A popular question I get from new moms is how to nurse in a wrap/carrier.
Nursing on the go can be a very useful thing. Even after nursing just before leaving the house, my daughter would often insist she was starving as soon as we got on the bus. Being able to nurse her right then without having to take off my wrap/carrier and then try to get back into everything before getting off the bus was a huge help in the first weeks, and it still is 9 months later.
So, let’s look at different carriers and wraps and how to best nurse in them while on the go. First, some general tips:
- The most important thing for any of these is that as soon as you loosen or adjust something from the way that you originally had your baby securely supported, you need to make sure you have your hand on baby and keep them safe.
- It will work much better once your breastfeeding has been established and baby can nurse comfortably under ‘normal’ circumstances.
- Some degree of head control also makes it much easier. For many of these, the easiest position to nurse will be for baby to be upright since that’s already how they are in the wrap or carrier. This position for nursing is also great for reflux, so that’s an added bonus. For more benefits of nursing in a wrap/carrier, I wrote about those here.
- In a full-buckle carrier, you can loosen one of the shoulder straps and lower your baby down.
- You may also need to loosen the hip belt to get baby low enough, but do this with caution and be sure to tighten it again once you get it low enough.
- Once baby is low enough, you can help guide them to the nipple and then they should be able to nurse while you walk or ride the bus or stand in line at the grocery store. Make sure you keep one hand on baby and make sure they don’t tilt out sideways, especially once they get sleepy.
- As with all of these, when your baby is finished nursing adjust baby and tighten the carrier back up to its original position.
Half Buckle/Mei Tai
A half buckle or Mei Tai is secured around your waist and has long straps that go over your shoulders rather than buckles.
- In this type of carrier you need to loosen the straps in order to lower baby down to nipple height. Make sure that you are loosening the shoulder straps and not the waist straps (this is especially relevant and potentially confusing if your carrier ties at the waist rather than buckles). So leave the waist straps snug and loosen up the shoulder straps. You can bounce gently to get baby down to the right level.
- Once the height is correct, tie a knot and secure the straps again.
- This will be too loose to provide safe support for baby, especially if you’re on the move, so make sure you are supporting them with your hand. It will provide some support so you don’t have to carry your baby entirely and it keeps the straps off the ground.
- Once baby has finished you can easily move them over the other breast if desired. When they’re done you can position them up high enough so you can kiss the top of their head and then tighten your straps up again.
A ring sling might be the easiest carrier to nurse in.
- Pull up on the top ring in order to loosen the sling. Loosen it until baby is lowered to the right height, supporting her with your free hand.
- Once baby is at the right height, free your breast and let baby latch.
- Do not tighten the wrap over the back of baby’s head so she’s pressed up against your breast. She should have space to move her head away when she’s finished or needs a break.
- When she’s finished nursing, close up shop/your shirt and move baby back to a safe hands-free position and tighten the wrap back up.
There are stretchy wraps and woven wraps and many ways to tie each, so there are lots of different ways in which to nurse in any one of those. Important is that you support your baby’s head at all times, but do not put the wrap over the back of the head. They are much easier to watch than describe, so here are a few videos I like by other babywearing professionals:
Hedwych from Wrap you in love shows nicely how to nurse in a woven wrap worn in a Front Wrap Cross Carry (the most popular for newborns) here:
Laurna from Coorie in with love shows one option for nursing your baby in a stretchy wrap here:
If you feel unsure about whether you’re doing it right or are having difficulty, please contact a babywearing professional near you.