Preparing to Breastfeed Your Baby

Importance of a Babymoon

If you are planning to breastfeed your baby, it's a good idea to do some preparation in advance. This can make it easier and more comfortable for you when you begin breastfeeding your new baby.

This will also give you time to think about why you want to breastfeed and why it is so important to you. Knowing this will give you determine if breastfeeding doesn't come as easily as you had hoped.

Educate Yourself

During your pregnancy, learn as much as you can about breastfeeding. There are many online sources that have good, detailed information about breastfeeding, including the international Le Leche League website.

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Inform yourself about the basics and common obstacles that may come up. Some childbirth education classes cover the basics of breastfeeding. You may also wish to take a breastfeeding class during your pregnancy.

This will give you and your partner a chance to learn directly from an experienced person, speak with other women and couples, and give you and your spouse some time to talk about breastfeeding and what it means for your family.

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These classes are informative for dad, too. They can give him an idea of what his role will be while you are breastfeeding the baby and how he can bond with the baby in other ways.

Establish Support

Tell all of your friends and family about your plans to breastfeed during your pregnancy. This will give you a chance to establish support from your loved ones. If you know anyone who has experience breastfeeding, ask them if they would be willing to be “on call” when the baby is born if you have questions or concerns.

Research your local breastfeeding resources such as breastfeeding support groups, breastfeeding peer counselors, and lactation consultants and write down all of the names and numbers that you can. You should also discuss your plans to breastfeed with your chosen pediatrician and make sure that he or she is supportive of this choice.

All of this will establish your ‘breastfeeding support network'. The more resources you have, the more likely you will be to breastfeed successfully.

Get Off to a Good Start

A good breastfeeding relationship starts at the moment of birth for both you and your baby. Studies also suggest that the course of your labor is very important to how the first attempts at breastfeeding will go. Natural labor with no drugs (including epidural) that is allowed to take place without the use of Pitocin or other augmentation will give you and your baby the best chance at a great start in breastfeeding.

Start out by choosing a care provider that supports your wishes for labor and birth. Write all of your wishes down in a birth plan, signed by your care provider. Keep a copy with you if you plan to give birth at a hospital, and present it to your nurse when you get there.

Remind everyone who will be caring for you and your baby that you plan to exclusively breastfeed and that you do not authorize the use of formula. If you can, “room in” with your baby in the hospital and keep your baby with you at all times. This will allow you to bond with your baby and nurse him or her on demand.

What to Buy

Some basic products you should consider purchasing include nursing bras, nursing tops and/or nursing camisoles, breast pads, a breast pump, and lanolin.

A comfortable and affordable hand breast pump is sufficient for most women. If you plan on pumping and returning to work, you'll probably want to invest in a good electric breast pump.

The regular use of lanolin will keep your nipples from becoming too sore and cracking or bleeding during the first few weeks of breastfeeding.

Early Intervention

It is wise to meet with a lactation consultant during your pregnancy. She can inform you of how to prepare for breastfeeding as well as assess you to check for flat or inverted nipples. If they are flat or inverted, it can be very beneficial to prepare using a pump and to learn how to use nipple shields should the need arise.

The most important thing to remember is to get help immediately if you are having trouble breastfeeding. Problems such as a bad latch, poor positioning, milk supply issues, etc, are best dealt with as soon as they arise.

Vanessa Pruitt, PLMHP, MS