Some of you may already be aware that August 1 – 7, 2017 is World Breastfeeding Week. WBW is annually sponsored by World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, which according to its website, is a global network of organizations whose mission is to protect, promote and support breastfeeding worldwide. For the 25th year of World Breastfeeding Week, we wanted to discuss how babywearing can help you on your breastfeeding journey.

World Breastfeeding Week logo

A Note on Bottles and Formula

BWI, at its core, is about advocating for the practice of babywearing. We are here because we believe carrying our children has so many benefits for you and your child and one of the many benefits is that babywearing can significantly support breastfeeding. There is research that suggests carrying your children close improves the production of oxytocin and prolactin which in turn increases milk production and letdown. Slings and carriers also make breastfeeding much easier to do on the go, or even just around your home.

That said, we are not breastfeeding advocates here. If you are breastfeeding and need help nursing in your carrier, we can help you do that. If you are expressing breastmilk into a bottle and need help feeding your baby in a sling, we can help you do that too. If you are supplementing with formula or only using formula and would like to feed your baby with the aid of a baby carrier, we can help you! If you are a breastfeeding caregiver, a pumping caregiver, a supplementing caregiver, or a formula feeding caregiver, WE SUPPORT YOU! Full stop.

White, brunette woman feeding a white infant with a bottle in a gray buckle carrier. The shelves of a hardware store are in the background

So with that I will say that if you feed your baby with a bottle, a lot of this advice is still relatively applicable as far as positioning and safety goes. Breastfeeding in a carrier is a skill that can be difficult, especially if both breastfeeding and babywearing are new to you. The purpose of this post is to help get you started, offer some helpful tips and troubleshoot some common obstacles.

On to the tutorials!

Positioning and Safety

ABC Infographic

There are two positions you can use to nurse in any baby carrier, upright (tummy-to-tummy) or cradle position. Upright nursing can be difficult to do if you have a very young infant or newborn because of the lack of head and neck control. Cradle carry is usually easier but it can also be tricky to do properly and there are important safety considerations. If you choose to nurse in the cradle position, you must still follow the ABCs of safety (or T.I.C.K.S. if you prefer). When baby is done nursing, you must bring him back into an upright or semi-reclined cradle position. Even if baby falls asleep nursing, do not leave him in a fully reclined cradle to sleep. The risk of positional asphyxiation is just too great. Most babies settle right back to sleep after being re-adjusted, if they even wake at all. Cradle position has had a falling out with the babywearing community, somewhat unfairly, due to the infant deaths caused by the Infantino bag style slings in 2010. However, cradle position, when done properly, is perfectly fine to use.

A white bespectacled woman standing in an airport terminal
as she breastfeeds a blond infant in a black, red and white
woven wrap in a traditional sling carry, cradle position.

Tips, Tricks and Troubleshooting

A few random pro tips for you:

1. Dress for success. Wear clothing that will be easy to nurse in and also easy to wear in. I recommend shirts that have an empire waist opening or a clip down shirt. There are many reasonably priced options out there. The two shirt method, while fine for every day, isn’t ideal for babywearing because once you pull that top shirt up, its going to stay bunched up.

Side view of a white woman breastfeeding
a white infant
in a gray buckle carrier. Her purple shirt lifts up at the
bust line for easy nursing access.

2. Size doesn’t really matter. For the more well endowed, you may encounter unique positioning issues, but, yes, you can still breastfeed in a baby carrier. If you have particularly large breasts, you may not be able to go hands free until baby can generally hold onto and position your breast on their own. Until then, you will likely need to support your breast with a hand, a rolled up burp cloth under your breast for support, or leave your bra unclipped so that it forms a “shelf” for support. You may find that upright nursing or cradle position works better for your breast size and shape so if one position doesn’t work for you, try the other and see how it goes.

3. Go for easycare. This is really a general breastfeeding tip. As the mother of a Looky-Lou I would always have a baby who turned his head to look at something just as my milk let down and douse me, the baby and the carrier in milk. A lot of milk. All carriers can at least be hand washed safely, but I recommend easy care fibers like cotton and linen when breastfeeding. You will be sprayed and spit up on frequently so the easier it is to toss in the washer and dryer, the better.

