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How Do I Position My Pre-Term Baby at the Breast?

Perhaps your baby is now strong and mature enough to begin feeding directly at your breast. It may take some time to encourage him to do it correctly. See the FAQ on positioning for pictures and a full description.

Many mothers of premature babies find the cross cradle hold very useful for this stage. This technique allows you to get a better view of your baby, and to control the baby's head.

  1. Position the baby across your lap, turned in towards you, chest to chest. Use pillows to bring him up to the level of your breast.
  2. If you are offering your right breast, hold the baby's head in your left hand, and support your breast with your right.
  3. Support your breast using the Dancer Hold Position. This position supports your baby's chin in the sling between your thumb and index finger. This helps your baby maintain a good latch. On page 301, LLLI's BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK describes the hand position this way:
    • The mother supports her breast with a C-hold, thumb on top, four fingers underneath.
    • She slides the hand supporting her breast forward, supporting the breast with three rather than four fingers. Her index finger and thumb should now be free in front of her nipple.
    • The mother bends her index finger slightly so it is gently holding the baby's cheek on one side while the thumb holds the other cheek. The index finger and thumb form a "U" with the baby's chin resting on the bottom of the "U".
  4. Pull your baby close and enjoy! You may need to repeat these steps as you and your baby learn together. Take time to soothe both of you with plenty of skin-to-skin contact.

Contacting an LLL Leader in your area may help you during this challenging time. To find a Group near you, call 1-800-LALECHE, look at our LLL Web Page Index or follow the hints on our page about finding a local LLL Leader. If you are unable to find a local Group, you may consider attending one of our on-line LLL meetings.

For additional information, see the rest of the "Premature Infant" FAQs.

Our FAQs present information from La Leche League International on topics of interest to parents of breastfed children. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise. If you have a serious breastfeeding problem or concern, you are strongly encouraged to talk directly to a La Leche League Leader. Please consult health care professionals on any medical issue, as La Leche League Leaders are not medical practitioners.

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