The holy grail of breastfeeding achievement has to be babywearing and nursing while in motion. Imagine the possibilities! You can shop, escort your older children at a museum, or just type on the computer.
I knew I wanted to master this skill with my first son. I watched many YouTube videos, but it really takes practice to make it work. You also pick up a few tricks along the way.
By far the easiest carrier to nurse in is a ring sling. It can be used with a younger child, or a toddler.
With a younger baby you will want them to be in a tummy to tummy position, with their legs in (for infants) or legs out (for older babies). Either way will work.
The beauty of a ring sling is that you can adjust the height easily without undoing many buckles and ruining your perfect settings on your SSC (soft structure carrier).
Typically when you wear your baby in the tummy to tummy position they are in a position where their heads can rest on your chest. To nurse while in the sling you will need to lower the baby by loosening the rail and getting slack underneath their bottoms.
Once they are low enough to be facing your breast, double check to make sure the carrier is tight enough around their backs. Then you can unsnap your nursing bra and latch them on. You will want to be careful, in this position they can easily get a nose full of breast depending on how well endowed you are. I try to have my son’s head to the side rather than facing the breast directly. He is still young (3.5 weeks) so his head and neck control is limited so I am often holding his head as well. I put the back of the ring sling behind his head for support, which doubles as a nursing cover. The baby should be able to reach both breasts in this position, making it ideal for nursing and babywearing.
If you have a toddler or older baby you can use a ring sling and the hip carry. Once again, your toddler will probably be positioned to where they are above the breast, but a simple loosening of the rail beneath them will once again make them level enough to nurse.
When you have things safely adjusted, you can latch them on. The downside of a hip carry is that you can only access one breast. To nurse on the other side you will need to put the sling on the opposite shoulder. With a hip carry there is less risk of getting a nose full of breast though. Plus the baby will be older and better at nursing so it requires less supervision, though you will always want to be mindful of things, especially if they decide to pop off and leave you out in the breeze!
There are many ways to nurse in a wrap style carrier. I have only attempted nursing while having my son in the Basic front carry. Again, the baby will be higher than your breasts. Adjusting a wrap is more complicated and a little more risky, but it can certainly be done.
While in a wrap your baby is positioned on two strips of fabric which act as their seat. Their legs can be in or out. I have found that by tugging at these two strips from the front and gathering as much extra fabric from the back as I can, I can get my son low enough to reach a breast. This is in combination with popping my boob up pretty high, something that might not be possible depending on your size.
If you are experienced with using a Soft Structure carrier with buckles, making adjustments to nurse your baby will be pretty simple.
Depending on which carrier you have you will need to loosen the strap on your shoulder or the one beneath it. This gives you room to get your breast positioned and your baby latched. You may want to tighten that strap back once they are latched. I have nursed my older son in the SSC when he was around 10 months and older. At this age this was my favorite carrier to nurse in.
Words of Wisdom:
- If you believe you are going to need to nurse your baby while wearing them, take a moment to plan your wardrobe. Lifting your shirt while wearing a baby is difficult. And, it can be unflattering when you have straps around your waist but no shirt! If I need to keep my arms warm I like to pair a tank top or a low cut and stretchy tank top with a jacket style top or a button up. If it is hot out, a tank top or low cut short sleeved shirt will do. (Note from Judy: A nursing top with pull-aside or dropcup nursing access is also helpful).
- Always have a small rag handy. If your carrier of choice has a pocket, keep one stashed away. Great for spitting up or messy eaters!
- Practice at home before you tackle the state fair! Get to where you are comfortable making adjustments and moving around. Trying to attempt this in a crowded setting for the first time might be difficult.
- Don’t get discouraged if one carrier doesn’t work great for you. There are many types out there and most work for nursing. I have just listed ones I have personally had success with and tried.
- And lastly, use common sense! I mentioned that there is a possibility of the baby getting smooshed into your breast while nursing. Always keep a close eye on them and practice safe babywearing. If you don’t feel comfortable after loosening the straps then don’t continue. Keeping the baby in the carrier and preventing any suffocation is the number one thing. You can always take the baby out to nurse them if you need to.
- There are lots of great babywearing resources online and in your neighborhood. Take a look around and see what groups might be in your own backyard! Please also visit this other article on babywearing that was posted on our blog by Elizabeth Pantley.
Kim Rosas is a degree holding stay at home mom of Fletcher (2 years old) and a new baby boy named Everett who was born at home on 10-20-2010. She began her website, www.dirtydiaperlaundry.com, to spread her love of all things cloth diapering. Now her she writes about cloth diapers, babywearing, breastfeeding, and parenting topics in general.
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