How to Breastfeed Hands Free

Welcome to the Carnival of Breastfeeding! Our theme this month is “how to…” and we all know there’s a lot of know-how that goes into breastfeeding! If you’re new here, take a look around. If you’re a regular, you may want to check out some of the other “how to” guides featured below.

This post is the first in a series which will show you how to breastfeed, hands free. It’s a great way of liberating yourself from the couch when your baby is having an all-day nurse-athon. It’s a perfect way of fulfilling your infant’s need to nurse when at the same time your toddler needs you to play, chase or just cuddle. It’s also a subtle way to breastfeed in public, if that is your desire.

This post will show you how to breastfeed hands free in a ring sling. Future posts will show you how to breastfeed in other types of carriers. We will also show you how to use items you already have around the home to breastfeed hands free.

It’s a common misconception that larger or smaller-breasted women cannot breastfeed hands free in a sling. Kate, who is significantly better endowed than our model below, said “I thought I would never ever be able to hands free [breastfeed]… then I found ring slings and I was in heaven!” In the future, we’ll bring you a photo tutorial specifically dedicated to the larger-breasted nursing Mum.

At the other end of the spectrum, smaller-breasted women can also breastfeed hands free. Emma, who wears an A-cup, said she sometimes “find[s] it hard to breastfeed hands free in a sling because I don’t have the ability to move the feeding apparatus to meet baby’s mouth. I can only move baby’s mouth to the apparatus.” Emma eloquently describes the main point to remember when breastfeeding in a sling. Like ordinary hands-on breastfeeding, the baby is moved to the breast rather than the breast to the baby.

A note of warning: breastfeeding hands free can be a difficult skill to master. It can be done with any age of nursling. However, if you are wearing a newborn, please keep in mind these safety recommendations.

Breastfeeding an infant, hands free

Here, we have Aurelia, Steph and a ringsling. The top rail is white and the bottom rail is brown, Steph will adjust the rails independently to support Aurelia while she nurses.

  • Take one ringsling and one baby. Start with the rings high on the shoulder.

  • Put the baby’s feet through the sling, sliding her down through the gap between the fabric and your body.

  • Rotate baby across to your hip and pull the fabric up around the baby. This is the hip carry. If your baby is smaller, you can start in a tummy to tummy carry. An older baby can nurse from a hip carry if you wish.

  • To continue into the classic cradle nursing position, bring both the legs together and lower the baby toward the breast.

  • Latch the baby. Notice the top rail is still loose, Steph is still supporting the baby in the correct position.

  • Once the baby is correctly latched, only then tighten the top (white) and bottom (brown) rails to support the baby’s weight. Notice Steph’s hand coming away from the baby as the rails are tightened.

  • Bring the top rail over baby’s head to support it and adjust as necessary. If you have a newborn remember safe positioning. Now that you’re done, breastfeed in comfort and handsfree!

Notice that no breast has been exposed to the camera lens in this process. This is an excellent way to breastfeed in public if doing so makes you nervous.

Breastfeeding an older child, hands free

Breastfeeding handsfree can also be done with a larger child. It’s an excellent way to nurse an older baby or toddler to sleep away from home. The process is more or less the same, so we’ll just give you the end result. It’s surprisingly subtle for such a big kid!

Conclusion

We hope you’ve found this post useful. If you haven’t had a chance to breastfeed hands free before we hope you give it a go. If you don’t have a ringsling and are thinking of getting one, you can see how to get started with them here. In the meantime, look out in the coming weeks for our other tutorials on breastfeeding handsfree in other types of carriers.

Other participants in the Carnival of Breastfeeding:

Do you breastfeed handsfree? What has it helped you to do? Would you like to? Any difficulties in doing so? Leave a comment and let us know!

About Steph

Steph is a Mum of three with a passion for babywearing and some excellent skills with knots.
This entry was posted in Babywearing Info, Ring slings and pouches, Special Topics, Wearing Toddler and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to How to Breastfeed Hands Free

  1. Great post – I especially love the pictures, that helps a lot. The kiddos are really cute, too!

  2. Mummy Crit says:

    I’m of the larger variety and have always had trouble feeding in a sling, but I think this tute will help. It’s the having the top rail loose until the baby is attatched, then tightening that’s the key I think. I’ll give it a go tomorrow, I reckon. Thanks Steph.

  3. Steph says:

    No problem Clare :) For me, the real “aha!” moment was also the loose top rail until baby is latched. The other key point for me was tightening the sling at the neck and at the rail separately so that the baby doesn’t end up chin to chest and sliding off the nipple (or worse).

    Kate is working on a tute right now for BFing hands free. She’s far better endowed than I am and she’ll walk people through BFing hands free when you’re larger up top. It can be a little tricky when you’re at either end of the bra-buying spectrum ;)

    Thanks Missy! The preschooler doesn’t get worn much any more, but when I asked him if he wanted to nurse he was perfectly delighted to assist the cause. Mama’s little lactivist. I’m so proud ;)

  4. Kimberly says:

    What a great post. I am looking forward to the second edition! While I am not particularly large on top, I have soft/slopy breasts and I usually have to manage my breasts while the baby is nursing. I keep trying though, because my toddler would like me to play with him more!!

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  7. TopHat says:

    Great post! The key for me was when I learned it was easier to use the breast opposite the rings instead of the best next to the rings. I think a lot of people imagine using that cradle position, but it doesn’t work out well.

  8. Amber says:

    These are great instructions. I particularly like the photos, it makes it very clear. It was inspired to use the two-colour sling to differentiate the rails.

    I haven’t had a lot of luck nursing hands-free. I am very short-waisted, and I think that might be part of the problem. My friends who are very successful tend to be taller. I’ve nursed in a few carriers in a pinch, but the little one has to ride very low and so it’s not so comfortable.

    I will say, though, that my 2nd child is a very fast nurser. I’m pretty sure I would overcome my difficulties if I were nursing him for long stretches while also caring for my preschooler. As it is, I’ve been let off the hook. ;)

  9. Melodie says:

    I remember those early days of trying to figure out sling feeding. Your pictures will be really helpful to new moms trying to figure it out too. Great article!

  10. Beatriz says:

    For me, nursing in the sling is very hit-or-miss. Sometimes I manage to get the sling just right, others I end up holding most of my daughter’s weight (and not hands free). I never managed to get her to nurse in the sling at home, either (she gets annoyed and starts crying). I think it works better if I start walking around right away. I am also very careful about keeping her bum in the sling (a couple of times the fabric slipped up as I was tightening and she ended up almost falling off _ quite scary!)

  11. Layla says:

    My Moby Wrap gave me my LIFE back! Baby-wearing was the only way I could feed my daughter and go about my daily business.

    Plus, my daughter benefitted from it so much!

    Great article! :-)

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  17. megan says:

    For the life of me I can’t get it…nearly there but not quite.
    He’s too low…but how do i get him up to the breast? He’s rolled under the breast (asleep at moment but needs my hand under his head
    Does he need to be sitting more? humm…material comes round my back under his head…rings on opp side to head.
    I think I’ve worked out i’m a sling girl but need to get this last thing…then all rocks!
    The clutch hold is ok but i’d like something more infront….will keep working as son loves to sleep and feed.

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  20. Oded Ben Dov says:

    I had my wife using SesameReader (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sesame.reader&hl=en) to read while breastfeeding. The application allowed her to turn pages in a hands-free fashion, thus eliminating the need for complex pillow structures or ring slings

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