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How To Hold And Breastfeed Your Baby


How to tell your baby is ready to breastfeed:

Your baby may let you know when he is ready to breastfeed. He may be wide awake and moving his arms and legs more. He may turn his head toward your breast and move his mouth more. He may put his hand up to his mouth and suck his fingers or his fist. Crying is often a late sign that your baby is hungry. Crying may make it hard for him to latch onto your breast.

How to hold your baby during breastfeeding:

Choose a position that is comfortable for you. With all positions, your baby should be able to tilt his head slightly backward. It should be tilted enough so he can open his mouth wide to latch (attach) onto your breast. Your baby's hip, torso, shoulder, and head should be in a straight line facing you. Use pillows, towels, or blankets to support you or your baby.

  • Cross-cradle hold: Support or cradle your baby with the arm that is on the opposite side of the breast you use to feed. For example, if you are going to breastfeed your baby with your right breast, support his body with your left arm. Use your left hand to support his head. Your right arm and hand can be used to support your breast.
    Cross Cradle Hold
  • Cradle hold: Your baby's head rests in the bend of your arm, near your elbow. Your other arm and hand can be used to support your breast or your baby's body. Bring your baby up to the level of your breast. Your baby will lie on his side with his body facing yours.
    Cradle Hold
  • Football or underarm hold: This position works best when you are in a sitting position. Your baby will lie on his back. Tuck his body under your arm on the same side as the breast you use to feed. Support your baby's body with your arm and support his head with your hand. Support your breast with your other hand.
    Football Hold
  • Lie on your side: Lie on your side. Place your baby on his side so that he is facing you. Support his back with either of your arms.
    Side-Lying Position
  • Lie on your back: Lie on your back. Place your baby so that he is lying down the middle of your body. He should be lying on his stomach with his head at your breast. This position is helpful if your milk flows faster than your baby can drink.

How to help your baby latch correctly:

Help your baby move his head to reach your breast. Hold the nape of his neck to help him latch onto your breast. Touch his top lip with your nipple and wait for him to open his mouth wide. Your baby's lower lip and chin should touch the areola (dark area around the nipple) first. Help him get as much of the areola in his mouth as possible. You should feel as if your baby will not separate from your breast easily. A correct latch helps your baby get the right amount of milk at each feeding. Allow your baby to breastfeed for as long as he is able.

Signs of correct latch-on:

  • You can hear your baby swallow.
  • Your baby is relaxed and takes slow, deep mouthfuls.
  • Your breast or nipple does not hurt during breastfeeding.
  • Your baby is able to suckle milk right away after he latches on.
  • Your nipple is the same shape when your baby is done breastfeeding.
  • Your breast is smooth, with no wrinkles or dimples where your baby is latched on.

How often to breastfeed your baby:

Breastfeed your baby 8 to 12 times each day or as often as he wants. Your baby may breastfeed for about 15 to 20 minutes on each breast. Some babies breastfeed for a shorter or longer amount of time. Let your baby feed from each breast until he stops on his own. Express your breast milk every 2 to 3 hours if you are away from your baby. Ask for more information about using your hand or a pump to express breast milk.

For support and more information about breastfeeding your baby:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
    141 Northwest Point Boulevard
    Elk Grove Village , IL 60007-1098
    Phone: 1- 847 - 434-4000
    Web Address:
  • La Leche League International
    957 North Plum Grove Road
    Schaumburg , IL 60173
    Phone: 1- 847 - 519-7730
    Phone: 1- 800 - 525-3243
    Web Address:

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.