There’s something so beautiful about being able to nurse your sweet little baby and provide him or her all they need to start out those first few months of life, thriving and strong. I loved breast feeding my children for so many reasons. The nutrition it provides, the bond and closeness my baby and I shared, and the convenience of always having milk on hand.
Breastmilk can provide the most valuable nutrients for a newborn and any attempt you can make to give your baby breast milk, the better. Whether you just stick to it for a few days, weeks, or months, knowing that you tried your hardest is the most important.
It can be very natural and easy for some moms, but plenty of women struggle with getting started or even continuing. It’s certainly not easy to be a nursing mom. After 9 months of pregnancy you feel like your body deserves a break from providing for another human being, but the care for your baby doesn’t end at childbirth.
If you’re set on attempting to breastfeed, you need to be prepared beforehand. There are plenty of resources out there to get you educated and ready to be successful. You just need to take advantage of it. The nurses in the hospital are your biggest help, however, don’t expect them to teach you all you need to know.
The tips below will help you to prepare for this journey before it even starts, because breastfeeding should start well before childbirth.
After you completed these steps, make sure to read The First Steps to Breastfeeding Success- Helpful Tips to Get You Started from Day One
I had planned to breastfeed for both of my children before they were born, but I was aware that it could be a difficult experience. I told myself that if I had too much trouble, I would be ok giving them formula. It’s more important to feed my children than risk them not getting enough nutrients.
My first breastfeeding journey started off with awful nipple pain and breast soreness. Read this post about my experience and how to ease the discomfort of nipple pain during the first weeks of breastfeeding. I managed to push through it with a lot of help from those products and persistence.
After the first 2 or 3 months of getting more comfortable feeding in public and learning my baby’s cues, I actually started to enjoy it. It was so much more convenient to me than preparing bottles whether I was home or out.
I had to cut my breastfeeding journey shorter than I had hoped because I found out I was pregnant again when she was 6 months old. That was when I decided to stop nursing in order to optimize the nutrition for the fetus inside me.
The second time was such a breeze! I was nervous that I would experience the same pain, but luckily my body was ready for it and so was baby number 2. I knew everything I needed to do, was much more comfortable feeding anywhere, and I didn’t experience any pain. I’m hoping to go longer with my new baby, but we’ll see!
It’s not for everyone, and that’s ok
Breast feeding is not for everyone, but for those who do choose to and stick with it, will find out how rewarding it truly is. Getting through the first couple weeks can be tough, but that is the hardest part. If you make it over that hump, you’ll be on your way to smooth sailing!
Everyone’s journey is quite different, including your struggles, challenges, and easy parts. However, one thing we all have in common is the love for our baby and wanting to provide them with the greatest start to their life.
Nothing will prepare you for your specific situation like the real-life experience, so it may be nothing like what you have read or learned. However, it’s good to have as much information as you can to make educated decisions and figure things out.
To be successful at breastfeeding, you need to physically and mentally prepare yourself for it. It starts well before childbirth. Follow these tips while you’re still pregnant and you will have a head start at having a better experience.
Take a breastfeeding class
Along with childbirth classes, a lot of hospitals or independent lactation consultants may offer breastfeeding classes. I would suggest taking notes and taking any of these classes as close to birth as you can so you don’t forget everything you learn. With that pregnancy brain, you’re bound to lose a little bit of the information, but as long as you take notes, that should be helpful.
Taking a breastfeeding class will also give you someone to contact if and when you have trouble after birth. Get familiar with a lactation consultant in your area or at your hospital that can help should you need it.
Look into local support groups
La Leche Leauge International has groups all over the world where you can speak with both professionals and other moms about all things breastfeeding. They provide resources, support groups, and meetings to help new moms on their breastfeeding journey. Find your local La Leche League group where you can ask questions and get support.
See the real thing
If you have a mom friend or relative who is breastfeeding, reach out to them to see if you can watch. I know that may sound a little creepy, but it’s the best way to learn. Even if you’re not comfortable watching, ask a lot of questions and pick her brain about the process. Your experiences may not be the same, but it’s good to know what worked or didn’t work for her.
