Today’s post was contributed by Sophia from Healthy Baby Happy Earth.
I loved breastfeeding. I really did. It was more than saving time and money; it just felt like the best thing to do for me and and my baby. Whether it was 3 in the morning or 3 in the afternoon, no matter where I was, I always had a ready milk supply on me. Literally.
Now, I don’t want formula-feeding mama’s to get mad at me. Being on top of bottles and keeping everything clean and ready takes a lot of work, so hats off to you! But us breastfeeding mama’s can encounter a different kind of a struggle when we think about nursing at the most inopportune times. We can’t pass off our baby with a bottle to the next able bodied person.
There are times when, even though we’ve done our best to avoid nursing in public or while trying to get supper on the table, our child demands to be fed. And the baby wants what the baby wants. And when he wants it!
Strap one on – a baby carrier that is – and feed that baby!
Best Baby Carriers for Breastfeeding
Nearly any baby carrier can work for breastfeeding as long as your baby isn’t strapped to your back, but I suppose that goes without saying.
Slings are a great option if you’re nursing a baby, but positioning a newborn correctly in one can take time and patience. The nice thing about a sling is that it grows with your child.
A baby wrap, a long piece of stretchy, supportive material, can put your baby exactly where you need him and it also grows with your child. Some moms find wraps easier to use and nurse in than slings.
Front carriers tend to have fewer options. Newborns aren’t able to sit up well enough to nurse on their own, but carriers are ideal for infants between three and twelve months old. Once your child is too big for the carrier, you’re often out of luck. (MDC tip: we love our organic Ergobaby carrier, and have successively breastfed in it, as well as carrying full-blown toddlers in them, too! We also used the organic infant insert in the beginning, so that the carrier would literally fit our preemie babies in every single stage of their infancy.)
Be Prepared – Dress the Part
Did you stop to think that the clothes you wear can make breastfeeding in a carrier harder than it needs to be? Before I had my first child, I bought two nursing tops. Keep in mind that this was back in 2001 when they made layered tops with a covered opening to pop your breast through.
Honestly, I hated those nursing tops. It didn’t take long before I found myself nursing just fine in a regular t-shirt. Plus, they were a hassle when nursing a baby in a carrier and would leave my momma belly – and back – exposed.
MDC tip: Try out our DIY Nursing Tank tutorial for full coverage on your back and belly, while getting easy access to the boobs!
The best nursing-in-carrier tops are low-cut t-shirts, v-necks, scoop necks, or button down shirts. Pulling your shirt down – as opposed to up – makes nursing with a carrier a lot easier. Plus you don’t have extra material on top of your baby’s face to deal with.
Another option is to wear a tank top with a zip or button up sweater over top. You still have to pull up your tank but at least your back and belly will stay covered. Whatever type of outfit works best for you, stay away from high necklines, especially if you’re wearing a dress.
Starting Out – Are You Both Ready?
You might be ready to give nursing in the carrier a go, but is your baby? Your little one may be content to have you support her body and neck with one hand while making the perfect “boob sandwich” for her to latch onto with your other hand.
Your baby needs to have a certain level of independence and commitment, if you will, to make breastfeeding in a sling, wrap, or carrier work. Once your baby can latch well on his own and doesn’t need your support, you’re both ready to try breastfeeding in a carrier.
It’s All About Positioning
The best position for nursing your baby when you’re on your feet is in a vertical position. That means your baby is practically sitting up with their head directly in front of your breast and legs by your belly button.
Slings and wraps allow you to nurse a newborn in the more traditional cradle hold, where baby lies on it’s side across your body. The cradle hold can be more challenging to get your baby into the right position. It’ll take some time to figure out how to best adjust your carrier to achieve a hold that is supportive but gives baby room to breathe.
What to Avoid
It’s common to adjust your carrier to be too tight during your first attempts to nurse in it. After all, your child still needs plenty of back support to get them into the right position. However, a carrier that is too tight will interfere with your baby’s ability to breathe.
A carrier that is too loose will cause your baby to strain his neck and perhaps pull uncomfortably at your breast. Give yourself plenty of time at home to practice getting the right positioning of your baby and the carrier before you attempt nursing in a carrier out in public.
Another thing to avoid is prolonged nursing in the sling. Once your baby is done, it is best to readjust the carrier and get her back to a proper position where you’re both better supported and comfortable.
Ride The Learning Curve
Breastfeeding has a huge learning curve. I believe that if you have the patience to learn how to breastfeed, you have enough patience to learn how to breastfeed your baby in a carrier. However, timing is key. It’s more difficult to feed a newborn in a carrier, and yet, the sooner you teach your baby, the more likely they will be willing to learn.
The best tip I can give you is to practice nursing in your carrier before you have to. Figure out how to best position your baby in the carrier you prefer to wear so they’re well supported and you’re comfortable. Try breastfeeding in the carrier with different outfits to see which clothes work best for you. A quiet, calm baby will be a better co-student, so don’t wait until your child is famished before practicing.
And, of course, allow yourself some grace. Learning to breastfeed in a carrier is a task well worth the effort.