Babywearing after a C-Section
by Holly McCroskey Lewis
If you gave birth surgically, or you’re pregnant and already know you will have a Cesearean section, you may view some of the photos and articles on this site with some trepidation. After all, how is babywearing going to help you carry your baby hands-free when you can barely get out of bed on your own? Besides, babywearing sometimes appears to be the exclusive province of the “AP” (attachment parenting) or “natural living” crowd, whose members advocate homebirth and decry the rising rate of C-section births in America – and you may feel you’re not part of that club, whether by choice or by circumstance. So, whatever the reason you had or will have a section, you may wonder: Is babywearing for me? And if so, HOW?
The answer is a resounding yes! Babywearing is for everyone. As for how to successfully wear your baby while recovering from a C-section, read on.
When can I wear my baby?
Most moms who already know how to use slings find that they’re able to wear their newborn within a week or so after a C-section, and at least one TBW member wore her new son while still in the hospital – 24 hours after his birth! If you’re not already a babywearer, it may take you an extra week or two to really feel comfortable with your carrier (that was my experience with my first baby – whose undetected breech position resulted in a C-section after many hours of unproductive labor), and if you have a lot of help from relatives or friends in the early weeks of your baby’s life you may not really have a need to carry your baby hands-free for a while (which was my experience with my second baby who was, you guessed it, also breech and born via C-section after two failed version attempts). But rest assured, you don’t have to wait to use your new sling or wrap just because of your C-section. In fact, if you’re feeling shaky or weak, babywearing will help you hold your baby more securely and comfortably, and thus may be very helpful even when you’re just resting on the couch. And, of course, babywearing is indispensable when you need to hold the newborn and also attend to the needs of an older sibling; unlike doing the dishes or laundry, sometimes caring for the kids isn’t something that can easily be taken over by Dad or Grandma. When my own daughter was about two weeks old, one afternoon she slept contentedly in my ring sling while I helped my then three-year-old son construct a cardboard-box fire engine in our back yard. It’s one of my fondest memories of that time and something I never would have been able to do without a sling.
(If you have an older child whom you still wear, you may wonder how soon after your C-section you’ll be able to sling the big sister or brother. Because the older child is so much larger and heavier than the newborn, you will most likely wait until at least 4-6 weeks after your C-section, or whenever you are feeling pretty much healed and up to carrying the greater load. The first time I recall wearing my son after his little sister’s birth was at a little over a month.)
Which carrier should I use?
The consensus among TBW moms who’ve had C-sections is that the best choice is a ring sling or a well-fitted pouch. These carriers hold the baby high on your body, well away from your incision, and are easy to use with a newborn without reaching or bending, which can strain your tender abdomen. A ring sling or an adjustable pouch are particularly good choices for post-partum moms (after normal as well as surgical deliveries) because they allow for a good fit regardless of bloating, breast size changes, and weight loss in the first few months. This is particularly important for mothers who’ve had a C-section because they’ll need to keep the baby’s weight well away from their incision site; wearing the baby too low in a too-large pouch or a too-loose ring sling will be even more uncomfortable than it is for moms who had vaginal deliveries or for dads or other wearers.
A close second choice for wearing after a C-section is a stretchy wrap, which is cozy and secure, and more forgiving than a woven wrap of less-than-perfect wrapping-and-tying technique. You’ll want to be careful to tie it fairly high, perhaps above your waist, and may want some help from another person to get it wrapped around you, but once it’s on, it’s easy to pop the baby in and out without strain. A stretchy wrap is an especially good choice if you are doing “kangaroo care” for a preemie or need or want to wear your baby skin-to-skin, because a wrap covers you up enough that you can wear it without a shirt underneath! It’s also great if you prefer to carry your baby in an upright “tummy to tummy” position, rather than cradled; this is often the preferred position of babies who suffer from reflux or simply need to burp a lot. While you can also carry a newborn in this position in a ring sling, it’s a bit more secure in a wrap.
Mei tais and soft structured carriers are not as good a choice because the waist strap or belt is more likely to irritate your incision area, and because they are generally less popular choices for newborns in any event. Also, most frontpacks are not good choices even if you otherwise find them comfortable, because they cause the baby’s legs to dangle straight down – putting baby’s feet in perfect kicking range of your incision! Yikes!
If you’re healing normally, by about six weeks postpartum – and possibly earlier depending on your circumstances – you should be able to wear any carrier you like, in any way you like, just as babywearers who aren’t recovering from abdominal surgery do. (Oh, and if you want to be “AP” or “NP” go ahead – a C-section doesn’t automatically disqualify you or anything. And if you don’t, that’s fine too; either way, you’re definitely welcome at TBW!) Use common sense and don’t overdo it while you’re still healing, and you’ll be fine. Happy babywearing!