Breastfeeding is the number one recommended way to feed infants and provide them with the nutrition their bodies need for healthy growth and development. Pregnant moms can take several steps in order to prepare themselves for breastfeeding their babies after birth.
Prepare for Breastfeeding
Long before your baby arrives, you are focusing on what to eat when you’re pregnant, which medications to use or avoid, and how to decorate the nursery. It is also a great time to prepare for breastfeeding. In fact, your body is already doing a bit of the preparation work for you.
- Your milk ducts are forming.
- Your breasts are growing in size.
- Blood flow is increased to the breasts.
- You might start to notice colostrum leaking from your nipples as labor nears. This is a highly nutritious and valuable milk for your baby.
As your body is doing this work to prepare for feeding your baby, there are a few things you can do in preparation as well.
Find a breastfeeding support network.
This can be a group of friends who have already gone through this experience and to whom you can ask questions, or maybe it is an area La Leche League chapter that promotes breastfeeding. Some hospitals and clinics also offer classes on what to expect when breastfeeding.
Learn about the best feeding positions.
Your newborn might need a little assistance finding a good way to latch on in a way that allows easy nursing for both of you. Talk with people in your support group and find books that show diagrams of the best positions for nursing. It is generally best if your baby is face to chest with you, cradled so that the chin is just below the nipple. You’ll want to make sure that your baby latches on fully enough (not just the tip) so that the rich hind milk can be consumed and your nipples don’t get sore.
Get to know your breasts.
While it is quite rare, some women have inverted nipples which can make breastfeeding more challenging (but not impossible). Your local breastfeeding support group or OBGYN can help you find ways to encourage your infant to latch on correctly so you can both enjoy the benefits of breastfeeding.
Don’t “toughen” your nipples.
It used to be promoted that women should “toughen” their nipples by twisting and pulling on them in order to prepare them for the demands of breastfeeding. However, all this will do is to create sore nipples (and it won’t do anything to help your baby latch on correctly).
Invest in a few breastfeeding wardrobe basics.
- You don’t have to have nursing bras in order to breastfeed, but they can make it more comfortable and convenient. The flaps that easily open on the top can make for easier nursing. Just remember that your breasts will increase with size as they fill with milk, so don’t purchase your bras in your pre-pregnant size. Wait until close to birth or even shortly afterwards to make the investment. Some women also choose to invest in shirts that allow for more discreet nursing.
- Nursing pads that tuck inside your bra are very valuable and wardrobe-saving. You can use either disposable pads or invest in several machines wash ones. It is not uncommon for breast milk to leak, which can easily soak through a regular bra and shirt.
- In order to make breastfeeding more comfortable while sitting up, it is often recommended that moms invest in a nursing pillow or have a thick, firm pillow to place underneath their supporting arm. Breastfeeding pillow are generally curved like a “C” to fit around your waist and support your elbows, along with the baby’s body in front.
- Consider purchasing or renting a breast-pump, especially if you will be going back to work in a few weeks. It takes a bit of time to get used to using it, and having one on hand will allow you to pump and store milk as you build your milk supply for your baby.
Regardless of breast size, almost all healthy women are able to breastfeed their babies. Take a few steps to prepare for breastfeeding before your child is born and those late night feedings won’t feel quite so exhausting.
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