It’s hard to know how breastfeeding will go as there are so many mixed messages about breastfeeding floating around. For every person that states breastfeeding is “natural and easy,” there’s another who will share sentiments such as, “It’s really, really hard and you should expect the worst.”
The reality is that every mother-baby dyad has a unique breastfeeding experience. For some new moms breastfeeding initiation does go rather smoothly. Other moms encounter breastfeeding challenges, such as a baby with difficulty latching, low milk supply, tongue tie, and/or pain and discomfort while feeding.
Preparing to Breastfeed while Pregnant
One of the best ways to prepare for your first time breastfeeding is to meet with a lactation consultant during your pregnancy. They can review your medical and pregnancy history and help to anticipate any breastfeeding problems that might occur. Certain groups of women are at a higher risk of breastfeeding problems, including those with a history of previous breast surgery, infertility, hormonal problems like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or hypothyroidism, and pregnancy-related complications, including pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes.
It’s important to know ahead of time if you are in one of these “high risk” groups so that you can be sure to get appropriate breastfeeding help after you deliver.
It’s also helpful for pregnant women who plan to breastfeed to spend time with and talk to family members and friends who have breastfed. You might learn that some mothers who end up breastfeeding the longest and seem to be the most “successful” at it actually struggled and needed a lot of help with breastfeeding at first.
Breastfeeding planning includes researching and choosing which supplies and equipment will be needed. Breastfeeding supplies to consider include nursing bras, breast pads, nipple cream, and nursing pillows. Moms who know they will eventually need to pump should also research breast pumps and accessories ahead of time, so that they can have a good idea of which pumps will suit their needs.
Mothers who work outside of the home will often need a double electric breast pump to use during their longer periods of separation from their babies, while those who plan to only occasionally pump, i.e. for an evening out, might only need a hand pump or a portable battery-powered pump.
Preparing for breastfeeding also includes locating and creating a comfortable breastfeeding space in your home. This might end up being a cozy living room couch filled with pillows and blankets, or a rocking chair and footrest in a quiet corner of your bedroom.
Having a peaceful and soothing location to breastfeed your baby mapped out ahead of time can be very helpful in the days and weeks after birth as you and your baby get to know each other and learn to breastfeed. A friend of mine who is a lactation educator calls this “preparing your breastfeeding nest."
Preparing for the Fourth Trimester
Most parents set up their baby’s nursery, make sure that they have all necessary baby equipment on hand, and work out their birth and delivery plans ahead of time. However, many couples neglect to prepare for new mothers’ unique needs during the postpartum period. The “fourth trimester,” which refers to the weeks and months following delivery, are a major physical, mental, and emotional transition for new mothers. Nurturing and taking care of new moms during the fourth trimester promotes healing from labor and delivery, mother-newborn bonding, and the establishment of successful breastfeeding.
Fourth trimester preparation can include asking family members, friends, and neighbors to help with cooking, cleaning, and other chores and errands during the postpartum period. It can also include being prepared to set limits on the numbers of visitors during the first few weeks after delivery until breastfeeding is established. In addition, some couples will arrange fourth trimester visits with support figures, such as doulas and lactation consultants.
In conclusion, the best way to prepare for and support breastfeeding is to recognize that the needs of the mother-baby dyad should be prioritized over everything else during the first weeks to months after birth. Learning about breastfeeding, anticipating risk factors, and researching equipment and supplies are helpful. Also, having a breast pump is an essential part of preparing to breast feed. To see if you can get a free breast pump through insurance, fill out our qualify form!
Information provided in blogs should not be used as a substitute for medical care or consultation.