Babywearing and Breastfeeding
Babywearing and breastfeeding really can and do go hand in hand. When you've got the hang of using a sling/ wrap it can be super helpful for breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a learnt skill and whilst you and your baby are getting to know each other and getting into your own unique rhythm the act of holding your baby close in a wrap can help you to pick up on all those really early feeding cues such as your baby licking their lips and sucking on their fists. This will help you to get your baby to the breast in a calm way before they reach the 'WHERE'S THE BREAST? FEED ME! THIS IS AN EMERGENCY' crying stage, which can seem to come in a matter of seconds. This late stage of hunger makes it practically impossible to get a baby to breastfeed effectively. In these situations you will need to calm your baby before trying to get them to feed again. Getting a baby to the breast in the early stages of hunger can make it easier for you both to find a comfortable and relaxed position to have a feed. The other bonus is that a baby who has been nestled near to your breasts in the wrap will be able to smell your milk and will be requesting feeds frequently, which is great for building your milk supply and their weight gain.
Whilst your baby is in the wrap their little head will be close enough for you to kiss and inhale their irresistible baby smell. Mothers instinctively inhale deeply when they have their baby's head close to them. This is all part of the bonding process. It's no mistake that the love hormone oxytocin is also the hormone which is released in bursts in the milk making cells which triggers your milk to flow to your baby. Clever system! Oxytocin is higher when you are both close together and helps you feel relaxed and have feelings of love for your baby. Many mums will find that they are already leaking milk when they are close to their baby so the milk is all ready for the baby as soon as they get near their cosy restaurant.
Safe baby wearing positions have you hold your baby in an upright position. And what are we always told to do with our new baby after a feed? Hold them upright for a burp! Perfect. So popping your baby back in the sling after a feed naturally helps them bring up any wind they have without you having to sit patting and rubbing their backs on your lap, which I always found tricky, and slightly laborious. Then if your little one brings up a little milk you always have the wrap to help mop it up if you don't have a muslin to hand.
And one of the most important factors is that once your baby is back in the sling you will have your hands free for a HOT cuppa and a slice of cake! Winning!
Once you have grown in confidence with wrapping with a woven wrap and got the hang of breastfeeding you may want to start to experiment with breastfeeding whilst wearing your little one in the sling. I would say that this does take practice and I would only suggest you consider this when you're feeling confident with your positioning and the baby's attachment to the breast and also confident with wrapping techniques using the safety guidelines (TICKS).
Holding your baby in a soft sling like a woven wrap helps you to feel and learn every curve of your baby's body. I have found this really helpful when getting to know what positions work for breastfeeding my baby. My second baby was a tiny 4lb at birth and I found that wrapping her with a woven wrap helped me grow in confidence handling her tiny body and helped me to get to know all her little curves. I learnt to match them up with my body to help us with breastfeeding. For comfortable breastfeeding your baby needs to be really snug with your body, you will be moulding into one another. Holding your baby in a sling will help you find and and feel all your matching nooks especially if your baby is skin to skin or has minimal clothing on.
Many babywearing consultants will happily show you the tips and tricks for breastfeeding whilst your baby is in the sling. I've found over the years the easiest ways to breastfeed whilst babywearing are to use either a ring sling, a woven wrap with a sling ring or carries that are adjustable with a slip knot. These all help the carry be more adjustable so you can loosen, wriggle and tighten again when your little one has finished a feed. It takes practice but before you know it you will be walking along and your little one will be able to scoop out a breast and have a quick feed without much effort.
For me babywearing and breastfeeding have always been a huge part of my mothering journey and I've found they've made life so much easier. I hope you find the same!
Check out our tutorial for an adapted front carry that is easy to breastfeed in