Breastfeeding isn’t as easy as some may make it look. So, give yourself a head start by preparing for breastfeeding before birth of your baby.
I wish breastfeeding is as natural as nature intended it to be. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always come naturally to many moms and babies.
I have exclusively breastfed my both babies beyond 1 year. Lately, I am been thinking a lot about how difficult and different both breastfeeding journeys were in those early days.
Breastfeeding my first one was both physically and mentally challenging. I nearly wanted to quit in the first few days, but I am so glad I didn’t, but I do wish I had known more before going into one.
I was so naive, and my biggest mistake was to leave ‘‘everything to nature” instead of being well-prepared. I was presumptive that my baby would immediately start gulping milk from my chest. Needless to say, he didn’t latch on for first 15 days and the experience was nowhere near easy.
What I have learned from my both breastfeeding adventures was, – more you understand how breastfeeding works, the higher your chances of success to reach your ultimate goal.
Without further ado, here are my 9 tips on,
How to Prepare for Breastfeeding before Birth
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1. Knowledge is Power
Breastfeeding is portrayed in a society as some kind of idyllic, easy and miraculous for babies and moms. I would like to agree to most of it except calling it ‘easy’. It is nowhere easy and calling it one would be injustice as it sets an unrealistic expectation for first time moms, and when those expectations are not met, it results in mom guilt.
Research study published in breastfeeding medicine in 2016 (1), showed that when 1000 women were asked how they wanted breastfeeding promotion message to change, majority of them asked for more realistic messages. On women appealed
“Honest real information about how hard it can be to latch on, things you can do to help latch, most common issues and solutions to those. How it can hurt, its normal to struggle at the start, information about growth spurts, more information on how milk production actually works so mums can then make informed decisions on feeding’’
Breastfeeding isn’t easy at all, but if you prepare yourself with real knowledge about what it is and what to expect then it becomes more achievable.
Learn about breastfeeding as much as you can while you are pregnant. If your birth center or hospital offers a breastfeeding class-sign up for it. If you prefer reading a physical book, I recommend THIS one . It offers some of the best advice about breastfeeding.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the information you read, to make it easier for you, I have listed couple of things that you should know about breastfeeding in the first few days.
First few hours after Birth
Newborns are awake and alert in first 1-2 hours after birth. If everything is normal, put your baby skin-to-skin on your chest and breastfeed in first two hours when they are wide awake.
You can continue doing skin-to-skin as much as possible for first few weeks as it prompts baby’s feeding reflexes and your milk production.
Related reading: Breastfeeding in the first few days
Milk supply and Feeding schedule
Keep in mind that you won’t start making milk right after delivery. It will take 4-5 days to make a mature milk. To establish your milk supply, frequent feeding is very important. Breastfeeding works on a supply and demand basis – you will produce as much milk as your baby demands.
Also, newborn’s stomach is like a cherry and they do not eat more that 1-2 tablespoon of colostrum (first breast milk) at each feeding so it is important to feed them often – 10 to 12 times a day. Not to scare you but, feeding session in those early days can last from 10 – 45 mins.
- Related reading: How to Increase Milk Supply for Breastfeeding: Natural Remedies
- Related reading: 17 Natural Ways to Produce More Breast Milk
Watch your baby
If your baby loses a birth weight in first 3 days, do not panic!! It is expected for newborn to lose 5-7% of birth weight. Also, keep track of enough wet and dirty diaper in first few days.
Check your Baby’s Latch
It is hard for some moms and their babies to latch on right after birth. Baby may need a time to learn how to latch. While you are at the hospital, call nurse or on-site lactation consultant to examine your latch every time you feed your baby. It is okay to ask for help as many times as you want.
Remember, breastfeeding positions and latching may not feel comfortable in the beginning, but it gets better as you do it more often.
2. Take a Breastfeeding Class
When I was pregnant with my first one, I relied on free information available via you tube. Information you get is still overwhelming and most of the time you don’t know what you should look for. I started my breastfeeding journey unprepared and I regretted it as soon as I found myself making breastfeeding mistakes.
