As a babywearing group leader, one of the most common questions I hear is “What carrier is the easiest to nurse in?” The short answer is any carrier you are already comfortable using, once you are used to it. We recommend that you first learn how to breastfeed easily, learn how to use your carrier safely, then combine the two. You may need to use one hand for support until baby has great head control. For very busty mamas, you may never be completely hands free, but learning to nurse in a carrier is always a helpful skill! For step by step instructions on how to nurse in a specific carrier, I strongly recommend getting hands on help from a knowledgeable babywearer. Check around for groups in your area. Here, I’ll speak generically about some considerations when nursing in any carrier.
Three Tips for Breastfeeding and Babywearing
- Safe positioning
Baby’s chin should be off his chest, never pressed into it, as this could constrict the airway. You want to be able to see your baby’s face and be checking to ensure the airway is protected. Before you put any material over baby as a nursing cover, put it up to your mouth and nose. If you can’t easily breathe through it, neither can baby. If you choose to use something like a ring sling tail as a cover, you MUST be vigilant in checking on baby.
You can nurse baby upright in many carriers by simply loosening the carrier until baby is at the right height. In some carriers, baby may prefer to recline, so you’ll need to transition to a cradle position. In this case, you need to be very careful to position properly. Baby should be in a checkmark shape with bottom being the point of the check and the back being straight-ish. Baby should never be in a “tight C” shape, as you would find in a bag sling, with chin tightly to chest. This can compromise baby’s breathing. Again, this is where hands on help is so valuable.
- Right Clothing
The right clothing can make nursing easy or a hassle. This is especially true in a carrier. You do not want to be trying to work your shirt back down in between you and the sleeping baby strapped onto your chest. What I like to do is wear a tank that can be pulled down from the top or a nursing tank under a regular shirt. If I know I will be nursing in the carrier, I pull up the top shirt to just underneath my bust. My belly is still covered by the tank, nothing is exposed. Then, I put the baby and carrier on. When it’s time to nurse, it’s easy to do so without having to hassle around a lot. You can see a picture tutorial of how to do this here.
Practice at home first! Yes, it is wonderful to be able to discretely nurse in public. The way you get to that point, though, is to nurse at home. Look in the mirror when you do so. You may feel very exposed, but many carriers offer wonderful coverage. With the right clothing choice, a little planning and some practice, you can nurse at the grocery store with no one the wiser! Nothing makes me feel like I have it all together more than strolling through the grocery store pushing a cart full of groceries and a toddler, while secretly nursing an infant!
Beth has been nursing and wearing babies, toddlers and preschoolers for 5 years. She is a co-leader of Babywearing International of Peoria, a non profit group that helps caregivers find the right carrier for them and learn how to safely use it.