Why is it that so many mamas spend hours of time preparing for birth, a one (or two) day event, and no time preparing to breastfeed? These same mamas often have well-intentioned goals of breastfeeding for baby’s entire first year, but do nothing to set themselves up for success.
How to prepare for breastfeeding? Well there’s actually a lot you can do before baby even arrives. You’ll be so grateful for the head start. Because, if you haven’t heard yet, breastfeeding isn’t something that just inherently occurs. Not at first anyway. It’s a huge learning curve for you AND baby.
With the right preparations in place, and learning how to prepare for breastfeeding while pregnant, you will have a higher chance of success. This means meeting your breastfeeding goals. So let’s learn how to prepare for breastfeeding, mama. There’s so much you can do right away!
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How to Prepare for Breastfeeding: 10 Things to do before birth
Are you excited about breastfeeding, mama? I’m guessing you’ve already heard about the amazing breastfeeding benefits to you and baby. The most striking to me is that breastfeeding in the first hour reduces infant mortality by 50%!
But let’s learn how you can make breastfeeding a reality
- How can you prepare for breastfeeding before delivery to thrive from day 1 to day 365 and beyond?
- How to prepare for breastfeeding in a way that will ensure you meet your breastfeeding goals?
- How to prepare for breastfeeding and lessen the learning curve and stress related to nursing when baby arrives
These 10 tips will teach you exactly that.
1. Prenatal Breastfeeding Education
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, and continued breastfeeding with the introduction of solid foods through the first year of life, and the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for the first two years. That’s a long time to commit to something, am I right?
Would you take on any other goals or commitments in your life this important without some professional support or training? I’m willing to guess not. Insert: Prenatal Breastfeeding Education aka a breastfeeding class! Learn the basics of milk supply, latch, hunger cues, nursing positions, troubleshooting and more BEFORE baby comes from a trained Lactation Consultant. There is really no better advantage you can give yourself than taking a breastfeeding class while you’re pregnant.
Where to find a breastfeeding class?
Breastfeeding classes are often offered through your local hospital or women’s healthcare provider. The problem with these classes is that they usually don’t run sessions very often, and can be difficult to fit into your schedule. That’s why I highly recommend doing an online breastfeeding class. There’s a variety out there to choose from, but Milkology and Simply Breastfeeding are two of my favorites.
How can I get more bang for my online class buck?
On the topic of prenatal education, I’m whole-heartedly in the group that birth classes are necessary. They are extremely empowering and truly will help you have the birth you desire. If you’re also looking to get prepared for birth don’t miss out on the Mama Natural Birth Course which includes a 90-minute Breastfeeding Masterclass! No other online course covers birth and breastfeeding better.
Looking for some free online breastfeeding classes?
- Enroll in the Mom Smart Not Hard Nurse Smart Course for Expecting Mamas
- Check out Simply Breastfeeding’s Free Sample Class
2. Create a birth plan and hospital stay plan that emphasizes breastfeeding success
The next thing you can do is create a birth plan and plan for your hospital stay after birth that focuses on breastfeeding. From the minute baby is born, there is so much you can do to increase your odds of success! There are also things you can take care of and plan for ahead of time to make the most of those first few critical days of breastfeeding your newborn. Above all, this time period is for learning how to breastfeed and recover from birth, that’s it.
Here’s a Pro-Breastfeeding checklist to get you started:
- Indicate immediate skin to skin care on your birth plan
- Indicate breastfeeding within the first hour on your birth plan
- Discuss what routine newborn procedures can be delayed with your provider in favor of skin to skin and breastfeeding right away
- Plan to have baby room in with your during your hospital stay
- Find out ahead of time what lactation support staff will be available to you during your hospital stay and utilize them extensively
- Pack your pump and a nursing pillow in your hospital bag
If you are interested in learning more details about creating a pro breastfeeding birth plan, delaying newborn care procedures, and the foundations of breastfeeding, the Mama Natural Birth Course covers this topic extensively in addition to 8+ other hours of birth and breastfeeding education.
3. Get your home ready for breastfeeding
As your due date approaches, it’s so fun to get the house totally ready for baby. Setting up the nursery, preparing your diaper stations, and stocking the freezer are some nesting “milestones” you should definitely be checking off your list. Don’t forget to get your home ready for breastfeeding too!
