Are You Ready for Breastfeeding?
We hear “breast is best” and we plan to breastfeed, but how can we prepare for those first few weeks nursing our little one when we are still pregnant? Here are some great tips for making sure you’re ready.
1. Understand the process
Read, learn and ask questions about breastfeeding through classes, books and/or websites, La Leche League meetings, midwife or doctor appointments. Understand how breastmilk is made, different positions in which to breastfeed, and also how your partner or other family members can support you in this decision.
Plan on doing skin-to-skin with your baby at birth. Skin-to-skin is also known as Kangaroo Care and doesn’t just keep the baby with you – it gives you and your little one an opportunity to communicate with each other. It has taken nine months for this little one to grow inside you, and right after birth, your chest is your child’s natural habitat. Skin-to-skin helps control the baby’s temperature, stabilize blood sugar, regulate breathing and heart rates and it gives the baby access to the breast. Many babies initiate breastfeeding with simple cues shortly after birth and this gives mum and babe a chance to watch and learn from each other.
3. Understand what is normal
Expectations (as well as emotions) are high after birth. Between baby’s needs, appointments, visitors, sleep (and the lack of it), emotional highs and lows, and relationship changes, it is hard to understand what all is happening and why. Familiarize yourself with what is normal before your little one is born. Understand the feeding cues your baby will show you, and that your baby will feed often (either by breast or by bottle; their tummy is the size of a cherry) – and know that babies all grow at different speeds.
It is also important to realize that sitting and feeding your baby will help mum’s bottom heal after birth. Getting a good idea of the range of normal after birth is key to keeping a balanced perspective in the first weeks after birth. During pregnancy, it’s important to be open to fresh ideas – because life doesn’t always look like its Hollywood version.
4. Find support
Look for support for breastfeeding early, whether that’s from a local La Leche League, peer breastfeeding support, a friend who has nursed, a postpartum doula, a Lactation Consultant, or any other source you can rely on. If you know where people supportive of your breastfeeding are, you can find them when you need them. It may also be helpful to have a breastfeeding book or website that you can refer to in moments of need (for example, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, BreastFeeding Inc, or La Leche League Canada). The Community Breastfeeding Alliance of Waterloo Region has also compiled this great overview of breastfeeding resources in Waterloo Region (PDF).
Preparing for breastfeeding during pregnancy doesn’t mean “toughing up your nipples.” It is about finding how your partner and friends can support you, discovering support within your community and understanding what is normal, so you can seek help if it is needed. Breast may be best but it is also a learned skill. Even though you don’t have a little one in your arms now, there is a lot you can do to prepare for this special time.