Inside: Are you planning to breastfeed? See how you can prepare before baby arrives, to help increase your chances of successfully breastfeeding.
Many new moms start breastfeeding, only to realize how challenging breastfeeding truly can be. Because breastfeeding is natural, we think “of course our body can handle this, it was made to do this”…
So preparing for it doesn’t get much of a second-thought. You decide you will figure it out once baby arrives….
While this is of course what most of us do (I did)…it leaves many moms wondering if they actually need to prepare to breastfeed.
And the short answer is, NO. You don’t technically need to prepare to breastfeed a baby before the baby arrives.
But the full truth? YES, of course you can prepare! And preparing makes the process that much easier when you know what to expect and how to troubleshoot common breastfeeding problems.
As a first-time mom, I never realized I could do much to prepare for breastfeeding…I thought it was just something you practice in real-time. But I learned that a little knowledge in your back pocket can help you get through those hard breastfeeding days, so you can decide if it’s something you can keep trying to work at, or knowing when it’s actually time to re-evaluate.
So how can you actually start early and prepare to nurse your baby before the big arrival?
Well, it starts with a little education to help get you ready to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding Tips to Prepare For Nursing Baby
Take a breastfeeding class
One of the easiest ways you can prepare for breastfeeding, is through a bit of education. Learn what breastfeeding entails through a class. While you might not even consider this at first, it really does make a lot of sense. Pregnancy prep typically involves packing a hospital bag and getting your birth plan in order, but it should also include a bit of breastfeeding education if want to be successful at breastfeeding. You can start by reading books on the subject at first, but soon you’ll see why signing up for a breastfeeding class for real-life examples in action is so useful. You wouldn’t just wing preparing for birth (in most cases, we take a birthing or lamaze course) so breastfeeding should be no different.
Milkology is one very affordable option moms have today to get ready to nurse. It’s an on-demand breastfeeding class you can take from the comfort of your home to better understand the mechanics of breastfeeding, including proper latch, feeding positions and how to increase milk supply from a lactation educator. These are all good skills to have when you find yourself struggling with a newborn baby.
You can get several versions of the course, depending on your breastfeeding goals:
- The Ultimate Guide to Breastfeeding is a great overall introduction for moms breastfeeding for the first time.
- Back to Work Pumping Class for breastfeeding moms going back to work and looking to keep their milk supply up
- Exclusive Pumping Class for exclusively pumping moms
The course creates a foundation in understanding all the basics about breastfeeding so you are better prepared to have a successful experience with a new baby.
If you are still experiencing difficulties after baby arrives, a lactation consultant who you can work with one-on-0ne is another option to consider. They can take a look at what you are doing and help make suggestions.
Keep a healthy lifestyle
Eating well and getting plenty of rest are a big part of pregnancy, and not just for your growing baby. Your body is working hard to meet baby’s nutritional needs, so be sure you aren’t suffering from any major health issues or deficits that could affect your milk supply.
And once baby arrives, it’s equally important to take care of your postpartum body. Not only is it essential for your recovery, but also a healthy body and mind will increase your chances of being more successful at breastfeeding, with a healthy milk supply.
Be sure to eat a balanced diet (plenty of fresh fruits, veggies and protein) and hydration is essential. And don’t toss out your prenatal vitamins just yet — they are so important to keep taking while breastfeeding to help you feed your body (and baby).
Stock up on breastfeeding essentials
After delivery, you want to be ready to breastfeed your baby as soon as you can — so stocking up on must-have breastfeeding items is a great tip.
At the very minimum you should have the following items handy those first couple weeks:
- Nursing bra
- Nursing pads
- Nipple cream
- Electric pump (if you plan to use a bottle)
- Milk saver (to build up a stash)
After the first month, start investing in more breastfeeding essentials, especially to help make your experience more comfortable as you venture out with baby:
- Nursing Cover
- Nursing Scarf
- Hands-Free Pump (This is still handy to have if you are away from an outlet or in emergencies! )
- Bottles for breastfed babies
BONUS: Another great thing to have handy, as you start the breastfeeding journey is stories from other nursing moms, sharing their very own experience. You can read 16 very personal accounts about the good and the bad in this Breastfeeding Anthology!
Know your breasts
Another breastfeeding tip to help you meet your breastfeeding goals is to address any issues with your breast beforehand.
You know your body best, so if you have any concerns regarding your breast and milk production abilities, now is the time to address them. This includes worries about how inverted nipples or breast surgery will effect your ability to breastfeed.
But from someone who’s dealt similar issues personally, I can tell you there is usually a solution you can plan ahead for. Things like stocking up on nipple shields can help make the transition easier those early weeks. Also knowing that breastfeeding after implants is still highly possibly as long as there is no damage to the nerves (which can occur if implant is done via areola). And finally, rest assured that breast size does NOT affect your ability to breastfeeding is important!
Start your research early, and talk directly to your doctor to see how you can address challenges now.
When you’re new to breastfeeding, it’s so important to understand it takes TIME…time for mom and baby to learn what works best. Because with each new baby you breastfeed (even if you’ve previously breastfed) the experience is unique. Having patience with any new endeavor is critical…and no different when it comes to breastfeeding. Give yourself time to learn the skill, perfecting the latch, finding what position baby responds to best.
And don’t be too hard on yourself if you struggle a lot in the beginning…most moms who quit breastfeeding for one reason or another, tend to do so early on…because of the struggle. Knowing that there will be a bit of a learning curve can help mentally prepare you and set you up for success.
Remember that it does get easier the more you do it!
Find a breastfeeding support system
Although breastfeeding is one of the best ways possible to nourish your baby those early months with proven benefits, it isn’t an easy endeavor. That’s not to say breastfeeding is bound to be hard, but rather that along the way it’s completely normal to experience some ups and downs — physically and mentally.
Breastfeeding can be painful leaving your nipples cracked and sore. Breastfeeding can be exhausting as you try to perfect your latch. Breastfeeding relies solely on mom which can make it hard to take a break causing more of a mental load.
Knowing this, it’s so important to find support throughout the experience, especially early on. Whether by having supportive family and spouse or identifying a lactation consultant or support group to turn to for more help. Join our Breastfeeding Mamas Group here for support too!
Because the truth is, the more support and encouragement you get from those around you, especially early on in the process, the more likely you are to keep going and be able to breastfeed past the 6 month mark…past the 1 year mark…for as long as you want!
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Ana, a mom to three rambunctious little boys, has supported hundreds of thousands of women throughout their pregnancy and motherhood journey since 2012 as a blogger and maternal health advocate at MommysBundle.com.