Are you pregnant and already preparing to breastfeed? Congratulations! Sometimes it’s hard to think about breastfeeding when you are in the last stages of pregnancy and focused on labor and birth. But I’ve found that mothers who prepare ahead of time for breastfeeding have the greatest chances for success. As I like to remind new moms-to-be, although labor and birth are “natural,” nobody expects you to go it alone. The same holds true for breastfeeding. So if you follow these tips, you’ll already be well on your way to having a great breastfeeding experience.
Find your champions
The first thing you can do in preparation for breastfeeding, is to think about who your supporters will be. First, discuss the fact that you plan to breastfeed with your partner. Is your partner supportive? He probably knows very little about breastfeeding – so this is the perfect opportunity for you to learn together. Why not take a prenatal breastfeeding class or attend a breastfeeding support group together? You’ll need your partner’s support in the early days and weeks of breastfeeding. Mothers who have the support of a partner, family or friend often find breastfeeding to be easier. After all, you will be providing all of your baby’s nutrition in those early days and weeks, and you’ll need somebody to cheer you on! Keep in mind, everyone will want to give you advice and opinions – and a lot of it will be incorrect. If you are contemplating the advice of family or friends, it’s important for you to know whether or not they have personal experience successfully breastfeeding.. Another mom who has successfully breastfed for six months or more is usually a good resource. In addition to family support, you need to think about where you will get professional support.
Seek professional support
While mom-to-mom advice is meaningful, lactation professionals are extremely helpful with basic breastfeeding as well as breastfeeding challenges. Lactation consultants – or “IBCLCs” (International Board Certified Lactation Consultants) as they are known, typically have years of experience working with breastfeeding mothers, and know how to best help moms succeed with their breastfeeding goals. You should definitely connect with an IBCLC if you know that you have some specific challenges such as inverted nipples or a history of breast surgery. If you think you need to meet with a lactation consultant prenatally for any reason, then you are probably right. Talk to other moms, find out who the lactation professionals are in your community – and make an appointment.
Stock your library
I always suggest that moms buy a good book on breastfeeding. The expectation is not that you have to read it cover-to-cover before the baby is born. However, looking through it, and having it handy for times when questions pop up can be immensely useful. There are plenty of good books to choose from – “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding,” is a classic and helpful book to have. For other good suggestions, check out this list of quality books: http://www.bellybelly.com.au/breastfeeding/best-breastfeeding-books/
Make a plan for home
Now that you have a good support system in place, and a good book by your side, it’s time to think about your first weeks at home. Most moms would agree, you need to expect to be tired. Don’t fight it – just accept it. Your baby needs you almost constantly in those early weeks – she’s a baby! Prior to having a baby, you may have measured your success by how much you could accomplish in a day. If this sounds like you – be prepared to redefine your priorities after your baby is here. With a new baby, you’ll be accomplishing quite a bit – loving and nourishing another human being for example! But things like laundry, shopping, cleaning and cooking are going to have to take a back seat for awhile. Don’t be too proud to ask for help. Most people are more than happy to lend a hand – so let them!
Expect the Unexpected
Finally, be prepared for some bumps along the breastfeeding road. Like most things in life – it won’t always be smooth sailing with breastfeeding. But there is help available, so go with the flow, and reach out for help if you need it – and you will be well on your way to successfully breastfeeding your new little baby!