Ways to Prepare for Breastfeeding Before Your Baby is Born
Before I had my first son, I took every class I could to learn about what was going on during my pregnancy and how to get this kiddo out of me. I took prenatal yoga to make sure I could relax and open up during labor. I took a 6-week childbirth series. I read all of the prenatal books to learn about what was going on inside my body. And, I took one measly 2-hour class on breastfeeding, which I told my husband he could skip because, I mean, it’s natural and normal, right? This breastfeeding thing should be easy!
Low and behold… I wish I had done a little bit more preparation for this natural and normal act because breastfeeding was definitely NOT as easy as I thought it was going to be!
Thank goodness I had a team of supportive friends, family members, and health practitioners to help us get over our breastfeeding hurdles. In fact, breastfeeding support has been shown to be the largest indicator of how moms get breastfeeding to work . So, let’s talk about constructing this ‘Dream Team’ of breastfeeding support.
If breastfeeding is important to you, then it has to be important to your partner, as well. Your partner is going to need to be your cheerleader, your confidante, and your #1 support person. He/she will make sure you are well fed and hydrated, while you feed and hydrate your baby. He/she can assist with latching, if you need help, as well as call in other support when needed. He/she can bond with both you and baby as you breastfeed, nap, eat, and learn to maneuver this new time in your lives. When your partner is on board, you are a united force, working together towards a shared goal, which can feel absolutely amazing!
Take a Prenatal Breastfeeding Class
While I make light of my short 2-hour breastfeeding class, it was definitely helpful to learn about what ‘normal’ breastfeeding looked like. For example, newborn babies feed at least 8-12 times in a 24 hour period because their tummies are so small. They can also be really sleepy, so there are great rousing techniques to use to keep them awake while feeding. Breastfeeding is NOT supposed to hurt, so getting latching assistance from a lactation consultant, nurse, or midwife can be incredibly helpful. The class instructor should also talk about comfortable breastfeeding positions, such as laid-back breastfeeding, as well as signs of a good latch and knowing when your baby is getting enough milk. Also, have your partner or support person attend the class with you so that he/she can assist with breastfeeding in those early postpartum weeks.
Attend a Breastfeeding Support Group Prenatally
Several years ago I interviewed Ina May Gaskin about getting breastfeeding off to a great start. One of her recommendations was to attend a breastfeeding support group while pregnant. That advice really struck me. Why would a pregnant mom want to go to a support group prenatally? Upon further thought, I realized how brilliant this idea was.
One – after having a baby, it can be incredibly anxiety-provoking to go an unfamiliar place. What if your baby starts to cry? What if your baby has a massive blow out? Where do you park your car? If you check out this group prenatally, after you have your baby this group will already be a familiar place….meaning, you are more likely to go get support and assistance early on.
Two – not all groups are the same. Location (hospital-based vs birth center vs yoga studio, etc) might make a difference to you. Some are led by International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC), while others are led by Lactation Educators or mothers trained by Breastfeeding USA or La Leche League, just to name a few. Stopping by prenatally can help you figure out which group has the best ‘feel for you.’
Three – many of us are not surrounded by breastfeeding, so we have no idea what it really looks like or what to expect. At a support group, you can meet other new moms, ask questions, and get a sense of the many ways that women latch on their babies. It is awesome!
Choose a Breastfeeding-Friendly Pediatrician
This might seem like a stupid recommendation… I mean, shouldn’t all pediatricians be ‘breastfeeding-friendly’? Yes, they should, but unfortunately, this is not always the case. Some pediatricians are very well-versed in breastfeeding knowledge. They know how much a baby needs per feeding, how much a baby should gain per week, how often they should be feeding, the difference between nipple tenderness and pain, and when to refer to a lactation consultant, if necessary. Other pediatricians might provide advice which doesn’t protect a mother’s milk supply or the breastfeeding relationship, not purposely sabotaging breastfeeding, but ultimately making things more challenging for mom and baby. Ask your friends and post on Facebook for recommendations. Ask a local IBCLC. You’ll be glad you did!
Find a Local International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (just in case you need assistance after baby is born)
What is an IBCLC ? An IBCLC is a healthcare professional who specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding. We study, take classes and exams, and practice all things breastfeeding. We are the people you call when you feel like breastfeeding is a struggle. We help you figure out how to make breastfeeding easier and enjoyable!
Like I mentioned earlier, prenatally we have all the time in the world to do research. So, while you are looking for that breastfeeding-friendly pediatrician, add IBCLC to that list, as well. There is nothing worse that trying to find a practitioner to help when you are in panic-mode! Prenatally, you can check out the websites of local IBCLCs, ask your friends for recommendations, and look online for reviews. It is not like you have to contact her prenatally, although you could. Instead, write down the names and contact info of a few IBCLCs you can contact, if you should need them after the baby is born.
Create a Visitor Policy
After having a baby, you might find that everyone you know wants to come and meet him/her. While this might sound innocuous, getting the hang of taking care of a new baby takes more time and effort than one might think. You (and your partner) might feel elated, but exhausted. Your baby will be feeding around the clock, which you might not want an audience for. Entertaining guests should not be at the top of your priority list. So, consider creating a visitor policy, prenatally. Tell your favorite, most helpful friends and family that you’ll let them know a good time to come over and that it would be awesome if they would bring lunch or dinner treats with them. Maybe they can clean up the dirty dishes, afterwards, as well. Give your less-helpful friends a head’s up that you will be spending the first few weeks bonding with your baby (which means limited visitors) and that you will text them photos of your bundle of joy. Have a code word for you and your partner which, when spoken, indicates to the other that it is time to escort your guests to the door or go lie down to take a nap.
Hopefully, with this Dream Team of breastfeeding supporters you will be well on your way to getting the hang of this breastfeeding thing!
Here are a few more articles that talk about breastfeeding a newborn:
What Every Mom Should Know About Breastfeeding in the Early Weeks
I’ve Had My Baby – Now What? Breastfeeding During the Second Week
Understanding Infant Sleep – The First 6 Weeks
Robin Kaplan is an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), frequent media commentator on the topic of breastfeeding, and founding host of The Boob Group, a podcast about breastfeeding hosted on New Mommy Media. She launched the San Diego Breastfeeding Center in 2009 and is an established voice in the parenting world known equally for her knowledge about lactation and her commitment to supporting moms without judging them, a keystone of the SDBFC philosophy.
To learn more about Robin and the San Diego Breastfeeding Center, visit www.sdbfc.com.