Getting Ready to Breastfeed Before Baby Arrives

5 tips to prepare for your nursing journey before labor even begins.

Getting Ready to Breastfeed Before Baby Arrives

The mechanics of breastfeeding can seem pretty obvious. As someone said to me when I was pregnant and concerned about breastfeeding, “What’s to know? You just stick the kid on there.” Unfortunately it’s not that simple.

Everyone ends up with a unique breastfeeding experience, but there’s a lot you can do before labor even begins to prepare for and foster a positive breastfeeding relationship with your baby (or babies). This can be challenging because there is a lot of information out there, and it can be overwhelming to process and figure out what will be essential for you and your baby. For example the mom of premature baby will have different concerns and needs than the mom of a full-term baby. Plus, no matter how much you, as the parent, prepare, your baby doesn’t have that opportunity. For him, breastfeeding is facilitated by instinct, reflex and practice. Therefore your preparations should focus on allowing your newborn to nurse and practice his latch as often as possible.


To help you start your nursing journey on the right foot, we’ve highlighted five tips to get ready to nurse before labor even begins.

Take a prenatal breastfeeding class. In my experience (and the research confirms it), prenatal breastfeeding education is a primary factor for positive breastfeeding outcomes. Accurate information about breastfeeding, in a modern context, is essential for parents to reach their breastfeeding goals. So find a class that fits your philosophy, and bring a friend and/or partner (it’s hard to remember everything -- and anything -- after you’ve had a baby). During the class, you should go over topics like basic biology of how milk production in humans works; the nuts and bolts of obtaining a comfortable and effective latch; and how to know the baby is getting enough milk from the breast. The class should cover what families can expect in those early weeks after the baby is born, as well as give tools and resources to troubleshoot if you end up encountering complications.

Go watch some moms’ nurse their babies. Youtube videos just don’t cut it. You have to see the real thing, in 3D, to really understand what it takes to breastfeed. That said, many moms can be shy or private about breastfeeding. So you may need to search for a willing mom for a while. If you have a friend who is nursing, ask her if you can watch her. If you don’t know anyone who’s nursing, many support groups are happy to let moms- to-be observe. La Leche League is a great place to start. Also, many YMCA locations and maternity-oriented shops have support groups, so ask around. If you live in New York, The New York Lactation Consultants Association lists all the support groups in and around the city.

Find out what kind of support is available at the hospital. Many hospitals talk a good game about supporting breastfeeding but don’t deliver as much help as you might need or expect. So when you go visit the maternity floor, ask if they have lactation consultants and how often they are available (is it every day, every other day or just on Sundays?). Some hospitals also train nurses to double as lactation consultant, which can be very helpful. However, the maternity floor can be very busy. If the nurses are swamped with their many nursing duties, they may not have the time to focus on individual breastfeeding support.

Find your local resources. Whether it’s from the Internet or from friends who have recently had babies, you can find great resources for tips and advice on breastfeeding. The International Lactation Consultant Association lists board-certified lactation consultants in your area and around the world. La Leche League has local chapters that offer peer support. The New York Lactation Consultants Association also offer a directory of consultants in the area.

Call your insurance company about coverage for breastfeeding help and support. Insurance -- it’s complicated. The webste says, “health insurance plans must provide breastfeeding support, counseling and equipment for the duration of breastfeeding.” These services may be provided before and after birth. This applies to Marketplace plans and all other health insurance plans, except for grandfathered plans. Though most insurance policies should cover prenatal breastfeeding classes and postpartum support, many breastfeeding families have a hard time getting reimbursed for out-of-network services. That’s why I recommend you talk to someone who knows your insurance’s policies (for more information, go here, here and here). Most importantly, don’t give up. The more knowledgeable a mother is about her rights and the more persistent she is, the harder it will be for the insurance companies to deny her compensations.

Patricia McGuire is International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, (IBCLC). She has worked in a hospital setting and in private practice for over 10 years. She serves NYC, Queens and Brooklyn. Patricia has a BA from City College in Public health and media studies.

Photography by Laura Vladimirova of Natural Birth Bebe.

After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.


Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

Keep reading Show less