Question: What is a good position to breastfeed a baby for a large breasted woman? My sister has been using the football hold, but at four weeks her daughter is getting harder to support in this position. Any other ideas?
Answer: The mother with large breasts (DD or above) may find that she has to experiment a little to find positions and techniques in order to have a more successful breastfeeding experience. Often women with larger breasts have problems with flat or inverted nipples as well, but the baby will ‘grow into’ the larger nipple and be able to latch on to it more effectively as he gets older. Nipple shields may be helpful while the baby is a newborn.
The football hold, or clutch hold, works well for many large breasted mothers. Using the “C” hold is also often effective.
The optimal C hold involves using your outside hand (the one on the same side you’re nursing from) to support your breast. Put your palm gently under the breast, with your thumb curved around the top and side, forming a “C.” Be sure to keep your finger and thumb well behind the areola, because if your fingers are in the way, your baby can’t compress the milk sinuses effectively.
This can cause soreness as well as keeping him from obtaining the hindmilk that he needs to grow. Some mothers find that rolling up a washcloth and placing it under the breast during the feeding provides extra support. You may need additional support only while you are getting the baby latched on, or you may need to support the breast throughout the entire feeding. Once your baby is older and has better muscle control, you may find that you don’t need as much support as you do in the beginning.
I have had lots of experience in working with mothers whose breasts are all shapes and sizes over the past 30 years, but since I have no firsthand experience on this topic (I wear an A cup), I consulted an outside expert: my friend Angie, who has successfully nursed two beautiful baby girls, and whose breasts are currently size 40 H ( they’ll get bigger before long – baby number three is due in November!) Here’s what Angie had to say:
“I have found several ways to compensate for the awkwardness that having large breasts can cause when nursing, especially in the early months. The most convenient, especially if this is your first, is to nurse lying down. It provides you with a good reason to lie down and rest a bit, and is less taxing on your arms and back. Lay the baby on his/her side, with a pillow at baby’s back if needed, and support your breast with the opposite hand – across your body.
Another possibility is to use the cradle hold, but prop your forearm on a bent knee, again using a pillow if needed. Two suggestions for this might be: If you have a rocking chair and a stool – prop your feet on the stool, which brings your knees up. Then, lay the pillow/s in your lap, and rest your forearm on the pillow/s while holding your baby.
I also sometimes rested my elbow on the arm of the rocker, when my girls got larger, and heavier! If you have a recliner – kick out the foot rest, and place your feet on it with the knees bent, and sort of snuggle your baby in the space between your knees and chest, again using a pillow if you need one and resting your forearm on your knees for support.
Depending on your supply of milk, you may find it unnecessary to nurse on both sides at each feeding. As the baby gets older, and you often find yourself nursing somewhere other than at home, it can be convenient to only need access to one breast at the time. Especially the more tissue you have to manage and rearrange back into your bra! Just follow your child’s lead on this one, every situation is different, and every baby is different!”
I hope this helps. There is an article on my website that your sister might be interested in as well: Nursing Tips for the Large Breasted Woman.
Anne Smith, IBCLC