Most breastfeeding moms will suffer from a clogged milk duct opening at some stage throughout their breastfeeding journey.
If left untreated a plugged duct can lead to mastitis, which is painful and very inconvenient!
This is also the time when you are babywearing most frequently. But is baby carrier use contributing to your risk of blocked ducts or mastitis?
We will answer this and discuss some best practices when babywearing to reduce the risk of excessive pressure on your breasts causing any future breastfeeding complications.
Can a Baby Carrier Cause Mastitis
Baby carriers do not cause mastitis. However, prolonged pressure on your breasts can lead to a higher risk of plugged milk ducts so you need to ensure that you are not indirectly causing this condition through improper use of your carrier.
The only time you would ever feel undue pressure on your chest area is if the carrier design you are using has a chest strap. However, you can easily just not clip this in if you need more space for your breast tissue to sit comfortably.
Carriers are not the cause of ducts and mastitis, but they can cause discomfort if you continue babywearing while suffering these complications.
Breastfeeding Complications and Babywearing
Your comfort will often be dictated by circumstances as a mom, but as a general rule you will feel the most discomfort if you are experiencing any of the following conditions:
- Milk blisters – Ensure your carrier is not rubbing excessively on the nipple area.
- Engorgement – Your breasts may be bursting with milk and can be very sensitive. Babywearing can trigger breast milk production in your body so if you are already engorged you may need to feed or pump fast!
- Clogged ducts – You may have some hyper-sensitive areas in the affected breast while the blockage works its way through.
- Mastitis – You will likely be feeling unwell and babywearing is likely to be a challenge.
The most common carrying position for a young infant is the front inward carry position. This will almost always lead to your child nestling into your chest which can place mild pressure on sensitive areas.
If the pain is too much you can either use a stroller instead until you feel better or get dad to take over the carrying duties.
Baby Carrier Designs Suitable for Breastfeeding Moms
We encourage you to check out our full post on the best baby carriers for breastfeeding if you are looking for individual carrier recommendations.
However, we will briefly discuss each carrier design category so you understand which are versatile enough to work around any discomfort you may feel through different positions suitable for infants.
Most Suitable Designs
Each of the styles below offers carrying positions suitable for infants that are not going to directly place pressure on the chest area:
- Baby Wrap – You will be tying off the wrap to suit your own body and can make the fabric looser around any areas that could be tender. You can also easily adapt to a side carry or wrap cross carry position.
- Ring Sling – The design concentrates weight over one shoulder so it is easy to avoid pressure on any sore areas with the baby’s position.
- Hipseat Carrier – You can often remove the shoulder straps and just use the hip seat portion of the design, allowing you to carry baby to the side relying solely on the waist belts and removing all pressure on your chest.
- Waterproof Carriers – You can find both ring slings and woven wrap-style waterproof carriers. So the above points apply plus the added bonus of any baby weight being relieved when you are in the buoyancy of the water.
Least Suitable Designs
While the styles of carrier are not going to cause mastitis they may place unnecessary pressure on your breasts and duct system as your baby leans in while in the frontal position:
- Soft Structured Carrier – These buckle carriers can be loosened to ensure a comfortable fit. However, while your child is below six months then you will be often limited to front inward carry unless the specific design allows for side carry.
- Mei Tai – Less flexibility with the positioning of the baby.
- Hiking Carrier – The most common design type that includes a chest strap to stabilize the weight of the backpack carrier. Usually used with an older baby so a much heavier load.
Babywearing While Treating Mastitis
You may be experiencing flu-like symptoms and generally feeling weak and unwell. Babywearing may be the last thing you feel like doing!
The infection is also commonly treated with medication and we do not recommend that you ever carry your baby when taking any meds that could cause you to be lethargic or drowsy for safety reasons.
You may be better off opting for the stroller until the infection passes and you are feeling strong and pain-free again!
Your choice of carrier will not block milk flow or cause mastitis. But it can determine if you can continue babywearing while experiencing the discomfort from either of these conditions while they are treated.
We think a ring sling and a baby wrap provided the most flexibility to work around plugged ducts. But unless you are in extreme pain then any type of carrier should be fine if worn correctly.
Of course, the best option is to prevent plugged ducts in the first place through regular feeding and pumping.
But as long as you can recognize the early warning signs of a duct blockage and treat this immediately then it should not progress to mastitis and prevent you from carrying your baby.