Breastfeeding in Slings
Choosing the right sling for you and your child is an important process, especially when breastfeeding. Use our guide below to help you make an informed choice and find a wrap that you will both love.
Why might you want to feed in a sling?
For mums of small babies, it may be that the sling will be useful to carry their child to a place where they can be taken out to feed in peace and comfort. For others, a sling can be helpful for feeding on the go, especially if they have more than one child to care for. Using a sling and feeding a baby are two separate skills to master - once competence is gained in each, they may be able to be combined safely. Practice will, of course, be needed, like with every new accomplishment!
How can you keep your baby safe while feeding?
All the basic rules of sling safety apply here - such as the TICKS guidelines and the ABC reminders. As always, protecting the airway and ensuring breathing is unobstructed is of paramount importance.
Whether feeding upright, or slightly reclined, the safest positions are:
- those in which the parent is actively engaged and frequently checking on their child, and able to recognise any changes
- those that ensure a good air supply at all times with no fabric over the head and chin off the chest (check you can fit two fingers underneath if you are unsure)
- those in which baby's head is aligned with their spine and only turned slightly to one side if needed
- those in which baby's back and occiput (lower part of the back of the head) are appropriately supported
- those in which baby's knees are above the bottom and hips are flexed
- and those that ensure that a baby who has finished feeding or has fallen asleep is returned to the most optimal upright position to keep airway supported and open.
Tips to make feeding in a sling as easy as possible
For breastfeeding, think about ensuring easy access for your baby. Choose clothes that can be easily pulled up or down, and layering often provides good cover, if required. Bras that are easy to undo one handed (while your other hand supports baby's head) are also helpful.
Some mums find latching on more successful if they lean forwards slightly to bring the breast up to baby's mouth, and many need to hold their breast up with one hand for the duration of the feed.
How to breastfeed in your sling
Ring Slings and upright feeding - From a good seated squat, the pouch can be gently and slowly loosened by lifting the uppermost ring up carefully, so that baby is lowered a little, remaining in the same position. Lift your breast up so your child is able to latch on without twisting his neck.
Ring Slings and slightly reclined feeding - From the snug seated squat position, loosen the fabric slowly and carefully to lower baby just a little. Lean forwards slightly and support baby's upper body with one hand. Gently recline your baby into the waiting crook of your arm as you bring his far leg around to your front so both legs are together. Ensure the pouch of fabric is well tucked up between your baby's side and your tummy so he is resting as if in a hammock, slightly turned towards you, bent knees above bottom, feet outside the carrier, with his head and neck resting on your arm. Adjust his location in this position so his mouth is able to reach your nipple - it should look and feel just as if you were holding him in your arms to feed. Keep the top rail of fabric under baby's neck and do not pull it over his head.
Woven Wraps and upright feeding - Carries such as the Front Wrap Cross Carry can be easily adjusted for feeding. The knot at the back can be loosened just a little, with the resulting small amount of slack worked equally and evenly back along the fabric so baby is sitting in a lower pouch with mouth above nipple, but still snug and supported, and in the spread squat position. The whole carry can be moved slightly across to one side or the other, and the breast can then be brought to mouth. It is easy to switch sides.
Woven wraps and slightly reclined feeding - This works best with carries that do not have cross passes under baby's legs, so baby can be gently tilted to one side as described above. The FWCC can be partially untied so the long tails are hanging down over the shoulders and baby is sitting just in the horizontal pass. He can then be carefully gathered to one side with his far leg brought round to the front, his body turned to face the parent, bent knees above bottom, feet out and head and neck resting on your arm. Adjust his location in this position so his mouth is able to reach your nipple - it should look and feel just as if you were holding him in your arms to feed. Keep the top rail of fabric under baby's neck, do not pull it over his head. The long tails are usually best left loose as attempts to retie them will mean you are not in control of baby's head during the process.
In general, many people manage to feed happily and safely in slings, once they are armed with good information, and know what to watch out for. If you feel unsure about feeding your child in your carrier, do get in touch with a professional who can give you some one-to-one help and advice.