You’ll want to create a comfortable and beautiful nursing station in the nursery. But chances are, you’ll be nursing all over the house, so having a mobile nursing caddy with nursing essentials will make life so much easier. I also recommend investing in not one, but two nursing pillows, like the Boppy Nursing Pillow. Especially if you live in a home with two floors. It’s a pain to bring between rooms or floors while also holding your newborn.
Breastfeeding Essentials Checklist:
- Portable Nursing Caddy/Basket (to keep everything organized and together!)
- Washable Reusable Nursing Pads (trust me, your boobs are gonna leak)
- Nipple Cream (they’re probably going to be sore)
- Notebook or Tracking Sheets like the ones in our Breastfeeding Handbook
- Nursing Pillow
- Burp Cloths
- Insulated Water Bottle (breastfeeding thirst is serious)
- Bars or Trailmix (so is breastfeeding hunger)
- A good book, magazine, or tablet
With these things already in your home, you’ll seamlessly transition between nursing in the hospital and breastfeeding at home. It’s take some time to latch baby and feed them. In the early days it wasn’t unusual for a feeding to take 20-30 minutes for N. And then baby typically nurses again 2 hours from the start of that feed. That’s a lot of time sitting and feeding your babe!
Having all of my breastfeeding essentials organized in one caddy was a game changer to being prepared to sit and not move throughout a feeding without feeling frustrated.
Other ways to prepare your home for breastfeeding?
Stocking your freezer. Okay, this might not seem to relate, but trust me, it does. When you are breastfeeding your body burns a lot of calories. One of the biggest mistakes new mothers make when it comes to milk supply is not getting enough calories and hydration. You may find yourself making up for your calorie needs with extra snacking or desserts which leads to sugar crashing and totally derails eventual weight loss goals.
Prepare for breastfeeding hunger by filling your freezer with healthy meals. Nutrient-dense, real food meals will fulfill your caloric needs while also putting you on track to losing your baby weight. No resource is better for stocking your freezer with over 20 meals in a matter of a few hours than Kelly’s Complete Freezer Recipe Bundle.
4. Obtain your FREE Breast pump
While you are pregnant and checking things off your list, don’t forget this important step! By law in the United States, insurance companies must provide or reimburse you with a double electric breast pump. Give your insurance company a call to find out details, because getting your free pump can look a little different depending on the company. Here are the most common scenarios:
- Your health insurance provider will send you a breast pump in the mail upon request (this was the case for me)
- Your health insurance will provide what’s essentially a “prescription” for a breast pump, and you will get your breast pump at the hospital where you give birth
- Your health insurance will have you go and purchase a breast pump and reimburse you for the cost upon submission of the receipt.
5. Learn about your rights as a breastfeeding mother before baby arrives
Before your baby arrives, it is so important to coordinate the details of your maternity leave. But you should also take the time to plan for your eventual return to work. Not digging that thought, I know I sure wasn’t. That’s why I became an online teacher and started a blog with Trina.
But back to those breastfeeding rights! Once you go back to work as a nursing mother, you’ll be navigating the waters of pumping and storing, and bottle feeding breastmilk to your baby. You’ll need to make time in your work day to pump on roughly the same schedule that your baby eats (every 2 to 3 hours) and your employer can’t deny you this!
Employers must provide break time for nursing mothers, along with private space that is not a bathroom for all hourly employees. When planning for this, be sure calculate the time needed for setting up and cleaning up. Read more about your rights as a working, nursing mother on the United States Department of Labor website.
6. Know the basics of milk supply
Taking a breastfeeding class will have this covered, and so much more, but at the very least, make sure you know the principles of how milk supply works. It’s a supply and demand system. This means, the more baby nurses, the more milk your body will produce. Baby’s suckling promotes milk production.
For this reason, you should aim to be nursing 8-12 times, or once every 2 hours from birth. This will ensure baby is getting enough, and signaling to your body to produce enough milk to continue to nourish and provide for him.
This is the very basics of milk supply
There is so much more to learn! You want to have an understanding of how milk supply works, but also what to look out for in terms of weight gain and diaper output from your little one. Be sure to learn about a good latch and how to troubleshoot if problems arise.
Breastfeeding in the first week is tough, but essential to establishing a nursing relationship that can last as long as you want it to. This is why online breastfeeding classes are such a great opportunity to empower yourself ahead of time.
