FAQ 6. Positioning

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Q: I’ve heard about positioning the baby at the breast. How is this different from latching?

A: Positioning is the baby’s overall body position. It helps to have the baby facing the breast. Women learn to lay the baby on her back when they are bottle-feeding. But this position doesn’t work well for breastfeeding. Instead, it helps to have the baby FACING the breast.

If mother tries to lay the baby on her back and then turn baby’s head towards the breast, this can be VERY DIFFICULT for the baby to get a good latch. Try it yourself. Face forward and open your mouth wide. Feels okay, right? Now try turning your head to one side and THEN try opening your mouth wide. Not very easy, is it?

So baby should be facing the breast, so that s/he can breastfeed with their face positioned so it’s easy to open the mouth, and without her hands or fists in the way — it helps if baby’s arms are hugging mom, not folded in front of her body, although if s/he wants to press down on the breast or hold on, that is good, as this might help with the milk flow. Just make sure their little hands aren’t where you want their MOUTH to be!It helps to support the baby’s neck, while giving baby a good chance to extend their neck so that it can move easily.

This gives baby a chance to correct their latch during the feeding — and many babies tend to do just that, and improve the latch without necessarily interrupting the breastfeeding. A bonus for when you are learning: skin-to-skin ensures that you don’t have fabric getting in the way.

You could wear a loose top that you can lift up so baby can reach the breast easily. It might help to remove your bra or even all the clothes you are wearing on the upper half of your body. That way, there will be nothing getting in between you and your baby, especially on the underside of your breast.

If you want to make sure baby is warm enough, you can throw a blanket over her or even over both of you. And if you want to lie down and cuddle together to breastfeed, that’s great too! Just make sure that you are not wearing anything that will get in the way of baby reaching the breast, or being able to latch. It is particularly important to make sure your fingers or fabric are not getting in the way of the baby’s mouth reaching up to the areola from the underside of the breast.

Also, make sure that wherever you are lying down, the surface isn’t too soft, and that baby lies on their back to sleep. You can always just roll towards each other again for the next breastfeeding. Or gently hold baby to you, and roll over together to the other side if it seems like time to start on the other breast.

If, while breastfeeding lying down, you are really having a forceful flow, you can put a towel or other absorbent material under the two of you to catch the overflow. Babies are really good at allowing any excess milk to flow back out, without chocking like they might if you are sitting up. If you are sitting up with your baby and your milk tends to flow quickly, or gush, then leaning back or lying down is a great way to help keep the flow down to a level that is easier for baby to manage.

And bonus: you get to rest or sleep while baby breastfeeds!