Breastfeeding: How to Hold your Breast

Whether you're a 32B or a 46H, it's helpful to support your breast in a way that will make it easy for your baby to get a good, deep latch. And by "support" we don't mean holding your breast up; instead, you'll learn to control and guide the front third of your breast—the areola and nipple area—so you can easily place it in your baby's mouth when she's ready to latch on.

The best way to visualize holding your breast is to imagine you're holding a small sandwich for your baby to bite. Just as you'd press a large sandwich down to fit into your mouth, you'll compress your breast to fit your baby's mouth.

And remember to watch your fingers. You'll want them close enough to control the front of your breast but not so close they'll get in the way.

Start by supporting your breast in a "U" hold, not a "C" hold. In other words, your thumb and forefinger are at the right and left of your breast as opposed to at the top and bottom. Your fingers should be just behind the border of the areola. Any closer might interfere with your baby's lower jaw, which needs to be latched deeply on the breast. Your thumb should be right next to the nipple. Push your thumb into your breast so the nipple points outward, away from your baby's mouth. It will look like you're offering her a "folded" breast, with her mouth poised to latch onto the areola, not the nipple. With your breast still firmly in the "U" hold, plant or "pin" her lower lip about an inch from the tip of the nipple, toward the border of the areola. When she begins to open her mouth wide, pull her onto your breast in one smooth motion, using your breast tissue as a tool to keep her lower lip pinned open and gently releasing your thumb to push the nipple into her mouth, clearing her top lip. Remember to bring her onto the breast and not to push your breast into her mouth.

This last action is the trickiest, so don't get frustrated if you can't get the hang of it right away. It takes some practice to learn to recognize when your baby is about to open her mouth wide.

Tips for success

  • Support your breast in a "U" hold.
  • Compress your breast in the same direction as your baby's mouth opens.
  • Place your fingers behind the border of the areola and your thumb next to the nipple.
  • Push your thumb into your breast so the nipple points outward.

Source: Heather Kelly is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) who also sits on the Bravado Breastfeeding Information Council. Heather has been practicing in New York City since 2001.

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Heather Kelly
Heather is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
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