Meme of a spout of water with the text “That moment your baby unlatches during a letdown.”

4. One step at a time. If you are a new babywearer, a new breastfeeder, or both, I recommend mastering each skill separately before you combine them. New parenthood is overwhelming enough and these skills do get easier with time. I promise that with practice you can do it! And when you do, you will feel like you can conquer the world!

Nursing in a Woven Wrap

Breastfeeding in a woven wrap has endless possibilities. We often get the question “what is the best carry for nursing in a woven wrap?” That depends… on what size of wrap you have, your skill level with both breastfeeding and wrapping and what you find most comfortable.

Close up of a brunette white woman wearing sunglasses,
breastfeeding a sleeping blonde infant in a green
woven wrap with a white tree design.

When nursing in a woven wrap you can nurse in the upright, tummy-to-tummy position or in the cradle position. If you are able to nurse in an upright position, basically any carry that can easily be lowered and raised again can be used. The only limits are your imagination and skill. Front wrap cross carry is a solid mainstay because it is easy to learn, easy to nurse in and has myriad of options to accommodate shorter wraps or different needs. You can use a base sized wrap or you can use as short as a base -3 by tying at the shoulder.

If you choose cradle position, front wrap cross carry or front cross carry are excellent options.

Here is a video by ABE, Judy of BWI of Chambana on nursing in a FWCC in cradle position.

Many people favor carries that have a slipknot because they are easy to adjust for frequent nursers.

Nursing in a Ring Sling

Image of a white brunette woman with short hair breastfeeding a white infant in a cream colored no-sew ring sling in an upright position.

You will often see ring slings recommended for their ease of use, especially for breastfeeding. And what they say about their ease of use is all very true. Ring slings are probably the easiest carrier to learn to nurse in if you are new to either wearing or breastfeeding. However, if you find one shouldered carrying uncomfortable, it might be better for you to take the “slightly harder to learn” route and go with a wrap, meh dai or buckle carrier for better support. You can nurse in an upright or cradle position in a ring sling. You can even nurse in the “football hold” position.
Check out these fabulous video tutorials on nursing in either upright or cradle position in a ring sling.

Nursing in a Meh Dai or Buckle Carrier

Yes! You can nurse in your buckle carrier! You can even nurse your newborn in your buckle carrier. However, you will need to learn how to nurse in an upright position. There are very few buckle style carriers on the market that allow you to nurse in a cradle position and even fewer that are CPSC compliant. The older model of the Lillebaby Nordic carrier had an option for a cradle position (with additional insert) and they can still sometimes be found second hand but good luck finding the accompanying insert. There are also specialty carriers like Koala Kin that are designed specifically for nursing and probably are very easy to use, but will be outgrown relatively quickly compared to other types of carriers. But if convenience is your top priority, just know that it is an option!

Close up of a white infant’s face as
he is breastfeeding in a baby carrier.
His eyes are closed and only the top
of his mother’s breast is visible.

Resource Roundup
Check out all these great blog articles and resources about breastfeeding and baby carriers!
Can I Feed in this Carrier by Jay MacMillen, Modern Babywearing
Bottle Feeding and Using a Supplemental Nursing System while Babywearing by  BWI of DC-MD-VA
Breastfeeding While Babywearing by BWI of Greater Austin
Breastfeeding and Babywearing by Moby Wrap
Benefits of Babywearing by La Leche League
Best Baby Carriers For Breastfeeding That You Should Try by
How to Bottle Feed as You’d Breastfeed by
Multitasking 101: Feeding Your Baby While Babywearing by Babywearers of the Midlands
Nursing in Carriers by BWI of Chicagoland

Local Resources
Wichita Breastfeeding Support and Services by Wichita Mom’s Blog
Breastfeeding Rooms in Wichita by Lauren Davis, Wichita Mom’s Blog
La Leche League of Wichita
Sedgwick County WIC
Wesley Breastfeeding Clinic*
Via Christi Breastfeeding Clinic*
*Either of these clinics are free for women who delivered at that hospital. If you did not deliver there, you can still receive unlimited hands-on assistance at the clinic for a one-time $50 fee.

Check out our YouTube channel where we have a collection of resources saved just for you, including how to nurse in a baby carrier.