Thanks to the support of the Volunteer Educators in our group and lots of practice, I can now safely and securely nurse my baby in a carrier. So, I invited Lori to give us some tips as part of our Babywearing 102 Series!
Chest/Breastfeeding while Babywearing
Babywearing is an empowering tool for any caregiver. I mean we can keep our babies snuggled close and comfort them AND still get things done. Seriously, how awesome is that? Even better? Nursing while babywearing! All those hours previously spent on the couch or in a rocker, nursing, can be done while taking a walk outside, chatting with a friend over tea, or at target. It opens a whole new world of possibilities. Here are a few tips from our leaders here at Austin Babywearing to help you have a successful go at chest/breastfeeding while babywearing.
Our top priority at Austin Babywearing is your safety when babywearing. If you are active in our group this will not be the first (or last) time you have heard me emphasize safety.
– Always make sure they can breathe. Make sure their face is not pressed into the chest/breast tissue or covered by material from your clothes or carrier.
– Use the rails of wraps/ sleeping hoods/ tails of ring slings to cover yourself if you want some privacy, do not cover baby’s face! When you cover them instead of yourself you risk them rebreathing the air they exhale which can be very dangerous. So, please be careful when using a cover.
– When they are done nursing move them back to the upright, visible and kissable position. Even (or especially) if they fall asleep bring them back up so their head is resting on your chest bone and retighten the carrier. Never leave them in the chest/breastfeeding position when they have finished nursing. These positions are not safe for long-term wearing and can lead to suffocation or positional affixation.
– Listen for grunting, snoring or out of the ordinary noises (not your typical nursing noises). These can be signs of distress and labored breathing. If they are making these noises, reposition their head/neck to make sure there is at least two fingers width of space between their chin and chest and that their airway is not blocked in anyway.
Building blocks to success
Be sure to establish a strong chest/breastfeeding relationship and hone your babywearing skills independent of each other; then after you are confident in both, combine them. We are all about setting you up for success here and if you do not have a good foundation in either area, combining them will not likely go well.
Choose chest/breastfeeding friendly clothing
I personally wear a tank and shirt over it and pull the top shirt up a bit as I am putting the carrier on so I can more easily lift it for nursing later. I have also just worn lower cut tanks, a deep v-neck shirt or nursing top that I can easily pull down around my breast. I am all about easy access in this situation.
Practice makes perfect
You’ll hear me say this about just about any carry with a carrier, practice. Practice at home or in a comfortable spot as you are getting used to nursing in your carrier. Practice in front of a mirror to help you get a better idea of how it all works and make sure baby is in the right position. Get used to what method works best for you. This will also help build your confidence, which is always a good thing. Especially when down the road you have a screaming child in the middle of a store with an epic-we-have-not-grocery-shopped-in-a-month cart full of groceries.
It won’t be hands free at first
Caregivers always come to meetings wanting to be able to nurse hands free. And you can! However, at first you may (and if you have a smaller baby, most likely) have to hold your chest/breast and/or your baby’s head/neck. Keep at it and as you and baby get more comfortable it may become hands free. I have rather large breasts so at first I found it easiest to reach under the shoulder strap of the carrier to hold the chest/breast up for baby. Some people find it helpful to keep their nursing bra clipped and use it or the neck of their shirt as a “shelf” to support the breast.
The basics of how-to (why you are all probably here to begin with)
We have several videos on our Pinterest Page to help you learn the basics of chest/breastfeeding in your carrier. So be sure to visit there for additional info on the specific how-to for each carrier type. However, it is basically the same process in most carriers. While maintaining tension on the carrier and keeping a hand on baby, loosen the shoulder straps and bounce baby down until their face is just about level with the breast. Secure the carrier in this position. Reach in, pull the chest/breast out and latch baby on. Some people may find it easier to scooch the carrier over slightly so it is more of a hip carry to give baby access to the breast. That’s it. I like to make sure that the carrier is providing adequate head support for baby too while they nurse. While it sounds simple, it can take a few tries to get right, so stick with it and ask for assistance on our Facebook discussion group or at a meeting. Again, always keep an eye on baby while they are eating and reposition them to the visible and kissable position when they are done.
Chest/Breastfeeding in a carrier made life easier with baby number one, but was necessary with number 2. Planning life around their feeding schedule went right out the window with older sibling’s busy schedule. And seriously, it is pretty awesome.