Preparing to Breastfeed during Pregnancy
When you are expecting, it is easy to focus on labor and delivery and forget to prepare for what comes next. You are already ahead of the game by reading this post! Women who prepare before their baby arrives feel significantly more confident and encounter less problems breastfeeding their newborn. Check out our breastfeeding classes here.
Good news! You don’t have to do anything physically to prepare to breastfeed. Your body is already doing the work for you, developing ducts and milk making tissue.
You also don’t need to prepare your nipples for breastfeeding. Years ago, friction with a rough towel was recommended prenatally but it was actually found to do damage.
Women’s nipples come in many different shapes and sizes. A breastfeeding baby latches to the breast, not to the nipple. Unusually shaped nipples are rarely an issue. If you have concerns about the shape of your nipples for breastfeeding, speak to your doctor, your midwife or an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
Have a birth plan
Limiting medications and interventions during labor and birth (whenever possible) is a great first step in helping your newborn learn to breastfeed.
Talk to your healthcare provider about having your baby skin to skin immediately after birth. (Learn why it is important here.) Breastfeed as soon as possible, ideally within the first hour.
Parents delivering in a hospital have found it helpful to create a card for baby’s bassinet saying: “I am a breastfed baby… no formula or pacifiers please!”
Keep your newborn near you so that you can respond quickly to baby’s earliest hunger cues.
Learn about normal newborn feeding behavior
Newborns feed often! It is easy to misinterpret frequent feeding as a sign of not enough milk. Feeding 10, 12, 14, 16 times or more a day is not unusual. Learn more by reading our post How often will my Newborn feed?.
Make a plan for the first 2 weeks after baby’s birth
Breastfeeding is time consuming. Newborns feed often. Both you and your baby will be learning. Having the time and privacy to learn is essential.
New parents frequently tell us they had too much company in baby’s first few weeks. Take some time now to make a plan for handling visitors. We explore this further in video #3 of our free course Getting Ready to Breastfeed. Watch it now and download the PDF worksheet to get started.
Planning ahead will help to save your time and energy for the important task of breastfeeding.
Surround yourself with supports
Begin surrounding yourself with other moms who have had positive experiences with breastfeeding. Ask them to be your support team once baby arrives You may want to attend a La Leche League meeting (mother-to-mother support) prenatally.
If you prefer online mom-to-mom support, join our Simply Breastfeeding Moms Facebook group.
Take a class
There is an overwhelming amount of information available both online and in print. Unfortunately, not all of it is good information supported by evidence.
Sign up for our free online email series, Getting Ready to Breastfeed. We’ll discuss “Is Breastfeeding going to hurt?”, why skin to skin is important, the best ways to prevent breastfeeding problems and more.
If you’d like a more in depth class, we’ve put together a 12 video course, Simply Breastfeeding. Check it out here. (Note: you can preview the breastfeeding positions lesson for free. Simply scroll to the bottom of this page.)
Prefer to learn through books?
These are some of our favorites.
5 Crucial Ways to Prepare for Breastfeeding a FREE ebook by Cindy Leclerc and Jana Stockham.
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.
Equipment for breastfeeding
There are many products on the market for breastfeeding women. Fortunately, all you really need is your breast and the baby!
Here’s our take on 5 common breastfeeding products:
- Nursing bras: You do not need a nursing bra to breastfeed however many women purchase one for the convenience. If you choose to buy a nursing bra, wait until you you are at least 36 weeks pregnant to judge the size you will need.
- Nursing Pads: Not all moms leak milk. Those who do may only leak for a short time. Begin with a limited supply of nursing pads and purchase more if you need them.
- Breast pumps: 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 pillows: Some moms find that a breastfeeding pillow is convenient but it is not necessary. You could use bedroom pillows instead. If you choose 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”. Not having formula in the house has been shown to increase breastfeeding success. Be wary of signing up for “free products” as you will often receive formula. If you receive free samples, consider donating them to your local food bank to avoid the temptation of using it during a long or fussy night.
Believe in yourself
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.
Best wishes as you prepare for your breastfeeding journey.
(Banner photo courtesy of Flickr: Frank de Kleine)
Learn more about breastfeeding: Bras to Breast Pumps: What do you really need for breastfeeding? and Positions for Breastfeeding.
Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.
- Download their free ebook: 5 Crucial Ways to Prepare for Breastfeeding.
- Sign up for their free mini breastfeeding course: Getting Ready to Breastfeed.