Another upright position to try when you’re breastfeeding is the cradle hold. Not be confused with cross-cradle (which I’ll explain in a minute) though they’re both really similar.
Like the football hold I just discussed, this upright position might be best for you if you use a pillow to help prop your baby up. Some moms have no trouble holding babies in their arms during each feeding. But even really fit moms grow weary after some time. What matters most during each breastfeeding session beyond getting that perfect latch for your baby is your comfort.
If you’re not comfortable, then your milk isn’t going to let down as quickly. So get comfortable and get ready to learn more about the cradle hold.
When You Should Use the Cradle Hold
The cradle hold is best in the weeks following birth while your baby is small. In fact, at this time, you likely will be fine without any added support. But babies grow fast, and they can get heavy. At that point, you may opt for a position that takes the stress off of you or rely heavily on a breastfeeding pillow to help you out.
If you’ve had a c-section like me, you will likely want to use the football hold instead. Go ahead and try the cradle hold, but you may feel too tender in your abdomen to want anything near it, no matter how cute that thing is. I was just too sensitive after each surgery, so I didn’t use the cradle hold until my girls got a bit bigger.
The cradle hold gets its name because you’re mostly cradling your baby’s head in the crook of your arm.
How to Use the Cradle Hold
When cradling your baby in your arms, you should be sure he’s lying on his side with his whole front body touching the front of yours (exactly why c-section moms might want to wait until they’ve healed first!). Pillows always make this a more comfortable position. Even if you didn’t have a c-section, you might feel tired from giving birth and that overall lack of sleep that comes with having a baby, and those pillows help a lot.
Plus, pillows make it easier to quickly get your baby in line with nipple height and avoid delays. Once the baby is level, grasp your breast with a “C” or “U” hold, whichever feels most comfortable.
To know you’re doing it right, you should only see the side of your baby when you’re feeding him in this position. His ear, shoulder, and hips should fall into a straight line.
What’s the Difference with the Cross Cradle Hold?
You can go ahead and laugh at me. Let it out. Because when I was pregnant with my first and studying breastfeeding positions, I honestly couldn’t understand what was different between the cradle hold and the cross cradle.
If you can’t tell either, I’m certainly not going to laugh at you. Maybe it’s because trying to hold my girls this way was too painful for me initially, but it took me some time to realize that the only difference between them was that you use the opposite arm from the breast you’re nursing from to support your baby. In the cradle hold, you’re holding them in the crook of your arm on the same side you’re breastfeeding from.
The difference is very slight, but it may be very beneficial to moms with smaller babies. It can also be easier to get a good latch in this position. It’s certainly worth trying!
None of It Matters Without the Latch
Cradle hold or cross-cradle hold, or any other breastfeeding position for that matter, you MUST get that perfect latch. I talk about it in great detail, but I urge you to contact a breastfeeding coach to help you.
I’ve written about my breastfeeding coach, Vivien, and how she helped me ensure I got my eldest on a proper latch. Nothing matters until you get it right, and trust me, breastfeeding becomes so simple once you do.
Once you know what it’s supposed to feel like, you will always know your baby is getting your nourishing breast milk. Your supplies will grow with his demand as he nurses, but only with the right latch.
Part of getting it right is being comfortable, so please don’t force yourself into positions you don’t like. Yes, you need your baby to latch on, but if you feel awkwardly positioned, it will be hard for your milk to flow. It flows best when you relax.
Speaking of that, it is usually elementary to get a good latch each time you’re at home. But when you go somewhere with your baby for the first time, you might feel a little prick of stage fright. Yes, breastfeeding in public is legal in all 50 states, and you have rights, but you’ll feel like everyone is staring at you. Or maybe that was just me living in China.
Wherever you are, do yourself a favor before your first outing. Practice different breastfeeding positions. Find what feels right for you. If you need a Boppy or another pillow, put it in your diaper bag before leaving.
Feeling comfortable with upright positions while out in the world will make it easier for you to enjoy your time outside the home with your baby and allow you to show him all the beautiful things worth discovering out there!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.