Using a carrier to breastfeed is an easy hack liberating on many levels.
It enables us to move during the feeding time with our hands somewhat free and cover what we don’t want others to see.
Carrying a baby establishes a connection on physical, mental and emotional level, helps to release oxytocin and stimulate a let-down. It is a natural way to encourage successful breastfeeding relationship, even help mothers in distress or experiencing postnatal depression to recover their nursing journey. For some, the use of carriers or slings can help babies to latch.
Which type of carrier and position works the best?
Any type of carrier or sling is suitable for breastfeeding. Find the one that gives you personally the most comfort, be it a structured carrier, elastic or woven sling. For an active use, you might prefer one that is easy for you to lower for feeding and re-tighten into a snug fit right after.
If you are unsure and with older babies, go with an upright position in the sling. The baby is ideally supported from knee to knee in a squatting position, in a carrier that is smiling to provide a natural curve and stability for a child. The carrier gently supports baby’s spine and back of the head, where the head is in a natural, upright position as well, leaning neither forward (the chin touching the chest) nor backwards. The baby can turn his/her head to the side if needed. Make sure there isn’t any fabric or a bulk of it pressing baby’s head into the breast.
Moms can safely nurse in a “in arms cradle” position with a support of their sling “hammock style” and keep one hand free, provided they keep using one arm to secure the baby's head, positioning it in the crook of the elbow, keeping his/her chin off chest.
A hip carry with a wrap, ring sling, cross strap buckle carrier or meh-dai work well too.
Let's go on with it
Using any structured carrier, release the strap on the side you are going to feed from, loosen and lower the waistband to get the baby on the level of your breast and check for other straps that need adjusting. The height of the carry depends on many factors: breast size and shape, nipple position, age of the baby, practice and adjustments make perfect.
When using an elastic wrap, pull the carrier down from your back and make room in the carrier so your baby is on the level of your breast. When finished, scoot the wrap back and re-tighten.
Consider clothes that allow an easy access: stretchy neckline and clothes with an opening for the breasts. For more coverage, you can opt for snapping one side of the hood - leave the other one open to keep a visual of your baby. Nursing shirts are always a good idea, but not necessary to nurse discreetly.
Can you breastfeed while walking and hiking? Sure! You might have to support your breast or baby’s head with one hand, but that still leaves you a freedom to move with one hand free!
At first, try breastfeeding in a carrier in the peace of your home when your baby is calm. As with everything, practice makes perfect, so give yourself and your baby time.
Once you position your baby comfortably in a carrier or a sling, make sure your baby can breathe freely and delatch at his/her will.
Babies are breathing through the nose, but when their nose get stuffy, they need to take a breath by the mouth. The baby needs to have the option to latch and de-latch at will, when the feeding is over, he/she falls asleep or takes a breath through the mouth.
That's why we need to be aware of two main safety concerns when breastfeeding in a carrier: First, nursing the baby in a sling in a curled, so called cradle position. Here the baby’s chin is being pushed onto his chest and that can block the airway. Second, pressing your baby’s face into the breast and blocking his/her airway. The baby’s face should never be pressed against the wearer.
Before the baby gains head control, make sure to support his or her body and head with at least one hand or arm and keep your eyes on him/her while feeding in any position.
Make sure there is no fabric, breast or other object obstructing the baby’s face and blocking the airway. Constantly monitor and free the airways when needed.
Once the baby finishes feeding, he or she needs to be returned to the previous upright and snug position.
In case you have any doubts about breastfeeding in your carrier, check in with your favourite babywearing or lactation consultant.
Having this in mind, you can relax, go on with it and enjoy!