It’s surprising how far away from your nipple your baby’s mouth seems to be to achieve a good latch. As they latch on they will take a big mouthful of breast.
Their lower jaw will be tucked into your breast well away from the base of your nipple and their nose will be free. Keep their body tucked in close as they attach and feed but don’t push the back of their head— they needs to be able to move their head freely.
To help them swallow comfortably check their head is inline with their body, not turned to one side. Once your baby is attached, settle back for comfort and pull your baby’s whole body in close.
The natural or laid-back breastfeeding positions shown in the following video can be a great help in encouraging your baby to latch on well, as well as being comfortable for you. You can lean back comfortably with your baby on top of you with their whole front against you and their body completely supported by yours:
This video demonstrates how to enable your baby to latch deeply on to your breast. This will help breastfeeding be comfortable for you and means your baby get enough milk:
Breastfeed early and often after your baby’s birth to minimise engorgement (uncomfortably swollen breasts). If he latches on well and you are comfortable he will get plenty of practice and will probably continue to feed well after your milk ‘comes in’ and your breasts feel fuller. If feeding is uncomfortable, seek help immediately.
Mothers often say it takes a few weeks for breastfeeding to feel totally comfortable and natural, even if they have breastfed before. And as your baby grows in length and weight you’ll need to adjust how you support them. However you sit or lie, try to keep their whole front firmly against yours in a position that encourages them to extend their neck and sink their chin and lower lip firmly into your breast as they latch. Relax back a little and let your body support more of their weight. You baby’s bottom can rest on your hip or be pulled in against you with your elbow.
Many people now use the nmemonic CHINS to help with comfortable breastfeeding
C = close: Baby is as close to you as possible so that it does not need to reach for the breast.
H = head: Baby’s head is tilted so that the baby has its head at the right angle so the breast enters the mouth at the right angle to reach the comfortable place where your nipple will not be damaged.
I = In Line: Your baby’s body is in a line from, head to shoulders and hips (you would not drink a cup of tea with it sitting on your shoulder!)
N= Nose to nipple: This means baby is lifting up to the breast and the nipple is in the right place to enter the mouth comfortably This means you can then bring your baby in to the breast quickly to latch. They may even latch on their own, just by putting them in the right place.
S = Your position is sustainable.
If you are finding it difficult to get comfortable you can contact a LLL Leader by calling our Helpline. You can also find support and encouragement from breastfeeding mothers in your local LLL group.
If your baby won’t breastfeed
Don’t panic! Some babies take a while to get around to nursing and by keeping your baby in skin-to-skin contact you are encouraging them to start feeding. A baby usually starts to suck spontaneously if they can snuggle up close to your bare chest for periods of time. Laid-back or natural breastfeeding positions usually stimulate a baby’s instinct to attach and suckle well at the breast. In such positions, babies can also latch on when sleepy or in light sleep. Watch for signs that your baby is stirring and gently encourage feeding. See also My Baby Won’t Breastfeed.
And you may also find this article helpful: Getting breastfeeding back on track after a difficult birth.
Supporting your breast?
Your breast needs to rest at its natural level. If supporting it with your hand, keep your fingers well back from the areola and don’t be tempted to lift your breast and push it into your baby’s mouth. Sometimes shaping your breast slightly to match the oval of their mouth can help. Or experiment with the reclining positions shown here as these reduce the need to hold your baby leaving you with both hands free to help them latch.
Written by Sue Upstone, Amanda Dunbar and mothers of LLLGB.
Photos courtesy of Lois Rowlands, Suzanne Tobin and others who have kindly allowed us to use their photos.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. LLLI. London: Pinter & Martin, 2010.
Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple. Mohrbacher, N. Amarillo, TX: Hale Publishing, 2010.
Biological Nurturing: Laid-back breastfeeding for mothers (DVD). Colson, S. et al. 2012.
An Introduction to Biological Nurturing; New angles on breastfeeding, Colson S. Amarillo, TX: Hale Publishing, 2010.
Supporting Sucking Skills, Watson Genna, C. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett, 2012.
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Copyright LLLGB 2016. Updated May 2022
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