Currently expecting and hoping to breastfeed your precious new baby? In search of all the best tips and tricks to help you prepare for breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding has SO many benefits for both mom and baby. The properties of your breast milk can change to exactly what your baby needs at that time and also provides loads of antibodies to help keep baby healthy. Breastfeeding also reduces moms risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and postpartum depression.
But even though breastfeeding is so beneficial and natural, it doesn’t always come naturally. It’s usually more a learned process for both mom and baby.
Luckily, there are several things you can do during your pregnancy to help you prepare and reach your breastfeeding goals.
Listed below are 12 of the best ways for you to prepare for breastfeeding before your baby arrives.
12 Easy Ways to Prepare for Breastfeeding During Your Pregnancy
1. Talk with Breastfeeding Veterans
One of the best things you can do to prepare for breastfeeding is to talk with moms who have successfully breastfed. Sit down and ask them to give you their best advice, tips, and hacks. Take the opportunity to ask them any questions you may have about breastfeeding.
This was honestly so hard for me because none of my family had breastfed before. I did have a few friends and a mother-in-law that had breastfed their babies though, so I was able to go to them with my questions and concerns.
2. Take a Class
Another good place to start when learning about breastfeeding is to take a class. Your hospital may offer a free class, but there’s also online courses that you can take from the convenience of your own home. And honestly, I found the online courses much more helpful than the one my husband and I took at our local hospital.
Milkology has some of the best classes on the net. Their Ultimate Breastfeeding Class is perfect for new moms preparing to breastfeed.
This course covers why breastfeeding is so beneficial for you and your baby, how to get proper latch and positioning, and how to tell if your baby is getting enough breast milk or not. You’ll also learn the secrets behind expressing (pumping and manually expressing) breast milk and how to safely store your breast milk.
And bonus, this course comes with a free ebook on breastfeeding secrets, breastfeeding milestone photo cards, and exclusive discounts for Milkology students (including more FREE stuff!).
The course is outlined by short, easy-to-watch videos, and you can go through it at your own pace. There’s also notes that you can download and print off for easy reminders.
You can learn more about the Ultimate Breastfeeding Class here.
3. See the Real Thing
I think seeing the real thing can be EXTREMELY helpful. Because honestly, no matter how much information you look up or how many videos you watch, seeing the real thing just puts it all in a whole new perspective.
So if you can, ask a family member or close friend if they wouldn’t mind letting you see how they get their baby to latch, what a proper latch should look like, and sounds you should listen for (ex. gulping and swallowing sounds = good sign, clicking noises = sign of poor latch/milk transfer). They may even have a few tricks up their sleeve for what to do when your baby isn’t latched on correctly.
4. Gather All the Best Resources
After you’ve spoken with other breastfeeding moms and taken a course, a good next step would be to gather all your best breastfeeding resources. Write these down in a notebook or make a spreadsheet on your computer. Just have them some place handy.
Be sure to research all the best lactation consultants in your area. It’s a smart idea to have one lined up for when your baby arrives.
You’ll also want to find breastfeeding support groups in your area. These are a great way to connect with other mamas, do weighed feedings, and get input on how your baby’s latch is. Many support groups have lactation consultants available.
Other resources you’ll want to research include breast pump services, breastfeeding groups on Facebook, postpartum doulas, reputable websites, and where to go when you have questions regarding medicine and breastfeeding compatibility.
There are several FREE breastfeeding resources out there. You just have to know where to look.
5. Spend Time in Breastfeeding Groups
After you’ve found some Facebook groups and breastfeeding support groups, spend some time in them. Yes, it is totally fine to attend support groups even though your baby isn’t here yet!
This is such a great way to learn about the real ins and outs and ups and downs of breastfeeding. You’ll be able to see what kind of troubles moms are having and learn some tricks on how to fix them. You’ll get an idea of what the most common obstacles are and what’s normal and what’s not.
Plus, you’ll be able to connect with some other amazing ladies along the way.
6. Mold a Support Team
Support can go such a long ways when it comes to breastfeeding success.
I’m sure many of the ladies in your breastfeeding support groups will start to become such a great support system for you. But there’s also several ways your other friends and family can provide support.
Heck, there’s even several ways for dad to help out and bond with his breastfed baby.
Let your family and friends know how important their support is to you and your breastfeeding goals with your baby. Let them know that even though you’re nursing, they can still help change your baby’s diapers, hold them so you can catch some Zzzzs, and sing to them.
