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    Home ›› How to breastfeed: 4 breastfeeding positions and breastfeeding basics

    Home ›› How to breastfeed: 4 breastfeeding positions and breastfeeding basics

    How to breastfeed: 4 breastfeeding positions and breastfeeding basics


    Reading time: 10 mins.


    Some of the most common newborn baby questions are about how to breastfeed since feedings will take up much of a baby’s first few months. With medical bodies recommending a baby is exclusively breastfed for the first six months, 1, 2 it’s no wonder people are curious about the breastfeeding basics.


    Here we’ll address all the essential questions about breastfeeding for beginners, and ensure you know the breastfeeding basics including:


    • How often your baby will feed.
    • How much your baby will feed.
    • How long your baby will feed.
    • 3 keys to setting yourself up for breastfeeding success.
    • 4 common breastfeeding positions.
    • Top tips on effectively nursing newborns.


    Our tips are here to help you get started on a successful breastfeeding journey but are not intended to replace professional medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns never hesitate to seek a second professional opinion from your midwife, health visitor or GP.

    The breastfeeding basics


    So, let’s begin. From how often, and how much your baby will feed to how long you will nurse for, here are the breastfeeding basics:2


    • While every baby is different, newborns generally eat every two to three hours for a total of 8 to 12 times every 24 hours.
    • In the first day or two after birth, babies typically consume 30ml to 60ml milk per feeding. This amount will gradually increase to 60ml to 90ml once the baby reaches about two weeks of age.


    Tip: Once you have established a rhythm, you will find that the frequency and length will probably decrease. You have both become more skilled at feeding and your little one can drink more milk in a single feed.


    • There is no set time frame that every newborn is required to follow when it comes to the length of each feed. Generally, breastfeeding newborns lasts anywhere from five minutes to one hour in duration.
    • It is recommended you exclusively breastfeed for at least 6 months, but you can continue on beyond the time you begin to introduce solid food. Continuing to breastfeed into your baby’s second year still has its benefits alongside a healthy, varied diet.


    Tip: Don’t panic if you want to return to work or study. Choosing to combination feed is extremely common, and you can express your breast milk to ensure your baby continues to receive all the benefits even when you can’t be there for every feed.

    How to start breastfeeding


    After giving birth, you should try to take advantage of these first moments by laying the baby on their chest skin-to-skin. 3 This time is known as ‘The Golden Hour’ and it’s a moment for the parent and baby to bond, as well as kick-start the newborn’s natural feeding instincts.


    Once your baby starts showing signs that they are hungry, it’s time to breastfeed. Here are three keys to success when first learning how to breastfeed a newborn:


    • Comfort is key. One of the best ways to help make breastfeeding successful is to ensure that you are comfortable and relaxed. Position yourself on a sofa, bed, or armchair with pillows for support.

      Tip: Why not get creative with your breastfeeding techniques through lighting preferences, soothing music or whatever relaxes you best.

    • Hold your baby close. Want a simple tip for how to start breastfeeding? Rather than leaning forward, bring your baby up close to your breasts. Make sure that your baby can tip their head back slightly when feeding and keep their shoulders and hips in line.

      Tip: If you’re having trouble encouraging your baby to latch, position your baby with their nose opposite your nipple, to encourage them to open their mouth wide. You should also look for more of the areola by their nose than by their chin.

    • Support the breast. While one hand supports your baby, you can use your other hand to support just under the breast. When learning how to breastfeed, however, you may prefer your hand to be free, in which case you can use a rolled towel instead.

    4 common breastfeeding positions


    There are many different breastfeeding positions that mothers can experiment with to figure out which is most effective for nursing their newborn. Below are four of the most common techniques for how to breast feed:

    A mother is sat back in a blue velvet chair looking down at her breastfeeding baby demonstrating the cradle hold.

    1. Cradle hold


    In this position, the baby is supported by your arm that’s on the side of the nursing breast. The baby can then rest their head in the crook of your elbow while feeding.

    A mother shows the cross-cradle hold, breastfeeding while supporting baby with one arm and her breast with the other.

