Breastfeeding in a sling: why hands-free nursing is a NO NO

 
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How to breastfeed in a baby sling?

Are you thinking of breastfeeding in a baby wrap or sling? Not sure how? Not sure why?

Our Baby Bee Of London Babywearing team has received quite a few emails from mums struggling to feed their newborns in a baby wrap, with concerns ranging from “I can’t seem to wrangle them into any position” to “I tried but I find it near impossible” and “I can’t seem to do it hands-free”. Well mama, unless you are looking to start a career as a contortionist, our simple answer is: if it’s that hard to breastfeed IN a wrap,  maybe your body and your baby are telling you something!

When our Babywearing Peer Supporters started training with the UK School of Babywearing, that was the first question we asked: so, How do you feed a baby in a stretchy baby carrier? After all, nursing in a sling hands-free whilst walking sounds great! No need to stop, you can pick up your toddler with one hand, your groceries in the other. That’s multitasking on steroids!

But we were told that no, breastfeeding in a sling whilst walking or even sitting (which is different from using the wrap as a breastfeeding aid, a lot more on this below) wasn’t something that you should do. Not only can it be very hard to do and to achieve a good latch (especially if you’ve just started breastfeeding and do not yet have the hang of it!), but more importantly, it can be unsafe.

To be clear, by breastfeeding in a sling we mean attempting to feed baby without taking her out of the sling, by moving/pushing/pulling the fabric and repositioning baby to nurse, often in a cradle position.

Why can it be unsafe to breastfeed in a baby sling?

There are three main dangers when attempting to feed your baby in a baby carrier: your baby can’t breathe properly; your baby can’t pull their head back because it’s held with fabric to the boob; their back is not well supported or baby is curled into a ball.

A for Airways

When breastfeeding in a sling, airways obstruction can be a real concern. Your baby may not be able to breathe properly if the baby wrap fabric is over the back of the head, or baby’s head is pushed firmly against your breast or your clothes. It is especially true if your baby has a cold and can’t breathe very well from her nose: in that case it is very important for her to be able to pull her head back to breathe with her mouth. Similarly, it is paramount to keep baby’s chin off her chest and avoid positions where baby is curled into a ball. Check the T.I.C.K.S. rules for more detail on safe babywearing.

B for Body Positioning

Another safety point to remember when wearing baby in a baby carrier is that baby’s back and neck (if appropriate given their age) are adequately supported. Ideally, baby’s head should be aligned with their spine and only turned slightly to one side if needed. Babies that nurse in a baby wrap may not be in the ideal position.

So, can you walk and breastfeed at the same time?

Basically, no! There are too many safety concerns and the practice is widely discouraged by UK professionals such as the Babywearing School UK or Dr Rosie Knowles, the wonderful GP from Carrying Matters.  

Having said that, a stretchy wrap can be a fantastic tool in your breastfeeding toolkit, by providing cover and privacy on the go.

How to use your stretchy baby wrap or baby sling as a breastfeeding aid?

A baby wrap carrier can be a great help to nurse discreetly in public or at home, whilst providing some support to baby. Used correctly, a baby wrap will provide privacy and free up one of your hands, which is great if you dream of having that morning smoothie at the local coffee shop!

This video from Dr Rosie Knowles at the Sheffield Sling Library show us how to use a stretchy wrap as a breastfeeding tool:

Instructions:

  1. Make sure that you are wearing a breastfeeding top/bra, or a loose top that is easy to slide down.

  2. We recommend sitting down first, or if you are experienced, you can remain standing

  3. Take baby out carefully out of the baby wrap carrier, keeping his head supported at all times

  4. Use the side panel to support baby in a cradle position, keeping one arm under their head at all times (see video!).

  5. Install baby to latch, making sure that their airways are clear and their back and neck is well supported.

  6. If baby is still hungry, take her out and install her in the other panel to latch on the opposite breast.

  7. As soon as baby is finished, take baby out and reposition her safely in the baby wrap or in your arms.

Remember:

=> Do check on baby at all times

=> Do not let baby fall asleep in a feeding position; instead take baby out and reposition her safely in the baby wrap, making sure that her airways are clear.

Can you nurse in a Baby Bee Of London sling?

Our Baby Bee Of London stretchy wraps can provide great support during breastfeeding, by providing privacy whilst nursing and freeing up one of your hands. Our light botanic fabric is particularly breathable and supportive of baby’s back, making it a great breastfeeding tool without the need for an additional breastfeeding cover. But make sure that you follow the instructions above!

Will I need a breastfeeding cover?

Our Baby Bee of London wrap carriers are a great privacy tool if you’re looking to breastfeed when you’re out and about, and you won’t need an additional nursing cover. By positioning baby safely according to the video above, you will be able to feed baby discreetly and comfortably.

In conclusion

According to The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health breastfeeding research, there is still a way to go in encouraging breastfeeding in the UK: “Mothers need to feel confident in their ability to breastfeed and to feel comfortable breastfeeding in public; this requires support from family, friends, professionals, the workplace and society at large so that breastfeeding is regarded as normal and natural”.

If you are a breastfeeding mum, we hope that you found this article useful and that we encouraged you to use a baby sling as a nursing aid! For any questions or feedback, please contact us at info@babybeeoflondon.com