Ask them kindly to return the baby to you if she starts to get fussy, starts to root around, or shows any other signs of hungriness. Your family can also support you by cooking meals, doing some light cleaning, going grocery shopping, and filling up your water bottle.
7. Create a Breastfeeding Station
Breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s this joyous, picturesque thing all the time. In fact, those first few weeks can be rough.
You’ll be spending A LOT of time nursing those first few months and your nipples will take some time to strengthen those initial weeks (especially if you’re a first time nursing mom). You’ll need to set yourself up with all the right tools and keep them close by. You’ll also need to keep yourself comfy, because as I mentioned, you’ll be busy breastfeeding quite a bit.
Set up some stations near your bed and your favorite spot to sit with pillows to support your back and a basket with all the essentials:
- Nipple cream: Coconut oil actually works great as nipple cream! I’m also a big fan of Earth Mama’s Organic Nipple Butter.
- Breast pads: Leaks are likely to happen those first few months (and sometimes longer). It’s nice to have some clean breast pads handy when you’re other ones get soaked. I found these reusable ones quite comfortable.
- Haakaa/manual pump: Manual pumps are perfect to have for a quick two-minute pump to relieve engorgement. Pumping a bit right before a feed will make it easier for your baby to latch on. Haakaas are also awesome, because you can place it on the opposite breast of the one your baby is nursing on to help catch your letdown and any leaks. This is great for building a freezer stash.
- One handed snacks: Breastfeeding makes you hungry. Be sure to have lots of snacks on hand that are easy to eat with one hand. Apples, pears, energy bites, and cheese are great options for nursing mamas.
- Water bottle: Breastfeeding also makes you THIRSTY! Like, no joke! Be sure to keep a water bottle near you at all times while you’re nursing and be sure to fill it up before each feed. It also really helps to get a nice, large bottle with a straw.
- Soothie gel pads: These things are seriously amazing. You can keep some in your breastfeeding basket or you can keep them cool in the fridge. These gel pads just feel so soothing on sore nipples!
- Spare nursing bra and shirt: It’s also nice to have a spare shirt and nursing bra handy, as newborns are known to spit up.
- Burp rag: Help contain the spit-up with some handy burp rags. Since we cloth diaper, we just used prefolds. They’re actually cheaper than burp rags and more absorbent.
- Entertainment: Newborns aren’t the most efficient feeders, so you may be there nursing for awhile. Try to have the remote and some good books nearby.
- A few diapers and wipes: It’s also just nice to have a few diapers and wipes handy, as newborns go through so many.
- Spare outfit for baby: I’d add in a spare outfit for baby as well, in case he spits up all over his clothes or has a blowout.
8. Pick a Pump
It’s a good idea to pick a pump out ahead of time whether you plan to return to work or not.
If you’re a stay-at-home mom, you may be able to get away with just a manual pump or a Haakaa. If you’re a working mom, then you’ll want to be sure to pick the best electric pump to fit your needs, and you may also still want to get a manual pump and/or a Haakaa.
You can easily see what kind of pumps you qualify for by submitting your insurance information through Aeroflow Breastpumps. Once they verify your coverage, you should be able to pick out and receive your new breast pump.
Keep in mind that some insurance companies only let you get one AFTER your baby is here, but having one picked out before hand will certainly make life easier. Many hospitals have stores where you can purchase your pump before you leave if you’re having a hospital birth.
9. Get Familiar with Feeding Habits
One of the most important things about nursing is to understand what typical breastfed baby feeding behavior looks like.
It’s crucial that you’re not supplementing when you don’t have to, and on the flip side, it’s crucial to know when you’re not making enough milk and do need to supplement. You need to be able to know how to tell if your baby is getting enough breast milk or not.
Counting wet and dirty diapers will be your number one priority for this, so be sure to keep track manually on paper or download a baby tracking app. Your baby should also be gaining enough weight, so be sure to make it to your pediatrician appointments, attend weighed feedings, or even have a baby scale at home.
You’ll also need to understand how often breastfed babies typically feed and become very familiar with cluster feeding.
It’s very common for breastfed newborns to eat every 2-3 hours during the day and even every 2-4 hours at night. Breastfed babies eat more frequently, as breast milk is highly digestible. Plus, newborn tummies are so tiny, they can only ingest so much at a time.
