How to Prepare for Breastfeeding while still Pregnant
The type of breastfeeding support you will find at a hospital will vary greatly depending on which hospital you plan to birth at, whether the hospital is Baby-Friendly, its yearly breastfeeding rates, if they have certified lactation consultants (IBCLCs) on staff, and if their postpartum nurses have had recent breastfeeding training. One hopes that the hospital lactation consultants will be fabulous, but that may not always be the case. Also, a new mom typically won’t even see a lactation consultant in the hospital unless she is high-risk for breastfeeding challenges or she asks for one directly.
Since much of this may feel like it is not under your control, there are many steps YOU CAN make to ensure that breastfeeding gets off to a great start, regardless of the breastfeeding savviness of your hospital.
Here are top 10 tips to prepare for breastfeeding before your baby is born:
1.Have a long chat with your partner. Take turns discussing each person’s goals for breastfeeding and what type of support you may need from one another as a new parent.
2. Take a fantastic breastfeeding class! Don’t settle for the status quo. Search for a class that not only covers the basics (latching, common concerns, how to know that your baby is getting enough), but also discusses local resources and is taught by a dynamic teacher with a background in lactation.
3. Do some research about which hospital/newborn procedures are necessary during and after a birth. Some hospital procedures are protocol, yet are not medically necessary for every baby, and can often negatively impact breastfeeding.
4. Read an informative and fun breastfeeding book, such as Breastfeed your Baby by Marie-Louise Steyn, (press and order now!) The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Breastfeeding, Dr Seers Breastfeeding book or Bestfeeding : How to breastfeed your baby by Mary J. Renfrew, Chloe Fisher, Suzanne Arms. These books give you information on how to prepare for breastfeeding and what to expect after your baby is born.
5. Attend a breastfeeding support group, prenatally! First, you can see the lay of the land (where to park your car, where the group is located, and if the women seem like the type of ladies you would want to hang out with.) Secondly, you can see women breastfeeding in their ‘natural habitat’….meaning, baby on boob, minus the cover, without feeling the need to cover up. Thirdly, you can sit next to a woman who has a newborn and ask her all of those questions about being a new mom that you have been dying to ask someone. Last, but not least, you will feel an abundance of support for your desire to breastfeed and know that this is a safe and fun place to return to after your baby is born. Check our directory for Breastfeeding Support to locate your nearest group.
6. Come up with a ‘Visitor Policy’. Those first few days after your baby is born are critical in establishing your milk supply and helping your baby become a successful breastfeeder. When the entire family and neighborhood are camping out in your hospital room, it might be difficult to feel entirely comfortable taking your top off and letting your baby find his/her way to your breast. This is YOUR time to figure out breastfeeding, not to practice breastfeeding in front of an audience. So, decide on a policy with your partner and stick to it. Remember, your friends should understand that this is your time to get to know your baby and that they can all come and see you once you get home.
7. Choose a breastfeeding-friendly general practitioner and pediatrician. These are most likely the physicians you will see more in these next few years than any other you have ever seen before. Make sure that they are supportive and knowledgeable about breastfeeding. .
8. Create a birth plan that will optimize your breastfeeding success. Items to include are: rooming in, no pacifier or bottles, no formula unless medically necessary, limiting visitors,delaying your baby’s bath, and keeping your baby skin to skin as much as possible.
9. Ask for assistance from a certified lactation consultant, or a well-trained postpartum nurse, while at the hospital. Have her check positioning and your baby’s latch. You are paying for these services, so take advantage of them!
10. Attach your local IBCLC and LLL’s name and contact information to your fridge, (you would have attended either during your pregnancy at their support groups) so you can find it quickly if you need it. This way you aren’t calling the first person you find, out of desperation, after the baby is born.
*** Know we said Top 10, but couldn't forget to include this tip.... Hire a birth doula. The easier your birth is and the fewer birth interventions you encounter can definitely get breastfeeding off to a great start. Doulas can make this happen:)