As a Lactation Consultant, I see patients with a variety of different breastfeeding issues. New mothers may come in due to low milk supply, poor latch, nipple confusion - the list goes on. My goal is to help these women accomplish their breastfeeding goals while also making their transition into motherhood as easy and enjoyable as possible. Once breastfeeding is established and going well, I offer to teach them how to nurse in a baby carrier. We do this once mom has already tried out her carrier at home. The benefits of breastfeeding in a baby carrier or while baby wearing include extra skin to skin time, the ability to nurse on the go, and the freedom to move around while nursing. Here’s how those benefits can improve life for both mom and baby.
Benefits of Breastfeeding In a Baby Carrier
Skin to skin is immeasurably important in baby’s first hour, but the benefits do not stop after that hour is up. I encourage reading “The Neuroscience of Birth--and the Case for Zero Separation,” by Dr. Nils Bergman. This article is another great resource that outlines the case for skin to skin contact after birth. The benefits do not end after you leave the hospital or birth center. Every time you place baby against your bare chest these things are achieved:
▪ Calms and relaxes both mother and baby
▪ Regulates the baby’s heart rate and breathing, helping them to better adapt to life outside the womb
▪ Stimulates digestion and an interest in feeding
▪ Regulates temperature
▪ Enables colonization of the baby’s skin with the mother’s friendly bacteria, thus providing protection against infection
▪ Stimulates the release of hormones to support breastfeeding and mothering. (This list is courtesy of the UNICEF website - more information here.)
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Increasing skin to skin also helps increase milk supply because it causes more frequent stimulation and triggers your biophysical response to the proximity of your infant. Patients frequently ask me, “How long should skin to skin last and when should we quit?” It should last for as long as you are both willing and comfortable. There is no age limit on skin to skin - it’s as beneficial to a 3-week old as much as it is to a 3-month old.
The ability to nurse on the go is also invaluable. At some point, you’ll need to make a trip to the store and wearing your baby in the carrier where their meal is readily available makes the outing much less complicated. Nursing mothers don’t need to stress about timing their errands out with their little one’s feeding schedule. In addition, there’s no need to worry if you can’t find a place to sit down or if you prefer to nurse discreetly - both obstacles are eliminated by nursing in the carrier.
This freedom to move around while nursing has benefits on outings as well as at home. If you’re already a parent, your attention is pulled in multiple directions. For example, older children usually understand if they must wait a few minutes while their mother is occupied nursing the new baby, but toddlers are not so patient. Being able to nurse on the go so you can make your 2-year old a snack or take the potty training 3-year old on an emergency bathroom break will prevent meltdowns of catastrophic proportions. If this is your first baby, the freedom to get off the couch or nursing chair every so often affords the opportunity to grab a drink, get a snack, or take a much-needed bathroom break.
Steps to Breastfeeding In a Baby Carrier
I recommend starting off by placing baby in the correct position for a front carry. Position the waistband with the warning label facing towards you. Snap the 2” buckle on the waistband and pull the webbing to fit comfortably around your waist - it should fit snugly, with no gaps. Hold your baby facing towards you, chest to chest. Their legs should be in the ‘M’ position, bent at the knee. Then, slide one arm through the arm strap while supporting baby with the other arm. Slide the other arm through the second arm strap. Make sure baby is centered in the middle of the carrier. Reach behind your back and buckle the chest strap. Pull on the 1” webbing to tighten the chest strap.
In this position, baby should be high enough on your body that you can look down and comfortably kiss the top of their head. However, most women’s breasts are not that high on their chest, so now we need to work backward and loosen the waistband on the carrier just enough for one side to be in line with your breast. Baby’s nose should be level with your nipple. To accomplish this, loosen the shoulder strap of the side you have chosen to latch baby onto breast.
Depending on the size of mom’s anatomy and baby’s size, it may help to lean forward while supporting baby’s head and back with one hand. The other hand will make the shape of a “C,” to hold your breast, making sure that your fingers are not touching your areola. Then, drag your nipple from baby’s nose to mouth. When baby offers a wide gape, bring baby towards you by standing back up for a deep latch. Younger infants will require some additional back and head support to keep the latch. Women with larger breasts may also use a rolled-up blanket or cloth to lift their breast. Watch this video for more help with breastfeeding while baby wearing.
Baby Wearing Supports Your Breastfeeding Goals
There is no age limit for wearing your baby in a soft structured carrier if they weigh at least 7lbs. The Amphiba Baby carrier holds up to 45lbs, which could accommodate even a four-year-old. The benefits of breastfeeding don’t end at a certain age either, the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until two years of age if mother is willing and able. The American Pediatric Organization recommends the continuation of breastfeeding for baby’s first year of life. Breastfeeding while baby wearing or in your soft structured infant carrier is a great tool to help you accomplish whatever your nursing goals are.