    2. Cross-cradle hold


    The cross-cradle calls for you to hold the baby with the arm opposite the side you are nursing from. Then use your other hand to support under the breast while nursing.

    A mother is sat upright on a cream sofa, looking down at her breastfeeding her baby using the underarm hold.

    3. Underarm hold


    Also known as the rugby-ball hold, in this position, you need to hold your baby beside you with their back resting on your forearm. Use your other hand to support the baby’s head as they face toward the breast that you are nursing from.

    A mother is lying on her left side on a white bed, cradling a baby breastfeeding in lying down position.

    4. Lying down


    The lying down position calls for you to lie on your side in bed with the baby facing towards your breast. Support the baby’s back with your upper hand or place a rolled towel against them.

    What you need

    Breastfeeding tips for newborns


    Now that we’ve gone over the breastfeeding techniques, we have a few breastfeeding tips for newborns:4


    1. Ensure a proper latch.

      A good latch offers numerous benefits for both mother and baby. Here are a few key factors when it comes to establishing a good latch and breastfeeding techniques:

      • Experiment with different breastfeeding positions until you find the one that helps your newborn latch.
      • Bring your baby up to your breast, with their nose opposite your breast and they should take your nipple, areola, and some of the surrounding tissue into their mouth, depending on the size of the areola.
      • Once properly attached, your baby will drink quickly to stimulate the let-down reflex and then slow down as milk begins to flow.

      Ultimately, a good latch will mean that your baby is correctly extracting the milk and can also help you avoid nipple pain.

      Tip: You can also contact a lactation consultant if you feel you are struggling with breastfeeding a newborn.

    2. Maintain milk supply.

      In order to ensure you have the right amount of milk for your baby, there are a few key tips to maintaining your milk supply when breastfeeding a newborn:

      • It is best to let your baby feed whenever they want, this is called, ‘feeding on demand’.
      • Don’t be surprised if the pattern suddenly changes. In fact, expect that it will! Growth spurts, separation anxiety, teething or simply a change in routine are all very normal reasons why your baby might be feeding more or less.

      Tip: If you feel like the change in your breastfeeding routine has made your breasts uncomfortable, hand-expressing can help to relieve the discomfort and help you avoid conditions such as engorgement.

      • There may be times when you can’t be with their baby during a feed, but it’s still important that you maintain their supply. A breast pump can be very valuable here. Pumping milk is a wonderful solution to keep up with milk production when mum and baby aren’t together.

      With the right bottle, such as the Philips Avent Natural Bottle with Natural Response Teat, you can use the expressed breastmilk to combination feed your baby.

      Just like breastfeeding, the breast-shaped bottle teat releases milk from the unique opening only when compressed by your baby's tongue, signaling active drinking. In between pauses, your little one can enjoy a moment of calm to swallow and breathe without drips, helping them to combine breastfeeding and bottle feeding with ease.

    3. Breastfeeding on the go.

      One of the many perks of breastfeeding a newborn is that you can take it with you everywhere they go. For some mothers, breastfeeding in public can be a bit intimidating at first. To help alleviate any nerves, you can practice how to breastfeed a newborn in front of the mirror beforehand and wear clothes that are easier to nurse in.

      Tip: A shawl or scarf may be useful to make you feel more comfortable when nursing away from home. Plus, keep your clothes dry and stain-free while on the go, by using breast pads with a leak-proof, breathable design.

    4. Prepare for the challenges.

      Every breastfeeding journey is as unique as the mother and baby themselves. That’s why it’s important that you avoid panicking or becoming discouraged if you encounter a common breastfeeding problem along the way when learning how to breast feed including:

      • Milk supply issues
      Clogged ducts
      • Sore nipples

      A support network made up of friends, family and healthcare professionals can help you feel confident and reassured throughout every stage of your breastfeeding journey.

      Tip: Staying calm is key, but you should always talk to your midwife, health visitor or doctor if you are concerned about any aspect of your breast health.


    So, there you go. With this simply guide to breastfeeding for beginners, you now know all the breastfeeding basics to get your breastfeeding journey off to the best start possible! If you’d like more guidance on how to breast feed, take a look at our advice on breastfeeding issues and how to overcome them.

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