If you are pregnant and planning to breastfeed, your mind may be racing with thoughts and worries about nursing: Will I be able to breastfeed? What if I experience problems like sore nipples or difficulty latching? What if it doesn't work out that way I envision?
Breastfeeding doesn't always come easily, naturally or without challenges. But with a little patience, some preparation and a firm resolution, you can increase your odds of success.
Here's what you can do to prepare for breastfeeding during pregnancy:
1. Discuss your birth plan. Then, realize things happen!
Labor and delivery can be unpredictable—babies come on their own time, and let's face it, you can never be totally in control of your birth. So with all that unpredictability, why is a birth plan important?
Well, birth plans allow you to think through decisions ahead of time. Factors such as pain meds, who should be allowed in the delivery room, types of monitoring and cord cutting can all factor into your birth plan to ensure that your experience involves what is important to you. It also gives you the opportunity to prepare for this transition without being overwhelmed at the moment by stress, hormones or discomfort.
2. Consider limiting hospital visitors.
Hurray, your baby is here! While everyone is excited to see you and meet the baby, those first hours and days are an important period of time for bonding. It can also help to set you up for breastfeeding success by beginning that process of establishing your milk supply and allowing you and baby time to practice breastfeeding.
Having visitors around means it could be harder to do things like skin-to-skin and nursing on demand. If it works for you, let family and friends know that you'll be spending those early moments with your babe alone.
3. Find your village and have conversations about breastfeeding.
My go-to person during much of my first pregnancy was my mom. However, when it came to feeding my newborn, much of her wisdom was dated and inaccurate.
Misaligned expectations are one of the most significant barriers to breastfeeding success. If you set proper expectations around breastfeeding, you'll be better able to meet your goals!
It's essential that you're aware of what to realistically expect in those first few days, weeks and months. You can do this by talking to mamas who are breastfeeding.
Find a friend that is nursing, a local La Leche League, or a breastfeeding support group—and attend a meeting prenatally or have conversations around what to expect. You'll be surprised (and thankful) that you got first-hand insight on today's breastfeeding challenges and triumphs before the baby arrives.
4. Prepare your toolbox
Prepping for baby can be a lot of fun (is there anything cuter than baby clothing?). While you're out picking things up for the new babe, grab a few things for your breastfeeding toolbox. You don't need much to breastfeed successfully, but there are a few things that will make those first few days and weeks a little easier and more comfortable:
- Nipple salve. Nipple care is super important when transitioning to breastfeeding (your nipples will feel raw those first days). Applying nipple salve or balm between feedings right from the start can make a big difference.
- Nursing pads to keep your clothes dry in-between feeds
- Warm and cold compresses. Cold will be helpful if you find yourself uncomfortably engorged and warm (or a hot shower) will aid in your milk let down or help with soreness
The idea of breastfeeding can be very overwhelming, but with support, planning and some old fashioned good luck, you'll be able to rock it.