In theory, there is very little you need to do to prepare for breastfeeding. Women have been doing it for millions of years and done a perfectly fine job or you and I wouldn’t even be here!
However, some of us have the personalities (mine included!!!) that we need to prepare and plan in order to have the confidence to try anything new…because if we take on something as important as feeding our babies…we want to do it right and be confident that we will know what we are doing!
Here are some things you can do to give yourself the confidence to know that when you finally meet your new little sweetie for the first time, you will be able to breastfeed with ease.
Top 10 Ways to Prepare for Breastfeeding Before Baby Arrives
Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things you will do as a parent, yet there are so many decisions to make. Will you breastfeed exclusively? On demand? In public? How will you incorporate pacifiers, or maybe you shouldn’t at all?
The more you think about these issues now, the more confident you will feel making the final decisions with your newborn in your arms. You may end up with an entirely different breastfeeding routine than you plan right now, but that doesn’t mean planning isn’t important.
This list will guide you through the most important decisions while delivering a good introduction to breastfeeding for new mothers. Use it to start conversations with your loved ones and stock up on supplies that can make your breastfeeding experience more comfortable and successful.
1. Understand your options while leaving room for flexibility.
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to how you breastfeed your baby. You may even change your approach over time and from one child to another. There are so many factors that determine when, how often, and how long you breastfeed, including your lifestyle and the needs of your baby during various stages of growth.
At a minimum, you should plan to breastfeed for at least six months. Many parents continue breastfeeding for a year or even two years.
The following list will give you some additional options to think about:
- Exclusive Breastfeeding – Breastfeeding exclusively gives your baby a continuous flow of breast milk to maximize the health benefits. You don’t need bottles and never have to worry about mixing or heating up a bottle. The downside is you can’t hand the act of feeding off to another family member and need to remain physically present for each feeding.
- Bottle Supplementation – Some families do need to supplement with bottles, either from the start or at some later point. For instance, you may want to continue breastfeeding after you return to work, or you may need other family members to feed the baby so that you get more rest. There’s no shame in using a bottle. Make the best decision for your family, and don’t hesitate to try something new when needed.
- Breastfeeding on Demand – This term refers to the act of breastfeeding whenever your baby demands rather than on a set schedule. That is the best way to keep your baby satisfied while ensuring the little one gets the nourishment they need. In most cases, your baby will fall into a schedule of their own over time.
- Pumping – Bottle supplementation doesn’t require formula. You can pump breast milk and store it in the fridge or freezer for later use. You will need a high-quality pump, bottles, nipples, storage bags, and perhaps a bottle warmer.
- Public Breastfeeding – There are times you may need to feed your baby while away from home. This is a controversial issue today, so it’s never too early to start thinking about your position and how you will handle it after your baby is born.
2. Invest in a supportive bra designed for breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding naturally leads to larger breasts, and your baby will need easy access to your nipples when away from home. We’ll discuss breastfeeding covers in a moment, but it’s just as important to buy a nursing bra that fits you properly. The functionality of folding down a flap of fabric to free your nipples is critical, but you also want comfort around the band.
When at home, you may find tank tops and loose pajama tops the most comfortable. A tank top with a built-in bra shelf can provide a little support while allowing you to relax. There are still times when you will want the support of a bra.
3. Stock up on bra pads to protect against leaking.
Bra pads tuck into your bra to soak up any milk that may leak between feedings. You never know when a feeding will be unexpectedly delayed or your baby will decide to sleep through a routine feeding. Even getting off work a bit later than expected can lead to a leak. In fact, leaks sometimes happen even when your breastfeeding schedule has been perfectly timed and your breasts don’t feel engorged.
Disposable bra pads are convenient, and you can store them in your car, purse, and other areas to ensure you always have a pad on hand. Reusable pads are more economical and are often softer against your breasts.
4. Invest in at least a couple coverups, even if you don’t intend to breastfeed in public.
There are a variety of coverup styles that will allow you to breastfeed in public without worrying about inappropriate exposure. Some of the most popular options include:
- Breastfeeding Ponchos – You can wear a poncho all day if needed, slipping the baby underneath for fast and discreet breastfeeding. They have a stylish look that won’t tell the world you’re a breastfeeding mother.
- Multi-Use Covers – Some covers will surround your upper body for feeding sessions while serving double duty as a cover for your stroller and car seat. You can’t wear these covers all day, but they’re useful even beyond breastfeeding.
- Breastfeeding Aprons – An apron will wrap around your neck and cover only your front side. They’re convenient to drop over your head for fast feedings when you have company in your home.
- Infinity Scarves for Breastfeeding – These oversized scarves can make a fashion statement when not in use. They slip over the head quickly and surround the baby with soft, lightweight fabric at feeding time.
You may also use oversized shirts or loose jackets as coverups. Even baby blankets will work as long as they provide adequate coverage without feeling too heavy on your baby.
5. Study the laws regarding breastfeeding in public.
While many mothers breastfeed in public without problems, others do experience negative reactions from others around them. You may want to start scoping out quiet corners or secluded areas that may allow you to breastfeed in areas you frequently visit.
Make sure you understand your rights and any state laws that may impact your breastfeeding habits away from home. Some breastfeeding parents keep a printed copy of applicable laws on hand just in case they run into a problem.
