For something that has been such a natural part of motherhood for so many generations, establishing breastfeeding is a disproportionate source of distress and disappointment for too many women. The UK has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world – despite World Health Organisation recommendations that children should be exclusively breastfed until they are six months old, less than 10% of babies can lay claim to this by four months, with around 1% making it to the six month mark.
The reasons behind this are multifaceted. There is no shortage of information out there about the positive impact breastfeeding has on mothers and babies, but this knowledge is not enough to help women overcome the challenges it brings. Babywearing, though, can be a hugely beneficial ally in establishing and maintaining a breastfeeding relationship.
One of the most fundamental ways in which babywearing supports breastfeeding is through the closeness it affords to the mother-baby dyad. Plentiful skin-to-skin time in the early days postpartum is well known to enhance both the milk supply and bonding which can make breastfeeding unfold more naturally, boosting the release of oxytocin and helping both parties heal from any residual trauma from the birth itself. In an ideal world mothers would not stray far from bed in those first days and weeks, but in reality this isn’t always possible – particularly with other children to care for. Babywearing can create the closeness both parties crave – even whilst other responsibilities are being met.
There is also something about babywearing that is particularly calming, for both mother and baby. Again this has a lot to do with oxytocin, and also a reduction in the anxiety that can come from the separation of two people who have been literally intertwined for nine months prior. Stress is not a friend of breastfeeding, so anything that can reduce its impact is hugely beneficial.
Part of this reduction in stress, particularly for the baby, is that babywearing is a real boost to communication, helping mothers pick up on cues much more quickly than they might do otherwise. Delaying breastfeeding when a baby is hungry can lead to them becoming fractious and unfocused, as well as causing engorgement for the mother which makes the physical act of feeding her baby more challenging.
This quicker reaction to cues also often leads to increased frequency of feeds. Feeding on demand rather than imposing a routine not only helps to establish a healthy pattern for your little one but also helps your supply to keep pace with your child’s needs. The physical relationship between a breastfeeding dyad is awe-inspiring – and the more nature can be allowed to work its magic the more likely that relationship is to become well established.
All of these benefits of babywearing can be felt whilst breastfeeding is an act which requires its own time and focus – and certainly in the early days whilst you are getting to know your newborn we would not recommend you combine the two. As you grow in confidence however, and your baby grows in strength, then breastfeeding whilst babywearing can be a real gamechanger.
With a few simple adjustments the Integra is fantastically easy to nurse in – and as long as you remain mindful of your baby’s position and the need to readjust when they have finished feeding you should find it an extremely liberating experience.
Mastering breastfeeding whilst babywearing can give you the freedom to continue with your day whilst your baby feeds at their leisure – particularly useful during teething or growth spurts and when your baby needs a bit of extra comfort when you’re out and about.
It can sometimes feel like the odds are stacked against a positive breastfeeding relationship in our present society, but babywearing can be the perfect way to break through some of the barriers you might find in your way.
And this National Breastfeeding Week that is most definitely something to be celebrated.