I do not want you to make a same breastfeeding mistake that I made. For that reason, I recommend you to take this 90-minute online breastfeeding class taught by board certified lactation educator.
From how your milk production works to latching and breastfeeding position to how to deal with common breastfeeding issues, THIS course has it all. This course will prepare you to head start your breastfeeding journey to success!
Read my full review on Best Online Breastfeeding Class for New Mom here
3. Have your Breast Examine
You may want to have your breasts examined by your health care provider to make sure they are medically and physically okay for breastfeeding. For instance, if you have a flat nipples or inverted nipples you can take necessary steps during pregnancy to pull them out for better breastfeeding experience.
4. Include Feeding plan in your Birth plan
When you make your birth plan, mention that you intend to breastfeed your baby right after delivery. Also include things like where your baby sleep? Is it OK for medical staff to offer pacifier to your baby? And what happen if baby gets separated from you after delivery?
5. Sit in Local Breastfeeding Support group
You may also want to attend a local La Leche League (LLL) breastfeeding meeting. It will give you an idea of the breastfeeding mistakes that many women make and challenges that many women face, and you will know where to go for help should your own problem arise.
- For Canada: Click here to find La Leche League meeting near you.
- For USA: Click here to find La Leche League meeting near you.
6. Find a Lactation Consultant
Find an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in your area and choose one that makes house calls in you prefer while you are still pregnant. Having lactation consultant lined up during pregnancy will save you from stress of finding one when you desperately need one.
- For Canada, Click here to find Lactation Consultant in your area
- For USA, Click here to find Lactation Consultant in your area
7. Ask for help
Your baby will want to breastfeed every 1 to 2 hours within in the first few days. Having support from a family member is very important so you can concentrate on building your breastfeeding relationship with your baby rather then worry about chores and meal for family. Ask for help from your partner, mother, sister or in-laws who are willing to come and help you for first few days.
I was fortunate enough to have my mom helping me out for first month after my baby was born. She took care of meals for family and my husband helped out with chores. I just nested with my baby for a month.
8. Create Comfy Place for Breastfeeding
Creating a comfy place in your home for breastfeeding is very important because you will be spending most of your time in that place for first few days. You will need a comfortable place to seat, pillow, something to put up your feet and place where you can put your you phone, remote, favorite beverages (you will get thirsty a lot!!) and snack.
9. Stock up on Breastfeeding Essentials
It is obvious that for breastfeeding you need yourself and your baby, but there are other essential items that can make breastfeeding much easier. While educating yourself and getting help is prime important before going into experience, having breastfeeding gears on hands make a huge difference in the first few days. Let’s look at the gears that every breastfeeding mother should have:
Nipple Crème: It is a life saver in the first few days. I couldn’t survive breastfeeding in earlier days without having my Earthmama Organic Nipple Butter. Unlike any other brand, consistency is smooth and friction less, and is less gooey. I have tried many brands, but this one was best for tender nipples and it healed cracked nipple fairly quickly. This nipple crème is must have for your diaper bag to bring to the hospital.
Breast Gel Pads: These gel pad comes in handy to heal cracked nipples. I suffered from a very bad cracked nipple after 7 days of nursing and it was very painful to continue. But Lansinoh Soothies Breast Gel Pads were like godsend. These pads are very soothing and provided instant cooling effect to heal sore nipples.
Absorbent Breast pads: Lansinoh breast pads are soft and super absorbent. I would recommend getting disposable ones because washable pads do not sustain its softness after couple of wash. I tried washable ones and hated them. Also, you have many things to worry about and washing breast pad shouldn’t be one of them.
Comfortable Maternity bra: For the first few days you need one size bigger comfortable pull away bra. Before you invest into multiple bras, wait for your milk supply to adjust and your breast to come to a size. This one is very soft and is available in many sizes.
Nursing Pillow: Nursing pillow will be your next new friend once your baby arrives. You will get numerous uses out of it. Get your Boppy or this one for proper positioning your baby during breastfeeding and to save you from back, neck, and shoulder pain.
