What should I do during pregnancy to prepare to breastfeed?
Good news! You don’t have to do anything to prepare your body to breastfeed while pregnant! Your body is already doing the work for you, developing the ducts and the milk secreting cells necessary for you to breastfeed.
You can, however, do some mental preparation.
- Arm yourself with good information
There is an overwhelming amount of information available both online and in print. Unfortunately, not all of it is good information supported by evidence. To help you get started we have created a free mini breastfeeding course, Getting Ready to Breastfeed. Sign up here.
Websites with information you can trust:
Cindy & Jana Breastfeeding Posts
La Leche League International
Saskatoon Breastfeeding Matters
Do you prefer to learn through books? These are some of our favorites.
Dr Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding by Dr. Jack Newman and Teresa Pitman. Written in a readable, no nonsense style.
Breastfeeding Made Simple: 7 Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett. How to avoid and overcome breastfeeding challenges.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger. La Leche League’s wonderful guide to breastfeeding.
- Surround yourself with supports
It is great to surround yourself with other moms who have had positive experiences with breastfeeding. You may want to attend a La Leche League meeting (mother-to-mother support) prenatally.
There is no need to prepare nipples prior to baby’s birth. Years ago, friction with a rough towel was recommended prenatally but it was actually found to be damaging.
Women’s nipples come in many different shapes and sizes. The baby latches to the breast, not to the nipple, therefore unusually shaped nipples are rarely a cause for concern. If you have concerns, speak to your doctor, your midwife or an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
- Equipment for breastfeeding
Do I need…….
- A Nursing bra? You do not need a nursing bra to breastfeed. You could simply unfasten a regular bra when you breastfeed. If you chose to buy a nursing bra, wait until you you are at least 36 weeks pregnant to judge the correct size you will need.
- Nursing Pads? Not all moms find that they leak milk. Those who do may only leak for a short time. You may want to limit the supply you initially purchase.
- Breast pump? Not every breastfeeding mother needs a breast pump. Many moms find they prefer to hand express for occasional bottles or to establish a “stash”. To learn more about hand expression, see this post.
- Breastfeeding pillow? Some moms find that a breastfeeding pillow is convenient but it is not necessary. You could use bedroom pillows instead. If you chose to purchase a breastfeeding pillow, remember that all bodies are shaped differently so you may need to shop around for one that best fits your body.
- Formula samples? You do not need to have formula samples “just in case”. Studies show that not having formula in the house leads to better success with breastfeeding. Be wary of signing up for “free products” as often this product is formula. Many moms prefer to donate samples to their local food bank to avoid the temptation to give formula during a long or fussy night.
- Have a birth plan
Limit medications and interventions during labor and birth whenever it is possible to do so. This can help your baby to feed better in the first hours after birth.
Breastfeed as soon as possible after birth, ideally within the first hour.
Room in with your baby so that you can respond quickly to early hunger cues.
For hospital births, some parents have found it helpful to create an announcement card to attach to baby’s bassinet saying: “I am a breastfed baby… no formula or pacifiers please!”
- Learn about normal newborn feeding behaviour
It can be unsettling for parents if they assume baby is feeding frequently because “I don’t have enough milk for him.” Babies feed very frequently (at least 8-12 times in 24 hours). See also our blog post “How often will my Newborn feed”.
- Make a plan for the first 2 weeks after baby’s birth
Breastfeeding is time consuming as newborns feed often and both of you are learning. Planning ahead will help to save your time for the most important things.
New parents frequently tell us that they had too much company in the week following their baby’s birth. Limit your visitors and ask those you do have to help with household tasks. For other suggestions visit our blog post: 6 Keys to Surviving the First Week Home with a New Baby.
A woman’s body is an amazing! Believe in your ability to provide the right food at the right time and at the right temperature for your baby.
Learn more about breastfeeding:Bras to Breast Pumps: What do you really need for breastfeeding? and Positions for Breastfeeding.
(Banner photo courtesy of Flickr: Frank de Kleine)
Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.