Happy International Babywearing Week! To celebrate, I’d like to talk about how babywearing and breastfeeding are good friends.
1. You can breastfeed WHILE you are babywearing.
You can breastfeed while babywearing using almost any carrier. How you do it, exactly, depends upon the type of carrier, but it’s just a matter of readjusting your clothes, carrier, and baby so that a breast can be accessed, and returning your clothes, carrier, and baby to their proper, safe positions when finished.
2. It makes skin-to-skin easier.
Skin-to-skin contact (and the not-quite-skin-to-skin-but-still-really-close contact that happens when you and your baby wear clothes) does amazing things for babies, whether they are premature or full-term, brand new or older. Your chest is a baby’s natural habitat, and snuggling up to you helps a baby regulate his blood sugar and blood pressure and other vital signs. It helps him regulate his temperature and deal with the stressors of the brand-new world he’s been born into. It helps a baby’s brain organize and helps develop emotional and social intelligence. A human baby on a nice, warm chest is the most natural place for him to be.
3. You’ll notice hunger cues earlier.
When you wear a baby, you want them “close enough to kiss.” With this closeness it’s easier to know when a baby stirs or makes a sound and, with time, you learn to know what these things mean. It will be easier to notice when your baby smacks her lips or brings her fist to her mouth, two big clues that she’s ready to nurse. (Although, really, with a newborn, everything she does means, “I want to nurse!”)
Frequent nursing and the beautiful hormones that flow during skin-to-skin contact are both things that encourage a plentiful milk supply, too.
4. Babywearing centers babies (and whomever wears them).
It is not uncommon for babies to have periods of total freaking out. This tends to happen when they’ve been overstimulated or awake longer than is ideal. In this state, a baby doesn’t want to nurse and it’s frustrating for both parties to attempt to make this happen. Plopping your baby in a carrier to walk around helps to calm babies on several levels—and it doesn’t have to be the breastfeeding parent who does this, either, so you can get a little break from your adorable-but-squalling-and-currently-on-your-nerves little one. This close contact benefits everyone, thanks to my favorite hormone, oxytocin. As Dr. Nils Bergman says on his website:
The behaviours of the newborn send sensory signals to the mother’s brain, that have a profound effect on the mother. Oxytocin – the love hormone – is produced in the mother, which increases eye-to-eye contact which increases oxytocin oxytocin even more. In the mother’s cingulate gyrus, a fear centre is inhibited by high oxytocin, making her fearless to protect her baby. Working with dopamine, looking after her baby is addictively rewarding to the same approach pathway the baby fired. The baby stimulates prolactin by suckling on the breast, which increases milk production. Perhaps above all, the mother becomes more sensitive and tuned in to her baby, better able to understand her baby’s signals, needs and wants.
5. Some baby carriers make great nursing covers.
Not everyone feels comfortable nursing without a cover, and that’s a-okay. Whether on your body or off, various types of carriers can help you nurse in public in a manner that is comfortable for you. While nursing in a ring sling, you can use the tail to cover your chest. Wraps are highly versatile and can be used as a shawl. Or, if the problem with nursing in public is other people, take a cue from Tula and check out the last handy tip on this page.
Want to learn more about babywearing, such as what to use and how to use it? Look to see if there’s a BWI chapter near you. In the Twin Cities, we have two chapters; one in particular is very active, meets frequently, and has a beautiful lending library available to members.