Fortunately there are many things that you can do to prepare to breastfeed. "Planning" on breastfeeding or "trying" to breastfeed may not be enough. Breastfeeding takes focus, determination and preparation. Here are 10 easy ways to prepare to breastfeed that will set you up for success!
1 Read. Read. Read!
- Get your hands on some breastfeeding guides or books from your local library or bookstore. My favourite books for new moms include The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, Dr. Jack Newman's Guide to Breastfeeding, and Breastfeeding Made Simple.
- Research high quality websites like KellyMom and La Leche League.
- Taking a prenatal class can be very helpful to get some background knowledge and hands-on practice. Alternatively, you can meet with a lactation consultant for one-on-one support.
- Learn about breastmilk, and how breastmilk is produced (the mechanics and the hormonal components). Learn about common problems (ex. blocked ducts, sore nipples, engorgement, etc). The more you learn, the more you are likely to stay the course through difficult times.
2 Watch a Baby Breastfeed
There once was a time when it would have been impossible for a woman to be expecting their own baby and have never seen their mother , sister or aunt breastfeed a baby. This is a common occurrence now and moms may have to actively seek out this experience.
- Whether it’s a friend or a Youtube video, seeing a baby breastfeed is invaluable.
- Watch for a good latch and listen for swallowing.
- Some great videos are included on Dr. Jack Newman's website. Some of my favourites include "Really good drinking," "10 hour old baby," and " 2 day old."
3 Learn How to Hand Express
- Hand expression can be invaluable the first few days after birth. Before your milk "comes in" it can be used to express drops of colostrum. Down the road it is essential in situations where using a breast pump may be cumbersome or impossible.
- My favourite video for hand expression is this gem from Stanford University. Here is a handout from La Leche League.
4 Become Familiar with Your Breast Pump
- Not all moms need to use a breast pump, but if you are planning on expressing milk, learning to use your pump is essential.
- Learn how to put your kits together and make sure the pump is working properly.
- Assess the fit of the flange provided. Your nipple needs to fill most of the flange without rubbing on the edges. The pump must be turned on to properly assess this.
- Sterilize your kit and containers. The Target brand milk bags work great, are inexpensive and don't leak.
5 Find Your Tribe
- Research local breastfeeding support groups or other groups that reflect your parenting philosophies. There are also many online Facebook groups.
- Peer-to-peer support can be invaluable and it really helps to be surrounded by like minded moms, especially when you are feeling discouraged. La Leche League International is one great option.
6 Know How to Get Help
- Does your midwife or pediatrician offer breastfeeding support?
- Is there a local breastfeeding clinic or public health nurse?
- Does your local lactation consultant do home visits?
- Where are your local peer-to-peer support groups?
7 Get Clear on Your Reasons for Breastfeeding
- Some days may be difficult. Having clear, focused reasons for breastfeeding help you to pull through those rough days.
- Clearly list your short and long-term goals. An example of this may be: "I will not offer a pacifier or bottle for at least 6 weeks, " or "Visitors will be limited to immediate family and my best friend for 2 weeks to establish breastfeeding."
- Write your goals down, say them out loud and share them with your partner.
8 Get Your Partner on Board
An informed and supportive partner will lift you up on your rough days and remind you of your goals. This will also help your partner feel more involved in feeding the baby.
- Openly share your goals and desires to breastfeed with your partner.
- Share what you are learning with your partner.
- Prepare them for the fact that the first few weeks can be difficult.
- Have them attend a breastfeeding class with you or meet with a lactation consultant.
9 Get Your Gear in Order
One of the beautiful things about breastfeeding is that there is no gear required! However, many moms choose to use some items that may help make breastfeeding easier or more convenient.
- What items may help you with your breastfeeding journey?
- A few items that may prove to be invaluable are a breastfeeding pillow, disposable or reusable breast pads, nipple cream, and a high quality double electric breast pump. Some moms choose to use a nursing cover. Nursing bras and special clothes are optional but make sure you have tops and pajamas that make breastfeeding accessible.
- Having these items out of their packaging and ready to go will help immensely.
10 Find a Comfortable Spot Where You Can Breastfeed
- For some this means a rocking chair in the nursery. For others it may be your couch with some comfy pillows.
- Having a small table next to your spot will be handy for water or phone.
- Keep a basket nearby with magazines or extra nursing supplies (nipple cream, breast pads etc.).
- A small lamp or dimming lights will help with late night feeding.
Do you have any tips for expecting moms? What do you wish you had know before you had your baby? Tell us in the comments!
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