Cross-cradle hold

What is the cross-cradle hold

In the cross-cradle hold, the mother is seated and uses her hand and arm to support the baby’s head, neck, and back. She is tummy-to-tummy with the baby, and the baby is horizontal and the baby’s arms encircle the breast she is using for feeding. This hold provides good support for the baby and gives mothers control over the baby’s movement. It is often used to fix breastfeeding problems and is compatible with the sandwich technique. The hold is well suited to mothers with breasts of average or smaller length, mothers with nipple pain, and weak babies who need good support or have latching problems. It is less effective for mothers with a larger abdomen and for older babies.

A) Describing the cross-cradle hold

This baby is breastfeeding in the cross-cradle hold. His neck is well supported and his ear, shoulder, and hip are lined up.

In the cross-cradle hold, the mother is seated and the baby is positioned so that the mouth is square in front of the nipple. The baby’s body is horizontal, with the baby’s tummy and mother’s tummy in close contact (tummy-to-tummy). The mother’s hand and arm support the baby’s head, neck, and back.

A breastfeeding pillow is generally used when using the cross-cradle hold as it can make this hold more comfortable and provides extra support for the mother’s arm and for the baby.

This hold gives the baby support and gives the mother more control over the baby’s movements. The cradle-hold is often used to fix breastfeeding problems and is compatible with the sandwich technique.

B) Using the cross-cradle hold

To adopt the cross-cradle hold at the right breast:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with good back support and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Consider placing a breastfeeding pillow on your lap.
  3. Roll the baby onto the left side and position the baby’s tummy against your own.
  4. Support the baby’s neck by placing:
    1. Your left index (pointer) finger pad behind the baby’s left ear.
    2. Your left thumb pad behind the right ear.
    3. The palm and the rest of your fingers should curl behind the baby’s neck and shoulders.
  5. Hold the baby’s body against your tummy using your left forearm.
  6. Align the baby’s mouth directly in front of the nipple by moving the baby’s body.
  7. If using the sandwich technique, grasp the breast with the right hand. The thumb should align with the baby’s nose.
  8. If not using the sandwich technique, simply hold the breast lightly with the right hand.
  9. Use the right hand to gently move the breast so that the nipple taps the middle of the baby's top lip.
  10. Once the baby’s mouth opens, push the baby towards the nipple (chin first) with the left hand to latch the baby.

Once latched, mothers can:

  • Continue to apply the sandwich technique if it is helpful.
  • Let go of the sandwich while ensuring that the breast does not move away from the baby’s mouth.
  • Bring the right arm around the baby while leaving the left arm in place to provide extra support to the left arm and the baby.
  • Change to the cradle hold.

C) Common problems with the cross-cradle hold

There are several common problems with the cross-cradle hold that can result in poor positioning.

1) The baby’s neck is not properly supported.  

Resolve this by ensuring that the index finger and thumb pads are firmly behind the ears and the hand and the rest of the fingers are curled around the baby’s neck and back.

Avoid any contact with the back of the baby’s head as babies do not like their heads being pushed onto their chest.

 2) The breast sandwich is in the wrong direction.

Resolve this by ensuring that your thumb is aligned with the baby’s nose.

3) The breast moves away from the baby once released.

This commonly occurs when the mother releases the breast sandwich to reposition her arm to circle the baby. 

Resolve this by letting go of the breast slowly, and slightly reposition the baby to follow the movement of the nipple and breast.

Mothers with larger breasts may find that the breast drops significantly after releasing it. This movement can be limited by placing a rolled face cloth under the breast.

4) The baby’s lower arm (left arm if breastfeeding from the right breast) is in front of the breast instead of circling it.

This pushes the baby onto the back instead of remaining tummy-to-tummy.  

Resolve this by moving the baby’s lower arm under the breast so the arms encircle the breast.

D) Situations in which the cross-cradle hold is effective

The cross-cradle hold is easily used by mothers with breasts of average or shorter length.

Mothers with nipple pain or damage may prefer the cross-cradle hold because the hold:

  • Gives the mother more control over the baby’s movements. She can prevent the baby from pulling on the nipple and causing more pain.
  • Can be combined with the sandwich technique.

The cross-cradle hold is well suited to babies who:

  • Have latching problems as:
    • The hold gives the baby more support.
    • It can be combined with the sandwich technique.
  • Are premature, sleepy newborn, or sick babies and require extra support.

E) Situations in which the cross-cradle hold is less helpful

The cross-cradle hold is less suited to mothers with:

  • Large or long breasts as it can be difficult for the mother’s arm to reach around her body to hold the baby.
  • A larger abdomen, because the baby may be pushed away from the breast resulting in poor positioning and it can be hard for the arm supporting the baby to reach around the mother’s tummy.
  • A tender tummy, because the pressure from the baby and the forearm may be uncomfortable.
  • Twins and wish to breastfeed both at the same time.

The cross-cradle hold provides babies with a good amount of support and discourages independent movement. It is less suited to babies who need or want to move around including those who:

  • Choke frequently and need to quickly release the breast to control the flow of milk.  , 
  • Are older babies and want to wiggle or look around.