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Nursing Positions

by Dr. Sarah Winward, ND IBCLC

If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you’re doing it a lot. Like a lot, a lot. But so often I notice that parents are getting into weird and uncomfortable positions while latching, and then they have to stay there and hold that for the whole of the feeding. You’ve probably heard me say that breastfeeding should never hurt. That also means that it should never hurt in your neck or your shoulders either. So, I wanted to share with you my top two most comfortable positions for nursing. The best part about both of these positions is that they require no equipment – no nursing pillows, no blanket rolls, nothing. Just you and your baby.

The Cradle Hold

Dr. Sarah Winward and Dr. Olivia Chubey, ND

This position involves holding your baby with the same arm as the breast you’re feeding on. I love this position because it leaves your other arm free and because you’re supporting your baby’s weight with your biceps instead of with your wrist (as you would be in football or cross cradle). You can also lean back to put some of their weight on your belly and this is often even more comfortable. 

I’ve recently seen floating around the internet that this position is meant for older babies with more head control. I disagree. I frequently recommend this position to parents with newborns and have them report that they are much more comfortable. Babies are born with good instincts, it’s often easier to latch them in this position because they are able to guide themselves. 

Check out our video for exactly how to get baby latched in the cradle hold.

Side Lying

Dr. Sarah Winward and Dr. Olivia Chubey

Exclusive bodyfeeding means that you’re also feeding your baby overnight. It is exhausting enough doing night feedings, but add in the extra steps of having to get up and move to the couch or arrange all your pillows ‘just so every 2 hours’ and it’s too much. It’s normal for babies to continue to nurse overnight in the first year (plus) of life, having to do this for that long would be literally impossible. 

Enter side lying nursing. I love this position because all you have to do is put baby beside you, nurse, and then pop them back in the bassinet. You don’t even have to sit up. Even better, you can have a partner bring baby to you and put them back down so all you have to do is roll over and nurse and you can stay half asleep for the whole process. 

This position is what makes exclusive bodyfeeding possible. 

Plus, it’s super relaxing for both parent and baby. If baby is clusterfeeding or if you’re having trouble with milk flow, this position is a game changer.

Check out the video on how to latch in this position.

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Two Tips to Avoid Nipple Pain when Breastfeeding!

Dr. Sarah Winward, ND IBCLC

Concerned about nipple pain?

Pain with breastfeeding is one of the most common concerns for new parents, and with good reason! How can we be expected to do something for 20-40 minutes, 8-10 times per day if it hurts every time!?

I hate seeing parents in pain, it’s especially hard because to make a full assessment as I have to see baby latching, which means I’m asking them to be in more pain so we can make things better.


Pain in breastfeeding is never normal.

Let me repeat that. 

Pain in breastfeeding is never normal.

Not in the first few weeks, not when your baby is teething, never.

Especially not when there’s damage to your nipples or you’re curling your toes every time you latch your baby. Pain is a sign that something is wrong. 

Pain in chestfeeding is not normal.

If you’re experiencing pain I highly recommend reaching out to a lactation consultant for hands on support. The most important thing is to figure out why you’re having pain so you can fix it.

Here are some of the two most common reasons for having pain with nursing:

A good latch can help you avoid pain.
  1. Latch mechanics– basically this is how you’re holding your baby. We have an article here on how to get a good latch, I recommend taking a look and reviewing it. One of the things I see commonly is that if you’ve had pain, you’re expecting pain and so you hesitate when you go to latch your baby. The hesitation means that baby’s latch ends up being more shallow – which will hurt. So, when you do go to latch them, make sure you’re latching with intention by putting pressure through their shoulder blades. 
What’s going on with baby?
  1. Oral mechanics- this is something that’s going on with baby. This could be a tongue or lip tie, it could be tension in their body or it could be something else getting in the way of their having proper oral function. This is where an assessment from a lactation consultant really makes a difference, especially if the latching tips aren’t resolving the pain. 

A note for those having pain sometimes during the feed but not all the time. This is very common, and usually can be fixed with just a few tweeks:

If you’re having pain at the beginning or end of a feed

Hangry babies can hurt!

Sometimes it takes a few seconds for the flow of milk to get going, if your baby is ravenous they can tense up before the milk gets going and this can hurt. Then, once the milk comes they relax. Catching baby on early feeding cues can help a lot so they aren’t “hangry” when you latch them. The other thing that can help is breast compressions, adding a bit of pressure at the chest wall to pick up the flow. If the pain picks up again once they’ve been on there awhile take this as an indication to switch sides. 

If you’re able to get things pain free but only if you hold your breast ‘just so’

Don’t force a latch.

You’re bringing your breast to your baby. A lot of times parents kind of pick up their breast and put it in their baby’s mouth. What happens is that if you move or change the latch they tense up their mouth because they’re trying to hold on to your nipple. Leaning back and bringing your baby to where your breast naturally lies will help a lot with this. 

If you’ve tried all the tips in this article and you’re still having pain, I highly recommend reaching out to a lactation consultant for a full assessment. For parents in Ontario, you can book a free 15 minute call with me here.

Sarah Winward
Dr. Sarah Winward, ND IBCLC