How to Prepare for Breastfeeding

How to Prepare for BreastfeedingIf you’re researching how to prepare for breastfeeding during your pregnancy, you’ve taken the vital first steps for a successful breastfeeding journey.  Making the decision and dedicating yourself to breastfeeding should begin before your baby is even born.  Breastfeeding is an amazing experience for babies and mamas.  But as natural as it may be, there is a learning curve and often some challenging times.  Today we’re taking a look at how to prepare for breastfeeding so you can enter the journey with your best foot – or breast – forward.

Take a Class:  Taking a breastfeeding class while you are pregnant is a terrific idea when you are considering how to prepare for breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding classes are usually taught by certified lactation consultants and/or registered nurses who are experts in breastfeeding.  They will provide excellent information about the benefits of and mechanics of breastfeeding; discuss proper latch and positioning; explain pumping and breast milk storage; and review signs of hunger that will help you know when and how to feed your baby.  You’ll probably get a few handouts to take home with you as reminders of what you learned in class.  Bring daddy along so he can help navigate breastfeeding with you and be an encouraging teammate along the way.

Develop a Network:  Before your baby arrives, identify partners that can help you if you have questions or are experiencing difficulty with breastfeeding.  Veteran mom friends who were successful breastfeeders can be helpful.  Your OBGYN or pediatrician may have resources or recommendations of lactation consultants and breastfeeding support groups that can be part of your team.  Also, call your insurance company as they may provide a stipend for lactation support or have in-house lactation experts that can talk you through challenges.

how to prepare for breastfeeding_2Gather Supplies:  You don’t need much to breastfeed, but you’ll probably want a few supplies on hand.  The most important breastfeeding tools are nursing bras.  Purchase at least three nursing bras towards the end of your pregnancy.  Make sure they are made with soft, breathable fabrics and have adjustable bands and straps that will expand with your breasts as you size fluctuates in the early days of breastfeeding.  Nursing tank tops are a great option for daytime and nighttime feedings.  And be sure to have washable nursing pads in case you have leaky breasts.  You may also want to purchase pure lanolin cream in case you develop sore nipples.  Additional supplies like a rocker and nursing pillow may be helpful too.  If you plan to pump, check with your insurance company before you purchase a breast pump.  Under the Affordable Care Act, many insurers offer free or discounted breast pumps for new mothers.

Make a Plan:  In your birth plan, express your desire to breastfeed.  Let your doctor know and tell your nurses as soon as you arrive at the hospital.  Some mothers find breastfeeding easier if they have not had drug intervention during childbirth.  Make a sign for your baby’s hospital bassinet that says “Breastfed Only” so no one accidentally gives your baby formula.  If you wish to avoid pacifiers, make that known as well.

Get your Mind in the Game:  Practicing breastfeeding before your baby arrives is pretty much impossible.  Unless you’ve done it before, breastfeeding is not something you can fully understand until your baby arrives.  But you can prepare for breastfeeding by visualizing the experience and making plans for successful breastfeeding.  That means you’ll either need to be with your baby every 2-3 hours or you’ll need to pump so someone can feed your baby breast milk.  Understanding the demands of breastfeeding before your little one arrives will help you manage this drastic shift in your daily (and nightly) schedule.  Also, while it is an extraordinary and bonding time for you and baby, breastfeeding can have some rocky moments.  Knowing that raising a baby is not all coos and giggles is important too.

Be Ready to Rock Right Away:  Statistics show that moms who breastfeed their babies right away find the most long term success.  Ask for your baby to be handed to you as soon as it is safe for you and your baby after childbirth and put your baby on your breast.  Through instinct and scent, most babies know how to find their mother’s breast and start suckling immediately.  Even if your baby is not getting any colostrum right away, the act of being on your breast is great practice for baby and will stimulate your milk production.  Also, have your baby sleep in your hospital room with you so you can easily breastfeed whenever your baby is hungry.  Feeding on demand is recommended during the early stages of breasting and having your baby in your room will help you sync with your baby.

Learning how to prepare for breastfeeding is the first step in your journey.  We wish you much joy, love and breastfeeding with your baby!