Get all your nursing products in advance
There are plenty of products that will help make nursing your baby easier. Items that can heal pain and discomfort or help make the process simpler and more efficient are super helpful. These products should be purchased in advance so that you’ll be ready when there’s an immediate need for them.
There’s a possibility you may not need some of these products, so even though it’s exciting to open up and go through your new stuff, don’t do that until you need it! This way you can return it if you don’t have use for it.
Here is a list of the breastfeeding products I couldn’t live without:
Nursing Pillow- My Breast Friend This is the best nursing pillow out there because it straps high around your waist to provide more support for you and the baby. It allows you to not hunch over while feeding and you can literally walk around with your baby easily nursing on you.
Ameda Nipple Gel Pads– These were by far my favorite breastfeeding accessory! My nipples were soooo sore after the first couple nursing sessions that I could barely tolerate my baby’s feeding. I’m still not sure if she was incorrectly latching or I just have extremely sensitive nipples, but ouch!
One of the nurses recommended these gel pads me and they worked like a charm! You can put them in the refrigerator so they are cool and keep them on your breasts in between nursing sessions. They basically just numb the pain and provide a cooling and soothing feeling for your nipples. Honestly, I may have given up nursing if it wasn’t for these.
Lanolin Cream This cream also helps to soothe sore and cracked nipples. You can put it in the refrigerator for a cooling feeling, as well. I applied it between every nursing session, along with the gel pads, and it worked so well at easing my pain.
Lansinoh Breast Therapy 2-3 days after delivery, your milk will ‘come in’. This means that once your baby is finished eating the colostrum, your breasts begin to fill up with real milk. This tends to lead to breast engorgement which is not pleasant. Your breasts end up feeling like rocks and painful to the touch. These breast therapy packs were a helpful tool for this discomfort. You can use them cold (refrigerated) on your breasts to help relieve the engorgement pressure.
Fenugreek lactation supplement – This is an herbal supplement that increases breast milk production. For me, I noticed my milk production slowing down a few months after delivery, so this is when I started using them. I took one a day and could really notice my breasts filling up more. It can be used sooner if you don’t feel that your milk supply is providing enough for your baby. However, you don’t want to take it too soon or your body may not regulate your milk supply correctly.
Boobie Bars These are a little treat that actually help to increase breast milk production too. Just shortly after eating one bar, I could feel my milk production improving. They really work and are quite tasty too!
Suction Milk Saver This was an awesome tool to use during nursing! While you’re nursing your baby on one breast, the other breast leaks out milk too. Normally, you would just have a nursing pad in that side of your bra and it would soak it up to minimize the mess. But who wants to waste their precious breast milk?? Not me!
This ‘pump’ is just a plastic tube that suctions onto the opposite breast and helps stimulate it a little bit more so you will end up saving all your extra milk without having to use a pump. You don’t even need to hold it in place! You should start using this immediately to save all the extra milk that you can and before you start pumping.
Medela SoftShells – If you experience nipple soreness during the first couple days of breastfeeding, these will help ease the pain. These get placed in your bra so the fabric doesn’t rub against them.
Nursing Pads – Your breasts will leak the first few weeks or months when you’re not nursing. You’ll need a bunch of nursing pads to keep your bras and clothes dry while you’re leaking. There are disposable or washable nursing pads, depending on your preference. These ones are a very soft organic cotton and so comfortable.
Nursing Bras – I LOVE this Kindred Bravely nursing bra. It’s so soft and comfortable and perfect for all day wear and sleeping. You’ll be nursing 8-10 times a day in the beginning so you want something that makes breastfeeding easily accessible.
Nursing tanks You don’t need a full line of nursing clothing because you won’t need it for very long. What works best is to get a couple simple nursing tanks and wear a larger shirt or button down shirt over it. This way if you are nursing in front of others, your whole tummy isn’t exposed. These make it easy to unclip and expose your breast for a quick feeding.
Nursing cover– Being out in public and having to feed your baby can be a little stressful when you’re first starting to breastfeed. Have a cover that provides the privacy you need, but doesn’t compromise your baby’s safety or comfort. This nursing cover provides a large vented area at the top so you can see your baby and he doesn’t have a cloth draped over his head (because babies hate that).
