Feeding in a Carrier

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Feeding and babywearing go to gather like… PB&J (or soybutter if you have a nut allergy).  As an organization, we get asked a lot about nursing in carriers, we have a great breastfeeding post on that. But truth be told, ALL FEEDING goes well with carriers: breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, tube-feeding, even whatever this is…

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So, August we are dedicating our Babywearing 102 to Feeding and Babywearing (nom nom nom).  So the beautiful and talented Katie, our education blogger, is here today to give us some tips and tricks for feeding (all kinds of feeding) in carriers (all kinds of carriers).  Take it away, Katie!
11824207_10100289819751157_531225004_nThe first order of business is always SAFETY. When lowering or repositioning baby to feed, always return to the upright position once finished with baby’s head at an easily kissable distance. If choosing to cover while feeding, it’s best to cover or shield yourself instead of baby so that their face remains visible at all times, and to ensure that no part of baby’s nose is pressed into the breast tissue and their chin is off of their chest. Even though you may loosen your carrier when repositioning to feed, it should still be snug enough to remain safe and supportive. Provide additional support with your arm when necessary. Snoring, grunting, or other unusual noises can be a sign of baby experiencing breathing difficulty from poor positioning, and requires immediate repositioning in the carrier.

Feeding in a carrier can seem like an advanced skill, but with a little practice you’ll be on your way before you know it! The benefits of feeding in a carrier go beyond being able to feed hands free or semi-hands free while on the go. It can be soothing to feed on the move and help settle a baby to sleep. It can reduce reflux by keeping baby in an upright position. Feeding in a carrier can also encourage more frequent feeding, which can be helpful in the early months.

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What tools can help us get off to a good start?
It helps to work out any road blocks or struggles in your nursing relationship, and you should be comfortable and well acquainted with your carrier of choice in order to adjust it for nursing. Trying to combine both if you are struggling with either is a recipe for frustration and we want you to be successful! Starting off wearing and nursing a tiny infant is different from nursing an older baby, so with practice and time your confidence with grow! Many caregivers find certain nursing attire to be better suited for babywearing. V-neck tops or nursing shirts with a v-neck or empire waist openings allow easy access to the breast.

When my first baby was born, breastfeeding was not an intuitive skill for me and we struggled for a few months to find a rhythm. One of our first attempts at breastfeeding while wearing was in a Moby wrap and it was an epic disaster! But once we finally figured out the basics of nursing, feeding in a carrier quickly followed. One helpful tip I received was to observe ourselves in a mirror to have a better understanding of the type of positioning that worked and then mimic that while out and about. I also found that the type of carrier made a difference, as I was still a new babywearer, and had the easiest time in a mei tai. Pretty soon we were the dynamic duo nursing on the go while strolling through the canned vegetable aisle!

Positions for Feeding

There are two main positions for feeding in a carrier. The preferred method will vary depending on the caregiver and child pair, and the type of carrier used. Some like to lower the carrier slightly while baby remains in an upright position and lift the breast to baby, and some like to switch to a cradle hold while lowering baby slightly to feed. The upright nursing position is often a favorite with older babies and toddlers, while nursing in a cradle hold can be helpful with a newborn or infant. We’ll explore these positions further by getting more carrier specific.

Feeding in a Ring Sling

Nursing in a ring sling can be accomplished in either the upright nursing position or cradle position. In the upright position, the sling is loosened slightly by pulling up on the bottom ring and lowering baby to breast level. Most caregiver’s find some level of breast support may be necessary to help baby latch and feed, and it can sometimes be challenging to feed from both breasts if you find the rings in the way.

But truth be told, ANY kind of feeding can be safely done in an upright ringsling:

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The cradle position mimics holding baby in a cradle hold to nurse. This can be a helpful position for newborns who may prefer to be cradled while feeding and don’t yet have the neck and head support to remain upright.

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Cradling to nurse is accomplished by first lifting the bottom ring and loosening the top rail and middle portion of the sling slightly, and rotating baby so that the head is opposite the rings and both legs are along the side of the caregiver’s body. The bottom rail should remain secured between both the caregiver and baby’s bodies. Baby should be in a semi-reclined position resembling a check mark, with the face clear of the carrier. Tightening through the middle of the wrap should provide the same support as being cradled in-arms. The top rail may be tightened to support baby’s neck, and the tail of the ring sling can be tucked into the top rail for additional support.

Cradle hold in a ring sling can also be an excellent position for bottle feeding. Once baby is finished, return upright to a tummy to tummy position.

Feeding in a Buckle Carrier or Mei Tai

Lowering baby and lifting the breast is the ideal method to nurse in a buckle carrier or mei tai. In a buckle carrier, start by buckling lower on your hips than you typically would and adjust the shoulder straps so baby is at breast level. In a mei tai, tie lower on your hips and adjust the shoulder straps in a similar fashion so that baby has easy access to the breast. Once finished, reposition the waist and tighten the shoulder straps to bring baby back to kissable level.
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Feeding in a Wrap

Front wrap cross carry or pocket wrap cross carry are two of the better known carries to start nursing in, and nursing can be done by lowering in an upright position. This can be accomplished by untying and slightly loosening the cross passes while bouncing baby down to breast level, and then re-tying. Ensure that baby’s seat is maintained, and re-tighten the cross passes once baby is finished to bring them back up to kissable level.

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Many wearers find woven wrap carries done with slip-knots to be breastfeeding friendly because they can be loosened and re-tightened without untying. Rebozo, front reinforced torso rebozo, semi-front wrap cross carry, short front wrap cross carry, and half front wrap cross carry are all carries that can be done with a slip knot.

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Keeping baby happy, fed, and close while babywearing is just one extra way to make daily life easier! As always, we welcome all caregivers at our meetings! Please join us during our Babywearing 102 segment during the month of August and bring any and all questions related to feeding in a carrier!

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