The ability to breastfeed on-the-go and be hands-free while doing it is very useful, especially if you have older children and there are times when you have to leave the house to do the school run or get to an appointment and your baby wants to be fed. It is certainly possible to breastfeed in any sling although some will be easier than others depending on the age of the baby. Breastfeeding in a sling or carrier is a skill that some people find easy to master and others take a while to get the hang of. There are almost an infinite number of ways to breastfeed in a sling as sling users adapt instructions to suit them and their baby, some tweaks are very minor others quite major. Because of this there are lots of photo and video instructions on the web and it would therefore be impossible to list them all but here are a few of the ones we think are comprehensive and easy to follow.
These videos and photo instructions make it look very easy but don't worry if you don't get the hang of it first time, it can take a bit of practice, but is well worth the time. Sections with links to instructions are in italics.
**When attempting to breastfeed a young baby in a sling be aware at all times of your babies breathing and ensure that his nose is clear to allow him to breathe comfortably. Once a baby has finished feeding adjust your sling so that they are positioned correctly and there is no danger of them rolling in towards your body.**
Newborn/Very Young Baby
Arguably the easiest slings in which to breastfeed a small baby are either Ring Slings or Wraparounds although there are bound to be plenty of people who breastfeed in pouches or soft carriers from birth.
With a Ring Sling you can just use a modified version of the basic cradle carry. Everyone develops their own method but the advice (at least while learning) is normally to latch your baby on first then tighten the sling around them so they are supported. You may find you have to support your babies head with your arm.
We like this video from Darien, creator of the Zolowear Ring Sling, which shows the cradle carry with a newborn and how it could be used to breastfeed. Another fantastic video is this one which shows how to move a newborn from an upright tummy-to-tummy hold into the breastfeeding position - especially useful for babies who suffer with colic or reflux and are happier being carried upright.
The principle of feeding in a Pouch is exactly the same as in a ring sling except, as pouches are not as adjustable as a ring sling it is important to make sure your pouch fits very well so as to support your baby in the right position to breastfeed.
Wraparound slings are the most versatile of all and as a result the sling can be tweaked so that you and your baby are in a comfortable postition to feed on the go. There are two types of wraparound slings - stretchy wraps, which are usually tied before putting the baby in, and woven wraps. It is possible to breastfeed in both types although different people may have a preference for one or the other. With a young baby most people breastfeed in the cradle position which uses the normal tying method for a stretchy wrap and either the Front Wrap Cross Carry (FWCC) or the Front Cross Carry (FCC) in a long woven wrap. The cradle carry in a short wrap (Rebozo) is a one shouldered carry so is more like a cradle carry in a ring sling.
We have found two good videos (although there are lots more) showing breastfeeding positions for a newborn in a stretchy wrap - one which uses the simple FCC and where the wrap is put on first, and one where the wrap is tied around the baby in the FWCC.
For a woven wrap two of the best videos we have seen show a newborn in the FWCC and also a slightly older baby in the FCC. We can't leave out these great photo instructions from Calin Bleu showing step-by-step how to breastfeed in a long wrap.
Breastfeeding a young baby in a soft carrier is possible in an upright position just as it is for an older baby. Sometimes all that is necessary is to loosen the sling to jiggle your baby down to the right level then re-tighten the sling when they have finished feeding.
Kelley, designer of the Kozy Mei Tai, shows it is possible to feed both a newborn and an older baby.
Depending on how big your baby or toddler is, it may be possible to simple modify the young baby positions. A big baby or toddler will possibly be too long to be fed in the cradle position so an upright position may be easier. A Ring Sling could be used in a hip carry or tummy to tummy and loosened to lower your child into position. A wrap tied in a standard FWCC or FCC can also be loosened by un-tying the knot, gently jiggling your child down to the right position and re-tying. Once they have finished feeding a bounce and a tug on the wrap can tighten the sling up again. A Mei Tai or Buckle Carrier can also be loosened in the same way. Hip Carriers also allow breastfeeding with older babies.
A petite older baby may still be able to breastfeed in the cradle position in a Ring Sling, as shown here by Darien or for a bigger baby a hip carry may be more suitable.
Have you found some online instructions that helped you breastfeed in a sling? Do you have any tips to share? If so, do email (put "Blog" in the title of your email) and let us know and they may be added to the blog.