Have you ever been out to an event, or on a tight schedule, and wished you could feed your baby amongst it all without having to go sit on the sidelines? Using a baby carrier or sling as an aid to support wee ones whilst you feed them is a game-changer.
Mum’s Grapevine babywearing expert, Brooke Maree, shares with us how to safely breastfeed in a carrier, which carrier to use, and the profound benefits of feeding in this position.
Before we start, let’s check in with ourselves first. Have you mastered breastfeeding skills? Have you got this babywearing thing down pat too? Okay great, now we’re ready to look at combining them both.
Best tips for breastfeeding in a carrier
Feeding your baby can be done just about anywhere and anytime, but there are certain tricks that can make life easier for breastfeeding mummas (like those amazing invisible zips that make feeding in tops a dream!).
Breastfeeding using a soft, structured carrier
Breastfeeding can be done in nearly any style of carrier with practice, but for beginners, a soft structured buckle carrier (like Ergobaby, Tula, Lille Baby etc.) or a ring sling are easiest.
Breastfeeding in a soft structured carrier works for most people. First, start with the carrier set up as normal; with baby centred, tight, and high against your chest. When you’re ready to feed, determine which breast first, left or right, then loosen the straps slowly. You’re not undoing any buckles here, simply loosening them off and bringing baby down to your breast height. From here, you either move your baby, and the whole carrier, slightly left or slightly right, depending on which side you’re feeding from.
Enjoy feeding your baby here keeping one or two hands on them for safety and checking on them constantly. You can use the hood of your carrier for privacy if you desire but it’s imperative you don’t cover or obstruct the airways of your baby. Once you’re finished the feed, you simply do the opposite of how you got them there. Scoot them back to the centre of your body and tighten the carrier to bring them up high ‘close enough to kiss’ and secure.
Breastfeeding using a ring sling
A ring sling has a similar process. You will carefully and slowly loosen the rings to guide baby down to your breast height. Feed them here and then tighten them back up to a safe height.
The only disadvantage with a ring sling is that you are generally restricted to feeding from one side only. Be careful not to double up a feed and cause the other breast to become engorged. If you are skilled enough to set the ring sling up on the opposite shoulder, great! But generally, we have a preferred shoulder and it’s very awkward to try on the other side.
Breastfeeding using a woven wrap
Woven wraps are a bit more of an advanced option. You could wrap baby off-centre in preparation for a feed, or in a hip carry with a slip knot that allows active loosening and tightening- similar to a ring sling. All-in-all, feeding in a woven wrap will generally take some adjustment and isn’t super straightforward.
Breastfeeding using a stretch wrap
For beginners, a stretchy wrap isn’t recommended either. The nature of the material means that baby needs to remain tight and with three layers of fabric over them at all times to keep them safe. Loosening the material presents a minor fall hazard and the possibility of baby slumping.
Benefits of breastfeeding while babywearing
There are numerous benefits for you and your baby when combining these skills. For you, it’s convenient and offers a discreet way of feeding. For your baby feeding upright in this position can aid their immature digestion system and allow for a greater opportunity of self-attachment. Walking around with your child in a carrier or sling creates a relaxed environment for them as they are soothed by the gentle motion and sway of your steps. Getting your child to relax muscles it doesn’t need whilst feeding in turn allows them to concentrate on the muscles they do need to feed successfully from the breast.
Another major benefit is a boost in milk production! Having your child in close proximity to your breast means you will more than likely feed them more often with their beautiful senses heightened with the smell of your milk, and the touch of your chest.
Tips for success
We all have unique bodies, babies, and breasts, so what works for some may not work for you. Don’t be discouraged, try a different style of carrier or wait until your baby is a few weeks or months older and try again. At all times though, safety must be at the forefront of your mind.
Always monitor your baby while they are in the carrier. Make sure their airway remains clear and support them at all times. When a carrier is loosened it isn’t 100 per cent secure so you can’t really be ‘handsfree’ while breastfeeding and babywearing; keep one hand on bub for support at all times. Also, when loosening fabric, make sure it doesn’t become a trip hazard and be mindful of your surroundings while multitasking.
If you still need further help, search on YouTube for free tutorials – there are stacks out there!
Head to a local babywearing meet up group in your area for peer support, or book a one-on-one consultation with a babywearing consultant who can give you tailored advice and support.