Troubleshooting Breastfeeding and Babywearing
One of the most beneficial things about babywearing is that it offers you the opportunity to provide care and comfort for your little one while on the go. Time for rest, quiet observation, and feeding can happen while you hold your baby in a carrier. We have shared the benefits of breastfeeding and babywearing in a previous blog, that included tips for how to feed in different carriers. But we know there are common issues that may make breastfeeding while babywearing difficult. Read on for suggestions on how we troubleshoot these concerns.
1. Breastfeeding and babywearing takes practice!
Your first attempts at nursing in a baby carrier may be more difficult than you thought. We recommend that you practice and become confident in each activity, feeding and babywearing separately, before combining them.
For babywearing: Become familiar with your carrier’s features. Learn how it is adjusted and practice, without your baby, the adjustments needed to feed in your carrier.
For feeding: Whether you have a breastfeeding relationship established with your child, or you are feeding with a bottle or other manner, it might be helpful to practice feeding baby in a position similar to the one used in a carrier. You may need to rest on your side while baby is on a flat surface, lay baby on top of you while you are laying down, or position baby upright while you are sitting.
When these skills are newly acquired, it might help to practice them in a comfortable place when baby is calm. With practice, comes lots of confidence!
2. Your breast size might dictate how you adjust for feedings.
Your baby’s mouth will need to be at your nipple level to latch and feed. So, along with adjustments to your carrier straps, you might have to make other adjustments to your carrier and your breasts to feed in your carrier. For smaller babies, or babies with less muscle tone, you may need to also support their head to assist with their latch.
For smaller chested people: Try lowering the waistband and loosening your arm straps to bring baby to your nipple height.
For larger chested people: Along with adjustments to your carrier, you may want to lift your breast with your hand, keep your bra clipped and lift your breast over the top of your bra, or roll a small washcloth and place it under the breast to lift it hands-free.
Practice these adjustments to find the right combination for you and your baby.
3. Looking for more privacy?
If the panel or the fabric of your carrier is not providing enough privacy for your own comfort, there are some other ways to get additional privacy. The carrier hood can be snapped up. (We recommend snapping only one side). You can use a lightweight blanket, like a Tula Baby Blanket, or a nursing cover over your carrier. If you are hoping for coverage on the side of your carrier, you can wear a button up shirt or cardigan over your carrier. This provides additional material coverage on your sides.
With all of these methods of coverage, be sure that you keep baby’s airway clear and that you check on baby often to monitor their breathing and temperature.
4. Not always hands-free.
While being hands-free is something we appreciate about babywearing, when you are breastfeeding, you may not be able to be totally hands-free. A hand or two may be needed as your baby is developing head, neck, and truck control. You may need to lift your breast up to assist with your baby’s latch. If you are bottle feeding, you may need to hold a bottle in place. Or, you may need to support your baby while your carrier is loosened. That’s okay!
Keep in mind that some of these reasons are temporary and that babywearing while feeding still provides freedom. You can walk and follow an older child while at the zoo or playing at the park. You don’t need to leave lines while traveling to feed your baby in a specific room or area. You take care of grocery shopping while baby eats. And there are many other benefits of breastfeeding and being close!
5. You can find additional support!
If you are experiencing challenges with breastfeeding and/or babywearing, there are consultants and groups that can help! A lactation consultant or breastfeeding support group can assist you with additional questions about breastfeeding or other feeding options. If you need support regarding your carrier, there are also babywearing consultants and, often, babywearing groups locally that can help. If you have any medical concerns, we recommend always discussing them with your medical care provider.
Reminder of some general safety tips!
- Baby should always be visible and have a clear airway. Check on them often.
- If your carrier needs to be very loose to accommodate feedings, always keep a hand on baby for additional support.
- Do NOT unbuckle your carrier. If you have to untie to adjust, always re-tie your carrier.
- When your child is done feeding or if they fall asleep, always reposition them back to the optimal position for the carrier and their size.
Our friend Rachel Parker shares how she breastfeeds in her Tula Baby Carrier:
Along with our one of our Team Tula babywearing educators, Priscilla Parra, we want to thank the following educators that provided additional thoughts and tips:
Laura Brown of BabywearingLA, Mich Conway of Babywearing international of Rockland Westchester, Beth Rosa of Loveybeebaby, Marissa Jennings of Babywearing International of Central Iowa, and Marisol Hernandez- Shewbert.