Vertical (straddle) hold

What is the vertical breastfeeding hold?

In the vertical hold, the mother sits and seats the baby on her thigh. The baby faces the breasts and its legs hang on each side of the mother’s thigh. The baby must be old enough, usually at least four months old, to have reasonable head and back control. This hold can be useful if the baby is refusing to breastfeed or if the baby is struggling with forceful let-downs.

A) Describing the vertical hold

The vertical hold.

In the vertical (straddle) hold, the mother sits and the baby is seated on the mother’s thigh, facing the breast. The baby’s legs hang on each side of the mother’s thigh. It is somewhat similar to the laid-back hold.

This hold gives the baby a lot of control over latching and breastfeeding. It is only used by older babies as it requires that the baby is able to sit with minimal support.

B) Using the vertical hold

To use the vertical hold at the right breast:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position and your feet flat on the floor. You can lean back slightly or sit up straight depending on your and your baby’s preferences. 
  2. Consider using back support by sitting in a straight back chair. You can also add pillows to increase back support.
  3. Seat the baby on your right thigh, facing you and with the legs hanging on each side of your thigh.
  4. Align the baby’s mouth directly in front of the nipple by moving the baby’s body up or down by raising or lowering your thigh.
  5. Keep the baby in place by wrapping your arms around the baby. If the baby's body folds forward, the baby may still be too young for this position.
  6. Bring the baby to the breast.
  7. Wiggle your right shoulder or use your left hand to gently move the breast so that the nipple taps the middle of the top lip.
  8. Once the baby’s mouth opens, pull the baby towards the nipple.

C) Common problems with the vertical hold

The baby must be at least several months old to have some head and back control. Younger babies will fold forward for lack of strength in the back and neck and may have trouble breathing or latching in this hold.

Mothers with longer breasts can find that their nipple is well below the baby’s mouth. In this situation, a mother should raise her breast by holding it or by placing a small rolled towel under the breast. If this is not comfortable, mothers should consider another hold such as the laid-back hold as an alternative.

D) Situations in which the vertical hold is effective

This hold gives the baby a lot of control. It can be useful:

  • During a breastfeeding strike when the baby refuses to breastfeed, since these babies can benefit from being in control.
  • If the older baby frequently chokes with forceful let-downs, since the milk is less likely to run back into the baby’s throat.
  • When feeding older twin babies at the same time.

E) Situations in which the vertical hold is less effective

This hold is limited to older babies with good head control and back strength.

Using the breast sandwich technique with the vertical hold can be awkward as mothers are left with only one hand to hold the baby.