Preparing to Breastfeed

Today many women are ditching the bottles and choosing to breastfeed their babies. Breastfeeding is a natural part of the life cycle, like pregnancy and childbirth. Science has proved that breastfeeding is beneficial to both mother and your new baby. Although breastfeeding is a natural act, some women struggle in the first few weeks as new moms can become overwhelmed of the thought at being the sole source of nutrition for their new bundle of joy. Getting support and education is paramount to ensuring that your breastfeeding experience is not only a stress-free, but an emotional loving bonding time for you and your newborn.

You’ve prepared the nursery, you have your birth plan and your suitcase is packed for the hospital or birthing center, there’s not much to prepare to breastfeed baby when it comes to your breast themselves. Tugging or pulling at the nipples to prepare for breastfeeding is not recommended. At most, breast massage may be useful in helping you become at ease with handling your breasts. It’s a good idea to check for flat or inverted nipples while you are pregnant, as this can make it a bit more difficult for a baby to latch on to the nipple correctly. You can speak to your local La Leche League Leader (before your baby is born) about how to check for inverted nipples and how to deal with them. But these are rare, so don’t worry if you know they are not inverted. Speak to your doctor if you are unsure about how your nipples will impact latching.

The very first few days that you breastfeed are the most crucial to you and your baby. Routines and schedules may be loose and a timetable may not be possible as you adjust to your baby’s needs. It is important to be sure that the hospital or birthing center is supportive and informative while you and your baby are first learning to breastfeed. Make sure they will allow “rooming-in”, close contact with your baby will help facilitate the breastfeeding process. A lactation consultant should always be on staff to answer any of your questions.

Breastfeeding can be made easier and more come to you naturally if you learn as much as you can about it before you have your baby. It’s a great idea to pick up a book or two about breastfeeding and attend local classes and La Leche League meetings in your area. Many of these classes and educational sessions are given by your local hospital, birthing center or community for free or at a minimal charge. Many are covered by insurance.

One of the most important things to have is family and friend support during the first few weeks of breastfeeding. Make sure you will be able to be in contact with supportive family and friends, especially ones who have experience with breastfeeding. People you meet in breastfeeding classes and La Leche League meetings are also good places to look for breastfeeding support. Having a good support system around when you are first breastfeeding can make all the difference in the world.

There are a few things you can buy ahead of time that may come in handy while you are breastfeeding. It is good to have at least three nursing bras ready for breastfeeding. Buy these in the last weeks of pregnancy so your breast size will be closest to what it will be when you are breastfeeding. Make sure the bras have enough room for the times when your breasts become engorged. The bras should be comfortable and easy to put on and remove. It’s a great idea to buy a breast pump ahead of time. This will help when you want to increase milk production and allow you to store your breast milk. If you plan on pumping regularly, it would be wise to invest in a high-quality electric pump. Also, have one or two tubes of pure lanolin handy in case you get sore, cracked nipples.