Preparing to Breastfeed: 5 Crucial Steps to Take
When I was pregnant with my first, I spent A LOT of time reading. Now, this was 15 years ago back in the cave men days before Facebook, before the glossy breastfeeding photos on Instagram…and yes. Twitter didn’t even exist. #yupimveryold
So yes, this meant I read books, magazines, and grilled my mother with questions. However, one thing I didn’t spend a lot of time on was preparing to breastfeed. I was so obsessed with figuring out how I could grow my baby without accidentally poisoning him with listeria, excess sugar, or environmental pollution, that breastfeeding was the last thing on my mind. But there are a few important things to think about in regards to breastfeeding, prior to your baby’s birth. Here are just a few of them . . .
1. Read information and seek information from lactation professionals…not just any ‘ol medical professional.
Unfortunately everyone has an opinion on if, when and how to breastfeed…even if they have little understanding or knowledge on breastfeeding! You’d be amazed (and shocked) at the things women are told. Maybe you’ve been told some of this yourself. The best people to seek help from are those who specialize in breastfeeding. These include International Board Certified Lactation Consultants or volunteer breastfeeding counselors who offer mother to mother support from women who have breastfed their own children.
2. Get to know your breasts!
Pregnancy is a great time to go over any concerns you have about your breasts. We want to make sure you have breast growth and changes during pregnancy. You do not have to grow 3 cup sizes, but some growth during pregnancy is a good sign that your body is doing exactly what it needs to do in preparation for lactation. Also have a look at your nipples. Do you have inverted nipples or “flat” nipples and are concerned your baby might have a hard time latching on? This is a great conversation to have with an IBCLC before your baby arrives. You can talk about the different options you have if your baby struggles to latch on.
3. Understand what is normal with pain.
There is a lot of confusion over painful breastfeeding and whether or not it is normal. In the early days you might feel some pain. HOWEVER, the pain should just be a bit “ouchy”, not toe curling pain, and should subside 10-20 seconds after your baby latches. You might feel this for the first week or two. If the pain lasts the whole feed though and is more then just a mild “ouchy” pain it is crucial to seek help from a volunteer breastfeeding counselor or International Board Certified Lactation Consultant to get to the bottom of why you are feeling pain (or have damage).
It is NOT NORMAL to have ongoing pain and/or damage. The earlier you can get help the better. In the vast majority of cases it will just be a case of getting the latch worked out (remember breastfeeding is a learning process for both baby and mother)!
4. Just like birth, prepare for EVERYTHING.
If you want to exclusively breastfeed make sure to feed on demand (when baby asks for it) and hang out with your baby skin-to-skin in the early months, as this will help encourage your baby to breastfeed frequently. Also, make sure you know the signs that your baby is getting enough before you give birth. This way you will not be stressing! It comes down to a few simple things…
- Baby does not lose more than 7-10% of their birth weight.
- Baby is generally content after most feeds.
- After your milk comes in, baby has 2-3 poops and at least 5 very wet diapers in a 24 hour period.
5. Make sure you have an understanding of what is normal with breastfed babies.
If you know what is normal behavior then you will have realistic expectations! Here are some of the most important to mention:
- Your baby will not want to be put down.
- Your baby will want to sleep with a cuddle and your nipple in their mouth!
- Your baby will be happiest when sleeping near or with you.
- Your baby will not breastfeed on a schedule.
- Your baby will probably not sleep through the night for a long time.
- You will sometimes love . . . and sometimes hate breastfeeding.
Human babies are born very immaturely compared to many other mammals and have a very long stage of infancy. Our babies don’t even walk unassisted until they are about one year old! They rely heavily on us for everything and the frequent cuddles and breastfeed they ask for are what helps them grow and develop. Just hang out with your baby as much as possible in the early months. It sounds simple but is the most important thing you can do to help establish breastfeeding.