Guest Author - Nicki Heskin
Many baby slings, pouches, carriers and wraps claim that easy and discreet breastfeeding is a benefit of babywearing. Many women have found this to be true, while some have found it tricky or impractical. In my experience, some carriers are more well-suited to breastfeeding than others. Slings and pouches are truly helpful for breastfeeding and baby care – especially with infants and newborns.
Here's some information, tips and tricks for nursing with a sling or pouch:
Slings and pouches are useful for breastfeeding starting basically from birth. The thing to know is that it's not quite as simple as you'd imagine it to be, and not really handsfree. While the sling does support most of the baby's weight, which is helpful, the baby generally rides a little low for breastfeeding as-is. Plus, there is an inner side of the fabric between the baby and your body, so the baby will need to be lifted up a bit to aim the opening of the sling towards the breast.
When the baby is nursing on the side where sling is on the shoulder, both cradle position (if the baby latches on fairly independently), or cross-cradle (if the baby needs some head guidance to latch on) are easily used. When the baby is nursing on the side where the sling is by the hip, use more of a football hold by shifting the fabric forward on the shoulder (for a pouch) or loosening the sling (for a ring sling). Then swing the baby over so that the head is by the other breast and the body is along your side. For more information on nursing positions, see my article "Choosing a Nursing Position," in related links below.
Pouches or slings are most useful with infants and even newborns (I wore and nursed my home-birthed second daughter in my Peanut Shell pouch sling at the dinner table when she was hours old), and are useful for breastfeeding until the child is too big to lay down. While pouches and slings can certainly be used much longer, for sitting up carries or hip carries, these would require some pretty major readjusting or removal for nursing.
The nicest thing about nursing with a pouch is that infants basically just sleep and nurse all day long. If you didn't have to remove them for diaper changes, they could practically live in there (in some cultures, they do!). Even in the cross nursing position, when the baby inevitably falls asleep nursing, it's very easy to shift them back into position and have some mommy time (which you need) while keeping your little one close (which they need)! It's a great way to not feel like you are always risking waking a sleeping newborn by laying them down, or feeling trapped under a nursing baby who has fallen asleep several times a day. (See my article "Breastfeeding Babies to Sleep," in related links below.)
Pouches are also great for discreet feedings. When you lift the baby upwards to nurse, the outer edge of the pouch slackens and can be easily positioned to block the baby and breast. When nursing on the cross side, there is a natural blocking that takes place. Nursing in a button-down shirt will likely be the easiest way to nurse in a pouch, as it can just be unbuttoned and pulled aside, rather than lifted up from under the pouch. A camisole top, tank top or low-necked shirt that can just be pushed down over the breast could also work well.
A pouch or ring sling can be a great early nursing aid. I had a great success using the Peanut Shell. Ring slings are also very versatile, and while I have no personal experience with these, ring sling veterans sing their praises.
Here's two good options:
The peanut shell is a great pouch sling. Be sure to check the sizing information, as they are not adjustable. The maya wrap is a popular ring sling and is adjustable for size (so it can be more easily shared with daddy or other caregivers), but is more difficult to learn to use.