When your baby is going through a growth spurt, they will want to feed much more frequently during certain parts of the day (usually late afternoon or evening). This is your baby signaling to your body to make more milk. Your baby may nurse on and off for a few hours at a time during these periods. This is cluster feeding, and you can learn more about it here.
10. Put it on Your Birth Plan
When you’re typing up your birth plan, be sure to put your breastfeeding goals on there. This is especially important if you’re having a hospital birth.
This lets the hospital staff know what you’re intentions are for breastfeeding and how they can help you reach your goals.
This is what I had on my birth plan:
- Mom plans to breastfeed.
- Please no bottles, formula, or pacifiers.
- Baby is to be placed on mom’s chest right away for skin-to-skin.
- I would like a lactation consultant to come to my room during my stay.
Now, this plan worked wonderful with my second baby. My first baby, however, came early at 36 weeks and wouldn’t latch the majority of the time. I ended up giving her formula until I was able to get some milk out while pumping. I couldn’t express colostrum for the life of me. That stuff is thick (but so nutritious)!
Baby #1 ended up learning how to latch on correctly after a few weeks of pumping. She then when on to breastfeed for 17 beautiful months. 🙂
11. Know What NOT to Believe
While advice can be great, you do have to have to be mindful and take it with a grain of salt. You need to know which advice to trust and which to ignore (easier said than done, I know).
There are several breastfeeding myths out there you should be aware of. For example, if you aren’t pumping much milk, then you must not be making enough breast milk for your baby. This isn’t necessarily true. Pumping isn’t always a good indicator of milk supply. Babies are much more efficient at expressing breast milk than a machine.
Then there’s also outdated info. For example, Fenugreek has previously been recommended by lactation consultants to increase milk supply. And for many moms, this has worked.
But, Fenugreek really isn’t recommended anymore, as it can actually cause the opposite effect for some women and even cause uncomfortable GI issues for your baby. It’s also not recommended if you’re pregnant or have asthma, hyper- or hypothyroidism, or an allergy to peanuts.
It can also be discouraging when people give you the wrong expectations about baby sleep patterns. Some parents do get lucky and have a breastfed baby that sleeps great, but for the most part, it’s pretty normal for breastfed babies to wake more frequently to feed.
So, please don’t get discouraged if your baby is waking every 2-4 hours to nurse. You’ll likely get a nice break, as many babies sleep well between 2-3 months old before the 4 month sleep regression hits.
For now, just be sure to have help lined up so you can sneak in some naps during the day.
12. Have the Right Mindset
As a first time breastfeeding mom, you’ll probably be a little uncertain.
Try to learn all that you can during your pregnancy, so you can be more confident with breastfeeding when your baby arrives. Research how a correct latch should look, different breastfeeding positions, and how to tell if your baby is getting enough breast milk.
And while you should try to stay positive, know that sometimes things don’t go as planned. Your baby might arrive early and not want to latch on. Your baby may end up having a tongue or lip tie that needs corrected in order to get good milk transfer. And although rare, sometimes moms just don’t make enough breast milk.
If your goals have to be tweaked, then just no that everything is going to be okay, and you have to do what YOU have to do.
Get advice from a lactation consultant (preferably an International Board Certified one) asap if you or your baby is having issues with breastfeeding. They should be able to get you on an appropriate plan for your needs.
You may end up breastfeeding exclusively, you may end up pumping and supplementing those first few weeks while your baby is learning to latch, or you may end up doing a combo of breast milk, donor milk, and/or formula. And that is okay mama! You are still growing and providing nourishment for your baby!
Ready, Steady, Breastfeed
Breastfeeding is a natural process that doesn’t always come naturally. Luckily, there are several ways that we can prepare ourselves for breastfeeding, so that we’re not so clueless when our baby arrives.
You can prepare with plenty of breastfeeding-related info by talking with moms who’ve breastfed, taking a breastfeeding course, spending time in support groups, and researching all the best breastfeeding resources available to you.
It’s also extremely important to understand the breastfeeding norms, how to tell if your baby is getting enough breast milk, and which breastfeeding advice you should ignore. And, don’t forget to have a wonderful support system in place, so you get all the help and encouragement you need to reach your breastfeeding goals.
What About You?
What are you doing to prepare for breastfeeding? Share your best preparation tips in the comments below and be sure to share this post with other expecting moms.