I’d like to say something before we investigate the question “Can babywearing cause mastitis?”.
If you’re reading this because you’re prone to plugged milk ducts and mastitis, I feel you. And I’m truly sorry you have to go through this.
I’ve had mastitis at least 8 times myself (at some point I stopped counting…). And several more instances of plugged ducts that I managed to stop from becoming mastitis. If you’re having mastitis right now, in addition to getting treatment from your medical provider, you might find this article written by an experienced IBCLC useful. Now back to our question.
Can Babywearing Cause Mastitis?
Babywearing cannot directly cause mastitis, but pressure on your breasts while babywearing can cause plugged ducts, which might escalate into mastitis. So the key to prevent plugged ducts and mastitis while babywearing is to make sure there’s no pressure on the breasts.
How to Avoid Pressure on the Breasts while Babywearing?
Some baby carriers and carry variations are more likely to press on your breasts than others. However, this is very individual and might depend on your specific carrier and your body proportions. So use this as a guideline and pay attention to your breasts while carrying.
Stretchy wraps are most often wrapped with the pocket wrap cross carry. This is a relatively safe carry because the fabric is mostly spread widely. However, some babies like to wiggle their hands, which might create some pressure on the breasts in front carrying positions.
The shoulder straps of most buckle carriers are led near the sides of the breasts. Be careful with these carriers if your breasts are prone to clogged ducts. If your baby is old enough, back carrying is a better option with these buckle carriers.
Asian style carriers
Asian style carriers tend to be more adjustable, so it’s quite easy to find a setup where there’s no pressure on the breasts. If you’re back carrying with an Asian style carrier, try to avoid finishes with straps crossing your chest to avoid pressure.
A ring sling can be a good option too. Especially, if only one of the breasts is affected. Just wear your baby on the other side.
Woven wraps are very versatile and you have a variety of carrying options to choose from. Unfortunately, one of the most common carries, the front wrap cross carry tends to create pressure on the breast. It’s best to be careful with it if you’re prone to clogged ducts. The kangaroo carry can be a good alternative. Hip carries on the opposite side of the affected breast are great as well. When back carrying with a woven wrap, make sure to choose a finish that does not go across your chest (eg. simple rucksack tied at the shoulder).
Babywearing with Mastitis
With acute plugged ducts and mastitis, it’s best to rest in bed and nurse as much as possible. Try not to babywear during the acute phase. After recovering from mastitis, checking your breasts for lumps before, during, and after babywearing is a good idea.