7. Invest in some nursing-wear
Okay. Who doesn’t love an excuse to do some clothes shopping? Now is the perfect time! Before baby arrives it’s important to have some nursing-wear on hand for when they arrive.
At the very least, you’ll want to have a few supportive nursing bras and some nursing sleep bras. As someone who never, ever sleeps with a bra on, I didn’t take this advice too seriously. Then I had my baby. When your milk comes in and in the early weeks and months of nursing, you will want and NEED support even while you sleep.
The slight pressure from the bra helps keep milk from leaking, and provides support to engorged, painful boobs. Night nursing bras are super comfy and you’ll be so glad to have some ready to use.
If you know that you will be returning to work and pumping, a hands-free pumping bra is a must have! Pumping and storing is one of those activities that you do because it’s so worth it for your baby, but is kind of a hassle (just being real here). A hands-free pumping bra will really make it less of a bother because you can do other things while you pump like browse your phone, read a book, or drink a much needed coffee.
When you are a nursing mother, your wardrobe options do change a bit. For example, dresses that aren’t nursing friendly become difficult to wear, and you will think about boob accessibility when planning an outfit.
I found that layering nursing camis under pull-over shirts helped me feel more covered and comfortable for nursing in public. I also was glad to have invested in some nursing clothing. Clothing designed in clever ways for comfortable and easy breastfeeding while still be stylish.
Some of my favorites are sweaters designed for nursing, nursing blouses, and nursing-friendly maxi dresses. Many of these options are designed to be worn while pregnant and during the postpartum/breastfeeding time. This makes them a solid investment!
8. Research breastfeeding resources in your area
Even with all of the best intentions and preparations, breastfeeding is most likely going to throw some troubles your way. It might be serious like issues with weight gain or tongue ties that requires a professional opinion. Or it might be emotionally taxing or draining and you will benefit from peer support.
Whatever the case winds up being, knowing where breastfeeding resources in your community exist BEFORE baby arrives will be so helpful. So get your google on and find out what your community has to offer. It turned out where I live there were a number of support groups.
Where to find breastfeeding resources
- Check the Le Leche League website for local chapters and meeting locations (for example: mine are held twice a month at the local library)
- Ask at your next prenatal appointment about local breastfeeding support groups
- Find out if your pediatrician has a lactation consultant on staff or offers a lactation support group
- Contact your hospital/birth place to find out where their lactation consultants are located and when they have drop-in hours
- Chat with co-workers or friends who are mothers that breastfed if they know of breastfeeding support groups or resources in your community
9. Create a breastfeeding goal
Breastfeeding boasts a number of health benefits to both you and baby. It also creates a bond like no other. I have such sweet memories of quiet moments spent nursing N in her calm and peaceful nursery. Knowing that you are providing all that your baby needs is the most powerful feeling.
An amazing first step on your breastfeeding journey is creating a goal. Maybe it’s to reach 6 months or a year of breastfeeding. Or maybe it’s a goal to give breastfeeding your all but to be at peace with supplementation if necessary.
Once you determine your goal, make an action plan:
- What steps can you take today to reach this goal?
- What steps can you take right after birth and in your first week with baby?
- What can your partner and loved ones do to support your breastfeeding goal?
Being intentional about creating a breastfeeding goal and how to reach it will give you the confidence to persevere and make it a reality.
10. Have an idea of what breastfeeding will be like
I know the saying goes ignorance is bliss. But in this case, I think reading stories and learning what it’s really like to breastfeed a baby in the early weeks is empowering. Breastfed babies need to eat very often. During a growth spurt or cluster feed, it will feel like your literally do nothing but nurse for hours on end.
If you don’t know this behavior is normal, it can really rock your confidence as a new mama. It can be easily to fall into the trap of thinking you’re not providing enough and start unnecessary supplementation.
Read and learn as much as you can to help mentally prepare for what it will be like. And remember that those early weeks don’t last forever. Once you and baby have your rhythm down, and your supply is in, breastfeeding is so rewarding 🙂
Invest in your baby and start preparing to breastfeed today!
Get on this mama! Just like you probably have a checklist to finish before birth, make this checklist of how to prepare to breastfeed a priority. Your postpartum self will be so grateful for the breastfeeding education and know-how ❤
Do you have another tip or advice to share about preparing to breastfeeding while pregnant? Leave a comment below! We love to hear from our readers.
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