Pregnant moms-to-be: Have you thought about preparing for breastfeeding yet?
It’s tempting to get so wrapped up in planning and thinking about our labor and birth (and the nursery color scheme!) that we can easily forget that we actually have to care for our sweet littles once they’re out.
One of the biggest areas of concern for first-time-moms is breastfeeding. And it should be – it’s a huge deal both in terms of nourishment and comfort of the baby, as well as commitment and work for the new mother.
Unfortunately breastfeeding—as natural as it is—can also be difficult for some.
Every woman experiences it differently – some with very little problem, others with challenges they never even dreamed of.
Although there’s no way of knowing for certain how exactly your body and baby will respond, there are a few measures you can take to prepare yourself.
Here are seven simple ways to help you get ready for taking on the breastfeeding learning curve.
1) Get educated.
Attend a breastfeeding class, find some breastfeeding resources online, read an informative book, and/or ask to speak with a lactation consultant if possible. You can’t put a pricetag on good information and it will help empower you for the journey and task ahead! Learn about the benefits of breastfeeding, the mechanics of it, the stages of how your breasts and milk change and develop, as well as the common difficulties that women encounter (latch issues, engorgement, blocked ducts, mastitis, etc). The more you know, the more likely you are to perservere in the event that things get off to a rocky start. (One of the best comprehensive online resources I’ve found is www.kellymom.com)
2) Get talking.
As much as you’re able, try to share your desires to breastfeed as well as how it all works with your partner. Talk about your reasons/motivations, your goals and level of commitment, as well as how it all works. Also talk about some of the potential issues that commonly arise and the fact that the first several weeks can be tricky. (Assure him that it normally gets easier and more “normal” by about week six, if not sooner.) It will help him to feel a little more included as he looks on from the outside to this special part of parenthood reserved exclusively for mothers. If he feels informed and included he’s much more likely to support you (and understand why you are trying to stick with it in the event a problem arises). Ideally, get him to attend a breastfeeding information workshop with you.
3) Get friends.
Try to find two or three mom-friends who have sucessfully breastfed their babies that you can call on when you need to. Most likely you will have questions as you go and you’ll need real-time support in some form or another – whether it’s another woman to problem-solve with or just for a word of encouragement in a moment of difficulty. Experienced friends can be a lifesaver.
4) Get soothies.
Buy some soothies or other similar gel pads that can be refrigerated between uses. These simple pads help sooth sore nipples between feeds and are especially helpful during the first few weeks while your breasts are adjusting to all of the changes. (And your sweet little cherub/barracuda!) An experienced friend sent me some when I had my first baby and they were the best gift I didn’t know I needed! (Tip: if you can’t find gel pads in a store near you, or just don’t want to spend the money, you can also use frozen cabbage leaves to accomplish the same cooling sensation.)
5) Get supplies.
Have a box of breast pads on hand to absorb excess milk so you don’t get stuck with embarassing leaky boobs in public (or have to do any more laundry than you absolutely have to). You should also pick up a small tube of Lansinoh nipple cream (or another recommended brand) in case you get sore, cracked nipples. Be warned though – don’t go stockpiling these things because you may not end up needing them. (Leaking isn’t a given – I never did end up using more than a few breast pads. Of course that did mean a couple of my friends were very grateful for my unused donations!)
6) Get support.
Literally. As in… nursing tanks or bras! I’m personally a big fan of nursing tank tops. They are so comfortable and easy to get started in since you don’t have to mess with both a bra and a shirt at once. (Invaluable for those first few weeks and the steep learning curve.) Use them on their own or use them under another shirt so that your belly isn’t exposed when you lift up your normal shirt (awkward!). I used nursing tanks around the clock when I started breastfeeding since they also provide a comfortable way to remain supported at night. Two years later you can still catch me sporting these tanks. LOVE them!!
7) Get covered.
Many people aren’t comfortable with public breastfeeding. If this is you, buy or make a nursing cover. It will help you feel more private and confident to breastfeed in front of others if you have a simple cover-up that allows for privacy without getting in the way of you and baby. A nursing cover allows you to see your baby (and see as you adjust yourself), and the strap that goes around your neck leaves you hands free to hold and adjust as needed. I used my nursing cover all. the. time. during my first few months breastfeeding and have since bought them as baby shower gifts for nearly all of my pregnant friends. (Warning: there comes a time when most babies disdain these covers which limit their curious, growing minds and ability to look around while they feed! By then you should be much more comfortable with your own abilities and body anyway, so most likely it won’t be a drama.)
Dear friends, are you a mom-to-be who is planning on breastfeeding? I hope these tips have been helpful for you. Have you learned anything?? And for the old pros out there, any tips you’d add to my list?