Hands-free pumping bra– Chances are, if you’re breast feeding, you will be pumping too. This bra makes it so much easier to pump and still have your hands free, making it a more efficient use of your time. We busy moms don’t have 20 minutes in a day to just sit and pump without doing other things as well.
Related Post:Items You Should Have in your Postpartum Kit
Order your breast pump and accessories
Even if you plan to exclusively breast feed, it’s wise to have a breast pump on hand for the many circumstances when you may need it. Whether it’s going back to work, increasing your milk supply, or so your partner can give a bottle, you’ll need to pump your milk out.
Now, most health insurances will cover the cost of a breast pump 100%. They can be pricey so this is very valuable! Check out Aeroflow Breastpumps to confirm whether you qualify through insurance. They make it so easy to determine your eligibility and contact the insurance and physician directly for you. Aeroflow then takes care of all the required paperwork between the supplier and your doctor and gets the pump sent straight to you for no cost at all!
You’ll have to choose the right pump that suits you and that may be dependent on which ones your insurance covers. I have tried several different pumps and highly recommend the Spectra S1 or S2, for ease of operation and efficiency.
Don’t forget to order additional parts and accessories for your pump too. The pump typically only includes one set of parts (flanges, valves, bottles, etc.) to start with. You’ll probably want to order at least one more set of these items in case one set is in the dishwasher or needs to be washed.
Some insurance policies also offer additional incentives during pregnancy besides the pump, but you have to call and ask. Mine sends 150 free breast milk storage bags every 30 days and sent me a pregnancy gift bag with some other freebies. Other insurances I have heard will pay for childbirth classes, give out gift cards, and other pregnancy or baby-related products.
Prepare your birth plan
Immediately after labor, you’re not in the best mental state to think of what should be done to start breastfeeding your baby. Make sure you lay it out beforehand to your partner and nursing staff at the hospital or birthing center. The best way to do this is to prepare a written birth plan ahead of time to give to the staff as soon as you come in.
Heather, a labor & delivery nurse, has a great customizable birth plan that will walk you through how to create one and what you’ll need to include. This goes for breast feeding, as well as your whole labor and delivery experience. Make sure you write down what you want beforehand and tell the nurses verbally, as well. Even if you think you’ll remember everything at the hospital, you’re wrong.
I’ve given birth at 2 separate hospitals and they were both very different experiences. The first time, the nurses told me to put the baby on my chest immediately after delivery. They guided and taught me within the first 10 minutes of how to get the baby to latch and why it’s important to have the baby suckle on your breast as soon as possible.
My second birth experience was completely different. The nurses were not at all helpful! It’s a good thing I had already been through it and I did my research, so I knew what I needed to do with my baby immediately after birth. You never know what your experience will be like so that’s why it’s smart to educate yourself and not rely on the hospital staff to teach you.
Set a goal
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 6 months of exclusively breastfeeding to lower your baby’s risk of illness and provide them with increased immunity over these first few months of life. You should have your own goal in place that will make it the most successful experience for you.
Don’t worry about how long your mom, best friend, or cousin breastfed for. It’s your body and your baby and you should plan on doing what is the most comfortable for you.
If you have a goal in place, it is more likely that you will achieve it than if you don’t. A goal will help you push yourself in the beginning if you’re presented with challenges. In my situation, breastfeeding hurt so bad the first couple weeks and I wanted to give up. I had a goal of achieving 6 months of nursing and thinking of accomplishing it, made me push through it.
When asking moms-to-be if they’re going to breastfeed or formula feed, I often hear ‘I’m going to try, but who knows if it will work’. In my opinion, women doubt themselves too early on and that attitude could have a negative effect on both their milk supply and breastfeeding abilities.
It’s important to give yourself positive affirmations when it comes to breast feeding even before you start. This will give you the confidence and perseverance to get through it if you start to experience some setbacks.
If you’re planning on breastfeeding your child, that’s the first step in the process and you’re already doing a great job! Follow the steps above in order to prepare for your breastfeeding journey and you’ll increase your chances of success. Next, read The First Steps to Breastfeeding Success- Helpful Tips to Get You Started from Day One