The Football or Clutch Breastfeeding Position

How and When to Use This Common Nursing Position

Breastfeeding football hold. How to Breastfeed In the Football hold
Breastfeeding in the football hold. Ruth Jenkinson/Getty Images

The football or clutch breastfeeding position is also called the clutch hold, is a seated breastfeeding position. The way you hold the baby in this position resembles how you would place a clutch-style purse under your arm or how a football player would secure the football to the side of his body with one hand. 

When you breastfeed using the football hold, you place your baby under your arm along the side of your body.

He lays on his side or his back along your forearm with his head at your breast and his feet at your back.

The football hold is also known as the underarm position or the twin position.

Breastfeeding and the Football Hold

If it's comfortable for you and your baby, you can use the football hold anytime you're breastfeeding in the seated position. You can also switch off between the football hold and other breastfeeding positions. It's always a good idea to get comfortable with a few different breastfeeding holds so that you can rotate them from time to time.

When the Football Hold is Particularly Helpful

Of course, there are certain situations when the football hold is really helpful. You may want to try this nursing position if:

You've Had a Cesarean Section: One of the first breastfeeding positions you should learn after a c-section is the football hold. Since this hold allows you to breastfeed with your baby's body along your side, it doesn't put pressure on your stomach or your surgical incision.

So, if you've had a cesarean, breastfeeding in the football hold should be more comfortable. 

You Have Large Breasts: When you have large breasts, breastfeeding may seem awkward at first. In the beginning, when your learning to latch your baby on, the football hold gives you more control of your breast and your baby.

It could help make it feel less awkward. 

You Have Twins: When you want to breastfeed two babies at the same time, the football hold is an excellent choice. It allows you place one baby on each side without any body parts overlapping. 

Your Have a Preemie: The football hold and the cross-cradle hold are the best choices for breastfeeding a premature baby. Both of these positions provide support for your baby's head, and they give you a good view of your nipple and the baby's mouth. These are two important things to consider when you're breastfeeding a preemie or near-term baby. 

You Have a Sleepy Baby: A sleepy baby may find the cradle nursing position more cuddly and soothing. But, the positioning of the football hold could help to keep your little one awake and nursing longer.

Your Newborn Won't Latch On: If you're having trouble getting your newborn to latch on, try the football hold. In this position, you have a better view of your breast and your baby, so it may be easier for you to guide her mouth to your nipple.

Your Baby Has Reflux: Babies with reflux can benefit from nursing in a more upright position. The football hold allows you to keep your baby's head above his belly as he breastfeeds.

This position lets gravity do it's job so it can help your baby keep the breast milk down in her stomach.

Your Baby Was Born with a Heart Issue: A child with a heart problem may nurse better if his head is raised up. With the football hold, you can support your baby in a more upright position as he nurses.

Your Child Has a Cleft: The positioning of a baby with a cleft lip and/or a cleft palate should be based on the individual child's need. One of the possible positions is the football hold because it allows you to hold the baby's head in a more upright position which can help prevent breast milk from going up into the baby's nose.

This hold may also help a mom and baby to get a better seal on the latch.

How To Breastfeed in the Football Hold: 13 Steps

Now that you know what the football hold is and when it's useful, you may be wondering how to do it. Here's how to breastfeed in the football hold.

  1. Sit in a comfortable position.

  2. Place a firm pillow at your side or use a nursing pillow to support your baby and your arm.

  3. Lay your baby on the pillow at your side directly next to the breast that you want to start nursing on. Place his head toward your breasts, his body under your arm, and his feet behind you. He should be laying up against your forearm.

  4. Take the hand that's closest to your baby, and put it under his head to support his head, neck, and upper back.

  5. Raise your baby's upper back and head into an upright position toward your breast.

  6. Use your other hand to support the breast you'll be nursing on. Depending on the size of your breast and what's comfortable for you, you may want to use the C-hold or the V-hold.

  7. Once your in this position, you should have a good view of your nipple and your baby's mouth. You can now guide your baby up to your breast. You may be tempted to lean over toward your child, but you shouldn't. You don't want to bring your breast to your baby; you want to bring your baby's head up to your breast.

  8. When your baby is at your breast, gently touch her cheek with your finger or your nipple to trigger the rooting reflex. The rooting reflex is a natural reaction that causes a newborn to open his mouth wide when he feels a stroke on his cheek.

  9. Make sure your baby's mouth is open very wide and his tongue is down.

  10. Quickly bring your baby's open mouth to your nipple and allow him to attach to your breast.

  11. Once your baby has attached to the breast, check for the signs of a good latch.

  12. If your baby is not latched on well, you should break the suction of the incorrect latch, remove your baby from your breast and try again.

  13. If your baby is latched on well and actively sucking, continue to hold him at the level of your breast and close to your body so that his weight doesn't cause him to sink down and pull at your breasts and nipples as he nurses. You can lay back or continue to sit up if you're comfortable. You can also use extra pillows to support your body so that you don't strain your back, neck, and arms.

Where to Find Help with the Football Hold

If your child is premature or has a medical issue, get help right from the start. Ask for breastfeeding assistance in the hospital, either on the mother/baby unit or in the NICU.

If you have twins, a sleepy baby or you just want to learn an alternative position, and you're still in the hospital, ask to see the lactation consultant. Once your home, you can join a breastfeeding group such as La Leche International, ask friends or relatives with breastfeeding experience for help, call a lactation consultant in private practice or talk to your doctor.  


American Academy of Pediatrics. (2011). New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York.

Jones, E., & Spencer, S. A. (2005). How to achieve successful preterm breastfeeding. Infant, 1(4), 111-115.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. (2011). Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby.

Newman, Jack, MD, Pitman, Theresa. (2006). The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers. Three Rivers Press. New York.

Reilly, S., Reid, J., & Skeat, J. (2007). ABM Clinical Protocol# 17: Guidelines for breastfeeding infants with cleft lip, cleft palate, or cleft lip and palate. Breastfeeding Medicine, 2(4), 243-250.

Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. (2014). Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning.