My Personal Experience of Babywearing, by Anna Hughes, Co-director of “Wearing Your Baby”


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My babywearing journey started in my early 20’s, many years before I had my first child. I met a woman in a market place who had her new baby wrapped to her chest. I was struck by the feeling of how ‘right’ it seemed to me. I thought this is totally where a baby would want to be and where I’d want my baby. The woman gave some verbal instructions on how to make and use the wrap and I went ahead and made one for a friend who was about to have a baby. I continued to make these very basic carriers for friends and 7 years on I made one for my own baby. It didn’t take long for me to realise that the cotton lycra I was using doesn’t cut it for an 8lb baby.
Knowing it wasn’t right for baby to end up down by my belly button I had a few attempts at making the same wrap around sling with different types of material. Then my Mum bought me a woven wrap! Wahooo.
I found babywearing sooo helpful. My son had milk injected down his throat during most feeds and hated lying down with a


Anna and baby… early days

full, uncomfortable tummy. Over-supply has its issues too. ‘Wearing’ him in an upright position really helped him to keep breastmilk down. Well, some of it! He wasn’t a great sleeper and I’ll never forget one of Brylin’s (LLL Leader for Dunedin West) first comments to me when I was reading a sleep book and commented to my Mum that Eli didn’t sleep anywhere as much as what this book said he was meant to. She said ‘It’s ok dear your baby hasn’t read that book!’ So true Brylin! I felt better knowing that I wore him a lot during the day, giving him the opportunity to rest and sleep whenever he felt like it. The sling was his mobile bed. My husband and I partied til midnight on New Years Eve with our 6 month old happily asleep in the sling.

Another moment of ‘thank goodness for the sling’ was in the middle of the supermarket when Eli 6 weeks started head butting my chest in demand of a feed. Rather than leave the half full trolley to go back to the car I loosen the sling, wiggled him down and latched him on. Unbeknownst to anyone else in the shop. Babywearing win!
At 6 months old Eli was the youngest delegate at the NZ Association for Environmental Education Conference for 3 days. I can’t say I got to hear every presentation from start to finish, but I did get a lot out of it. For years I had people say, ‘Oh yes I remember you. You had the baby attached the whole time and he was so happy.’ He loved being in the sling. He could see things from an adult perspective yet tuck himself away when he’d had enough. Being a big boy I quickly learnt to wear him on my back where he could look over my shoulder. It was an even better view from there.

Anna “wearing” her second son.

Babywearing was invaluable with our second child, Niwha. Life is so much busier with two. Feeding on the go as well as being able to help the older child without making the baby wait was important to me. As we know babies don’t do ‘waiting’ well.

There were very few babywearers in Dunedin at the time we had Eli. I really wanted more people to experience how helpful, fun and snuggly babywearing is. So I found someone to run a workshop on babywearing and raising a nappy free baby. I got some funding from the Council to run the workshop and out of this created a parenting group focused on supporting parents in practicing these techniques. By the time I had Niwha there were babywearers in town that I didn’tknow!
I was still surprised at how few parents were babywearing, outside of my little bubble. I decided it was time for more action. I formed a Babywearing specific group, including a carrier library started with second hand donated carriers. I was itching to challenge my brain alongside the challenge of raising two boys and decided that I’d write a book on Babywearing. A chapter into it I realised that it made far more sense to utilise my husband’s skills as a media producer, allong with my background as an educator and outdoor instructor to create an instructional DVD/Download.
We questioned our sanity a number of times over the years it took to produce Wearing Your Baby. They’re not kidding when they say never work with babies and animals.
I was determined to create something to inspire and educate parents, educators and health professionals to support the practice of babywearing. Babywearing may not be for everyone but I’m certain that secured to Mum or Dad’s chest is where most newborn babies want to be.
I could write many more pages on the benefits, reasons and ways you can wear your baby. In fact I’ve started and you can

Anna with her family, wearing her two year old in an old blanket (to show that baby wearing needn't be expensive either).

Anna with her family, wearing her two year old in an old sheet (to show that baby wearing needn’t be expensive either).

read them at Wearing Your Baby is presented by 4 babywearing families, covering 6 different types of carriers; Mei tai and Podaegi, wraparound slings, pouch and ring slings and soft structured carriers. It also shows a few ways you can wear two babies of the same or different ages, breastfeed while babywearing and my favourite section shows ways you can improvise a carrier, often based on how different cultures carry their babies.

La Leche League New Zealand has ‘highly recommended’ the DVD for their group libraries so if you would like a copy ask your LLL Leader to get one, purchase yourself or gift it to a pregnant friend and inspire more babywearing parents. It’s now available through the LLL catalogue.
Happy babywearing 🙂
Anna whanau

Anna Hughes and family.


About Anna…

Anna Hughes is the Co-director of Wearing Your Baby She is a former LLL member, mother of two boys who experienced bedsharing, being raised nappy free, breastfeeding and of course babywearing. She says she is also a wanna be writer!  (“The Forever Years” thinks she writes very well).

I’m not a ‘Nipple Nazi’, I’m a Breastfeeding Counsellor, by Kim Lock in Australia

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Source: “The Guardian


Her baby is nine days old when she calls. In a voice thickened with tears: “He’s lost weight, the midwife says I have to give him formula.”

I have heard this countless times. I try to respond as sympathetically and tactfully as I can. I cannot directly contradict her midwife, yet I must empathise. “You sound so upset,” I say. “Do you want to use formula?”

“No,” she replies, with the emphasis that never fails to surprise me. “I want to breastfeed.”

So we talk. I ask about his nappies, to ascertain what is going in. We talk about weight, a loss of a mere 20 grams since birth is well within the realm of normal. I explain how her baby’s instinct for suckling and milk removal drives milk production and supply, and the effect formula top-ups might have. We talk about his feeding behaviour, crying, sleep – unpredictable, irregular and still normal – and what support is available. Together, we identify ideas: skin-to-skin contact, safe co-sleeping to facilitate night feeds when her prolactin levels are higher, allowing “comfort sucking” when she is comfortable to do so to increase baby’s calorie intake.

Breastfeeding-004I feel honoured to have witnessed a woman find confidence in herself.
A week later, baby has gained weight. Months later, baby is continuing to grow, exclusively breastfeeding with ease and the woman’s confidence has increased dramatically. Just like every other time, I feel honoured to have witnessed a woman find confidence in herself.

Her story is not unique: a hurried health professional responding to a chart, plus a new mother who has rarely seen a breastfeeding baby – it’s how women slip into motherhood every day. And it can make for a difficult introduction to breastfeeding.

Almost a decade ago I was there myself. Uncertain, afraid, confused. Believing, because my baby cried a lot, that my milk was not enough. That I was not enough.

I have been a breastfeeding counsellor for six years and still every parent teaches me something: women with insufficient glandular tissue; containers of milk strung around their neck and tubes taped to their nipples; women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, bursting with milk; parents caring for babies with reflux; babies who cry incessantly; babies who don’t sleep. Women aching with mastitis, abscesses, cracked nipples, inverted nipples, thrush, painful letdown, painful latch. Women with postnatal depression. I have marvelled over mothers breastfeeding twins or triplets, tandem feeding an infant and toddler, wet-nursing for friends or expressing milk for strangers.

But overwhelmingly, the most time I spend with mothers is on emotional reassurance. Being the person who patiently 2000px-Breastfeeding-icon-med.svgwaits out tears, reframes days in pyjamas as the height of personal freedom, and reminds that some days, breastfeeding sucks. An unwavering belief in bodily autonomy means my role is supporting women who want to breastfeed, and respecting a woman’s choice not to. I impart up-to-date information, encouragement and empathy. I cannot tell her what to do, and more importantly, I do not want to. Because it’s her body. They are her breasts.

I cannot tell her what to do, and more importantly, I do not want to.
In Australia, like most of the western world, breastfeeding rates are critically low. Not even 15% of Australian babies are exclusively breastfed to the recommended six months, and research has attributed the national health care cost of premature weaning to be up to $120m per year. Most women cite weaning before they wanted to. According to UNICEF, adequate breastfeeding has the potential to prevent almost one million child deaths globally.

And yet, breastfeeding advocates are called pushy, accused of pressuring vulnerable mothers. Labelled “Nipple Nazis”, “Breastapo” or “Breast Police”. Articles and commenters condemn breastfeeding advocates as anti-feminist, for fuelling “mummy wars”, or charge them with forcing breasts down the throats of a society unwilling to share such mammary enthusiasm.

Are some breastfeeding advocates tactless? Certainly. Is breastfeeding being pressed upon parents? Sometimes, sadly, yes. Ours is a busy medical care system that tends to dump arbitrary “shoulds” upon women and then rush to the next case.

Parents are overburdened with advice: techniques, duration, how baby should behave and grow. Not all health professionals employ the latest evidence-based practice in lactation and advice can be inconsistent from one expert to the next. Milk removal creates milk production, yet women are habitually encouraged to space out breastfeeds, to watch a clock or app instead of baby. An infant takes time to become familiar with and learn to adequately milk mother’s breast, yet women are regularly told to introduce a replacement teat, which can confuse an infant, in the form of a dummy or bottle just in case. Women are lambasted for breastfeeding in public, for taking lactation breaks at work, for supplying breastmilk at child care, for taking away her husband’s playthings.

Most breastfeeding advocates are not concerned if a woman does not want to breastfeed.
So when breastfeeding becomes difficult, it’s easier to blame a woman’s body than a society that let her down.

Most breastfeeding advocates are not concerned if a woman does not want to breastfeed. When a woman makes an autonomous, informed choice to use formula, all power to her. Because a woman making informed decisions over her own body, in this world, is a powerful thing.

