Have you ever been in the middle of grocery shopping and your baby starts to fuss? You know that baby is going to want to nurse soon and you’re only into the canned goods aisle. Your heart races as you anticipate the fussing building to a scream as you frantically throw food into your shopping cart. Then you realize, “Hey, I can nurse right here in my ring sling and still have my hand free to push the cart and grab stuff off the shelves!” Problem solved!
With World Breastfeeding Week 2013 wrapping up, it seems only fitting to talk about how breastfeeding and babywearing can work really well together. Breastfed babies nurse a lot, especially in those early days. We often feel like we’re trapped on the couch under a baby and unable to tend to the home, run errands, or take care of older children. While this can be good at times (ie, postpartum recovery or just using it as an excuse to have your husband make dinner) it can also be very frustrating. Many women seem to struggle with nursing in their carriers at first, but once you learn some tips and tricks it can make your life a lot easier.
One of the big rules in babywearing safety is to make sure your baby is at kiss height. That means you can easily tilt your head down and kiss the top of your babies head. This is to ensure that your baby has unobstructed air flow. Obviously for most moms your baby is not in an ideal nursing position when they’re at kiss height. The key to nursing in a carrier is to be able to loosen and/or shimmy the carrier down to get baby closer to the breast. This will be different for each style of carrier or carry you are using. In mei tais or soft structured carriers you can simply loosen the straps a bit and loosen your waist strap while you support baby with your opposite hand, then lower the carrier and baby down. In a ring sling, you can loosen the rings, lower baby into an ideal position, and then retighten across baby’s back and under their neck. In a wrap you will have different carries that work best for nursing such as Front Cross Carry or Hip Cross Carry. You may also have to shift baby over to one side or the other. This can be achieved in a cradle or hip hold in wraps or ring slings.
It gets much easier with older babies who have good head control. When your baby is still little and without head control it’s important to support the back of their neck but not to completely cover their head so as not to push their face into your breast. You want their chin tilted upward and you want to be have a good view of their face. Always remember to make sure the carrier is tightened and supporting baby’s back so they’re not curling into your breast and so there is space under their chin. Last but not least it is important to bring baby back up to the kiss height after the nursing session is complete.
One of the benefits to nursing in a carrier, aside from having your hand(s) free is that it is easier to nurse out in public with a bit more discretion, if this makes you more comfortable. The fabric of the carrier curls around your body and baby and most people will just assume they are sleeping. In a ring sling you can even use the tail to drape over you, just make sure that it never covers baby’s head or face.
Once you get the hang of nursing in your carrier you will be able to grocery shop, do the dishes, and chase a toddler at the playground all while baby happily suckles away, leaving you feeling like Super Mom! Well maybe that’s pushing it, but it’s sure to make your life a lot easier!
If you need one on one help with nursing in your carrier, please feel free to come ask a VBE at our next meeting. We’ll be glad to help!