Many expectant moms spend countless hours researching everything related to breastfeeding in preparation for their own breastfeeding journey. While it’s absolutely true that you won’t know the true extent and trials of breastfeeding until you are a mom, there is much that you can do to prepare yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually for this endeavor. Breastfeeding is one of the most beautiful and challenging experiences that you will face, and it is always beneficial to research beforehand to know what to expect. We have compiled a list of tips to increase your chances of success and help you prepare.
1- Take a Breastfeeding Course during Pregnancy
Many birth centers and hospitals offer them, and most moms think they’re great! It’s recommended that you take the course during your third trimester so the information is fresh in your mind. Have your partner attend the class with you so that he or she can know the best ways to support you, as well as what will be expected as a new breastfeeding mom. In this class, you’ll learn about different holds and latches, as well as what to look for if trouble arises. Most classes will cost about $20-65 depending on your area, but be sure to call your health insurance carrier and see if they cover any portion of the course.
2- Have a List of Lactation Consultants on Hand
Also, know if they accept your insurance. No matter how much of an expert you might be at breastfeeding, the beginning is going to be a struggle for most women. This is normal! The best way to combat this is to have a list of lactation consultants in your area that are affordable for your price point. Keep in mind that most won’t accept health insurance if they are independent, but many of them will if they’re a hospital or birth center.
Trust us – when your new baby is here and your hormones are surging, you won’t have the time or energy to research lactation consultants. Have a list handy that you can keep tacked to your kitchen corkboard when and if the time arises. They help women experiencing breastfeeding problems, such as latching difficulties, painful nursing, and low milk production. A lactation consultant also helps babies who aren’t gaining enough weight. Lactation consultants may work at a hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office. Some have a private practice.
Seek help from a Lactation Consultant
3- Have Your Tools Ready to Use
Many women swear by breastfeeding pillows, and we highly recommend the My Best Friend over the Boppy. Especially during those early days, you’ll want to snuggle into the perfect position when feeding your babe to ensure proper latch and comfort for you both. Also, contact your insurance company and see if they provide a free pump – most of them will. Even if you aren’t planning to bottle feed often, it’s always a good idea to have a pump handy to be able to start a stash if you’re going back to work or are planning on being away from the baby at all. We also recommend having a soothing nipple cream on hand to use between feeds, such as Motherlove.
4- Read Books
There are so many fantastic breastfeeding books out there, and it’s always great to educate yourself. Some favorites among nursing mamas are Breastfeeding Made Simple by Nancy Mohrbacher, and The Nursing Mother’s Companion by Kathleen Huggins. These books will also answer many of your pressing questions.
5- Consider Hiring a Doula For Your Birth
It’s a huge misconception that doulas can only assist during natural labors and deliveries. Not the case! Doulas help moms through all kinds of births, even cesarean sections. Many of them are also breastfeeding experts and help moms postpartum. A 1:1 support person who is there solely to help you get your baby to latch properly and feed well is every mama’s dream. Inquire with your OB or midwife about a list of doulas that he or she might have on hand to refer to. Reach out to local mom groups, too!
6- Do Not Toughen Your Nipples
Nursing mamas were once told to regularly rub towels on their nipples to “toughen them up” for breastfeeding. Ouch! Thankfully, this is no longer recommended. The best way to prepare your nipples is to check to see if they’re inverted. If you aren’t sure, ask your doctor, and speak to a midwife about how to best prepare for nursing your baby if you have this condition. Breastfeeding is still possible, so don’t fret!
7- Prepare Mentally
Know that breastfeeding is learned, not ingrained. Many women think that something is wrong with them if they struggle with breastfeeding. This isn’t further from the case! Breastfeeding can be difficult and exhausting, so know that it’s nothing you’re doing wrong if you are struggling and need help.
8- Know There Will be Discomfort
According to lactation experts, breastfeeding should never hurt. Pain in breastfeeding is often a symptom of a poor latch, tongue tie, or thrush. With that said, there will inevitably be discomfort with breastfeeding. Nursing moms will tell you stories firsthand about sore, cracked, and bleeding nipples. Though these aren’t normal findings amongst every mom, they are common and shouldn’t discourage you. Make sure to find a good lactation consultant that you trust, and load up on your Motherlove Nipple Cream!
10- Get an Early Start
Breastfeed your baby as soon as possible after birth, preferably within the first hour. Take advantage of the resources you have at your disposal at the hospital or birth center. If you have a home birth, make sure to ask your midwife to work 1:1 with you to help establish breastfeeding. Consider hiring a doula, too, or enlisting breastfeeding friends and family members to be a source of support immediately after birth.
Breastfeeding right after birth an getting that skin to skin contact will get you off to a great start.
Breastfeeding can seem intimidating, especially to a first-time mom. Though the success of this journey comes with time and experience, preparing as much as possible beforehand is comforting for expecting moms. Arming yourself with plans and resources can greatly decrease your stress level, too. Remember – it’s normal to have trouble breastfeeding at some point in your journey. Persevere, and you will achieve success!
Most women don’t prepare enough for breastfeeding, this can make you nervous and make it harder than it needs to be at first. Do you think you are or were prepared enough, what would you wish you had done differently?