7. Study the laws regarding breastfeeding at work.
If you go back to work while breastfeeding, your employer is required to provide a safe, private space for breast pumping. Study the laws and talk to your employer about accommodations prior to returning to work.
8. Ask about the availability of lactation consultants and other professionals at your hospital or birthing center.
Lactation consultants are breastfeeding professionals trained to help new mothers and babies master the physical process of breastfeeding. You may also find some doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals have similar expertise. Working with a professional when you first start breastfeeding can help diagnose and resolve improper latching and other problems that may lead to sore breasts, clogged pores, and other painful, frustrating occurrences.
It’s worth asking about your access to lactation consultants soon after giving birth. They can increase your chances of breastfeeding comfortably and successfully from day one.
8. Buy cream or ointment for your nipples.
Sore nipples can occur even if your baby has a strong, effective latch. Some mothers also experience dry skin or cracking around the nipples, which can become an even bigger problem if your baby does struggle to develop a natural, appropriate latch.
Rubbing breast milk on the nipples can soothe and relieve your nipples quickly, but it also helps to have a cream or balm on hand for longer lasting relief. Make sure to select a product designed for breastfeeding that is healthy for your breastfeeding baby.
9. Plan to massage your breasts lightly throughout the day and while in the shower.
You can lower your risk of clogged milk ducts by cleansing your breasts often and gently massaging the full breast. Many women find it relaxing to massage their breasts while standing in a warm shower or relaxing in the bathtub. Make it a form of self-care that keeps your breasts healthy while breastfeeding.
10. Enlist the Support of your Doctor
If you haven’t already, make sure that you have found a doctor that fully supports breastfeeding.
Especially if different circumstances arise during and after childbirth, this person can have a great impact on your breastfeeding success or failure.
Find a doctor who will become a cheerleader for you in this chapter of your life!
11. Plan for Your Baby’s Birth
One important step as you prepare for breastfeeding, is to determine where your baby will be born and who will be helping you care for your infant immediately after birth.
I typed out and signed a sheet of paper giving the nursing staff at the hospitals where I gave birth specific written instructions regarding both my care and my baby’s care. This included instructions that my baby was to be brought to me to be exclusively breastfed and that no pacifiers were to be given.
Just a warning…the nursing staff probably will try to talk you into the pacifier, water, or a bottle and will tell you that it is “no big deal.” Trust us experienced mommies…they are just trying to make their life a little easier on that work day…not do what is best for you.
Stick to your plan. You will be glad that you did.
12. Prepare for Breastfeeding by Finding a Good Pediatrician
When you prepare for breastfeeding, another helpful advocate for breastfeeding is a good pediatrician. If you love your OB/Gyn, ask for a reference. Ask other breastfeeding mothers who they would recommend.
Make sure the doctor and their staff are open to phone calls, questions, and have schedules that allow for last minute appointments. Especially if this is your first baby, you will need their assistance.
13. Take a Breastfeeding Class or Watch a Video
Many hospitals offer breastfeeding classes at very reasonable rates for new mommies to prepare for breastfeeding. Take advantage of them and bring daddy along! You will both learn about the advantages of breastfeeding, what to expect and will be able to ask any questions that you may have.
This was a very important step in gaining the support of my sweet husband! He heard and saw what to expect and it definitely changed his viewpoint!
If you can’t get to a class, the next best thing would be to watch a video. If you want to see our favorite choices for breastfeeding videos or to watch a short one online, click here.
14. Establish a Support System
Besides your baby’s daddy, make sure that you have support system in place as you prepare for breastfeeding. You will want to have others around to ask questions and support you while nursing.
If you don’t have anyone around who can provide that support, join a breastfeeding support group, like La Leche League, while you are still pregnant. They can be a huge help!
If you are planning on returning to work, you will also want to find a babysitter, nanny or childcare provider who is supportive of breastfeeding.
If you are a modern mom planning on a natural childbirth, a great resource for you is the Hip Chick Pregnancy Guide.com. This will put your mind at ease about how wonderful the birthing process can be.
15. Your Breastfeeding Checklist
One of the most beautiful things about nursing is that you don’t need a lot of supplies and stuff. You don’t need to make sure that you have enough clean bottles and cans of formula to get you by.
However, there are some supplies that you may want to have on hand to make the transition from pregnant woman to nursing mother just a little bit easier. Make a list of those things that you want to have on hand. (If you need help with your list, click here.) Then when the big day arrives, you are more than prepared!
This list will prepare you for the physical experience of breastfeeding, but some of the best experiences are emotional. Think of breastfeeding as your opportunity to bond with the newest member of your family. While the early days of motherhood are often exhausting and overwhelming, you can also look forward to tender moments that touch your heart for a lifetime.
Learning about breastfeeding and preparing yourself in advance is smart. Just don’t spend so much time looking or tips and tricks that you overthink the process. It’s a natural adventure that you and your baby will likely master quickly and smoothy once you have the time to practice together.
Other Articles You Might Like:
- The Best Nursing Bra is a Good Fit (Even for a Changing Body!)
- Breastfeeding Myths Vs. Real Facts
- How to Breastfeed – Success for Beginners in the First Few Weeks