Nursing Covers: You won’t be going out in public in the first few days except for the doctor’s visit. For feeding at the doctor’s office, this nursing cover is perfect. It is very soft and stretchy enough to be used a car seat cover.
Breast Pump: Breast pumps are very useful when you want to boost your milk supply. Specially when you are planning to return to work, you can pump after each feeding session to freeze breast milk for the baby for later use. Most insurance company covers the cost of it. All you need is prescription for it from your health care provider. The best ones are Medela pump in style or Spectra S1.
Large Cup with Straw: Breastfeeding makes you really thirsty. Drinking lots of water is essential to produce breast milk. I loved this cup with straw to make drinking water easy single-handed. I tried opening a lid of water bottle and it was way too hard to do it with one hand.
If you are someone who does not like water, not to worry!! You can try these amazing beverages, that not only quench your thirst but also helps boost your milk supply.
Stock up on Healthy Snacks: You will be hungry all.the.time!! Stock up on healthy nutrient dense snacks like this granola bars, lactation cookies, trail mix. You can also make a several batches of cookie and freeze it while you are pregnant. You will find tons of idea on Pinterest. It will come in handy when you are busy with your little one.
Do I need to prepare my nipples for breastfeeding?
No, your body is doing everything it need to do to prepare for breastfeeding.
During pregnancy, due to hormonal surge, you will notice that areola around nipple become darker and nipple changes in texture. These changes help to prepare your nipples for breastfeeding.
As suggested earlier, you can ask your healthcare practitioner for physical and medical check up on your breast while you are pregnant. They will rule out in case you have inverted or flat nipple and suggest necessary steps to correct it. At home, you can do nipple pinch test or stimulate your nipple to see if it is flat or inverted.
Can you pump before baby is born?
You may not want to pump your breast before your baby is born. According to Kellymom, pumping prior to birth will not increase your milk production for your unborn child or otherwise enhance lactation after birth.
If you are hoping to induce labor during late pregnancy, nipple stimulation can be helpful for ripening the cervix.
- Related reading: Birth it up! Natural Series : Online Childbirth Class Review 2020
- Related reading: Birth It Up! Epidural Series: Online Childbirth Class Review 2020
Is it OK to massage breast while pregnant?
During pregnancy, a rush of hormones can cause swelling in the breasts, resulting in discomfort, soreness and sensitivity. Breast Massage can be relaxing and an ideal way to reduce these discomforts and make the mom-to-be more comfortable. Not only breast massage help relieve breast soreness, but also helps prevent stretch marks in pregnant women.
One research study suggests that 15-minute breast massage applied with almond oil during pregnancy reduced the development of stretch mark compared to applying only almond oil without massage (2).
Here you go mama, another good reason to introduce breast massage during pregnancy.
Do nipples get crusty during pregnancy?
During second or third trimester, you might notice your nipples leaking colostrum (golden initial milk that breastfeeding mothers produce soon after the birth of the baby). This concentrated milk can dry and crust your nipple during pregnancy.
Should I clean my nipples during pregnancy?
You may not want to wash your nipples hoarsely with soaps. During pregnancy, your breasts are getting ready to produce milk. Glands surrounding the areola gets bigger. These glands naturally moisturize and protect the areola and the nipple. So, you don’t want to interfere with this process by causing dryness using soap. You can simply wash with warm water during shower and pat dry.
Breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby. It may not be easy in the beginning but being proactive and learning hows and whys of breastfeeding makes it a lot easier.
I highly recommend taking Breastfeeding class and getting essential gears to head start your breastfeeding success while pregnant.
How About You?
How did you prepare yourself for breastfeeding during pregnancy? Leave your comment below.
- Amy Brown. What Do Women Really Want? Lessons for Breastfeeding Promotion and Education. Breastfeeding Medicine.Apr 2016.102-110.http://doi.org/10.1089/bfm.2015.0175
- Timur Taşhan S, Kafkasli A. The effect of bitter almond oil and massaging on striae gravidarum in primiparaous women. J Clin Nurs. 2012 Jun;21(11-12):1570-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2012.04087.x. PubMed PMID: 22594386.