HG253_baby-breastfeeding-basics_FSBut I do care if she is lied to. I care if she is hurt or given prevalent, tired old myths leftover from decades ago when formula manufacturers were allowed to promote their product as superior and to lobby medical professionals, effectively wiping out their primary competition – breasts. I care when she is led to believe her body is faulty or inadequate yet she desperately wants to breastfeed her child.

It is heartbreaking to witness a woman’s grief. New mothers can be angry, frustrated, devastated. Women are marginalised and abused. Wounds can be scars held from babies past, from her own childhood, from sexual violence.

Breastfeeding is more than just a milk-delivery method. It is a complex and robust biological system, and feeding fills the majority of time spent with a young infant. To feel that you bafflingly can’t, when you hormonally, emotionally and physically want to, can be soul destroying.

Active engagement in support of women’s choice invites labels of all kinds. While some labels hurt, it means I am standing up for women where they’re being systematically let down. So my work can be misunderstood, I can be called names, but I will keep protecting and supporting breastfeeding women.

Because it’s not about me. It’s about her.

Adoptive Breastfeeding: how is that possible?

color headshot Alyassa FYMeet Alyssa

Alyssa has been helping mothers and babies in St. Louis, Missouri, USA with breastfeeding for the past 12 years.  She has been accredited as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) since 2009 and works in private practice.  Her practice, Sweet Pea Breastfeeding Support, provides prenatal, pre-adoption/surrogacy, and postpartum lactation consultations, as well as breast pump sales and rentals.  Alyssa enjoys working with all mothers and babies, but she has an extra special place in her heart for helping mothers through adoption and surrogacy to breastfeed their babies.  She is the author of Breastfeeding Without Birthing:  A Breastfeeding Guide for Mothers Through Adoption, Surrogacy, and Other Special Circumstances.  Alyssa is the proud mother of three breastfed children, two by birth and one by adoption.

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By Alyssa Schnell, MS, IBCLC

Have you ever heard of an adoptive mother breastfeeding her baby? Most people (including health care professionals!) don’t even know that it is possible for a mother to breastfeed a baby she hasn’t given birth to. In fact, this type of breastfeeding has been done throughout history by adoptive mothers, wet nurses, and even grandmothers:

And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. (King James Bible, Ruth 4:16)

Before formula and bottles were available, it was a necessity for another mother to feed a baby when the biological mother was not available due to death, separation, or preference. Those of us in developed countries have largely forgotten this amazing power of a woman’s body to make milk for a baby we didn’t birth.

How it works

There are various approaches to inducing lactation, the term for bringing in milk, without pregnancy and birth. The basic essential piece in every approach is regular stimulation of the nipples and breasts. This usually happens by using a double electric breast pump and/or by baby breastfeeding with an at-breast supplementer. An at-breast supplementer is a bag or bottle that hangs around the adoptive mother’s neck and carries formula or human milk to the mother’s nipple via a tiny feeding tube.


Photo used with permission by B. Robertson, IBCLC

Some adoptive mothers will also take medications or herbs to help them make more milk. While it isn’t common for an adoptive mother to make all the milk her baby needs, most adoptive mothers can meet a portion of their babies’ nutritional needs through breastfeeding.

Not all adoptive breastfeeding mothers make milk. Because the act of breastfeeding helps create a bond between mother and baby, it is not necessary to make milk in order for mother and baby to benefit from the breastfeeding. Some adoptive mothers will bottle-feed to provide nutrition for their baby and comfort nurse their babies. Others will feed at the breast using an at-breast supplementer.

With good information and support, each adoptive mother can create an adoptive breastfeeding plan that meets her individual needs and circumstances.

Sweet Pea Lotsa Babies

My Story

Adoptive breastfeeding is a personal and a professional story for me. Ten years ago, as my husband and I began our adoption plans, I couldn’t imagine parenting a baby without breastfeeding. Breastfeeding was how I fed, comforted, calmed, and healed my other babies. Breastfeeding was how I would do the same for my next baby, no matter what path she took to arrive in my arms. I began fervently researching information available on adoptive breastfeeding. My resources as a La Leche League Leader were especially helpful. By the time baby Rosa arrived, I had a relationship with a local lactation consultant, was pumping 15 ounces of milk each day, was taking various herbs and medications, had purchased several devices to help with breastfeeding, and had a freezer stocked with my own milk. Despite some additional obstacles, Rosa began feeding exclusively at my breast when she was 2 days old. And we continued that beautiful relationship for several years.

During that time, I began counseling other prospective adoptive and intended (through surrogacy) mothers, first as a La Leche League Leader and later as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). My research continued, as my experience working with mothers grew. My personal experience, the experiences of the mothers I worked with, and all the research I did eventually blossomed into a book: Breastfeeding Without Birthing: A Breastfeeding Guide for Mothers Through Adoption, Surrogacy and Other Special Circumstances (Praeclarus Press, 2013). I have been continuing to spread the word about adoptive breastfeeding ever since!

BookTo Learn More:

The book’s companion website contains a ton of information including the basics of inducing lactation, how to find a qualified lactation consultant, relevant links, a blog, a bookstore, and more.

See Also: