Many moms will spend a substantial amount of time preparing for the births of their babies, but not consider preparing for breastfeeding.
We tend to assume breastfeeding will go well, so the setbacks or hurdles surprise us. Sometimes it goes beautifully and is simple from the beginning, but sometimes takes a lot of time and support to work. Pregnancy is really the best time to gather information and support for the next stage of motherhood: nursing an infant.
Here are some tips to help you prepare for your breastfeeding journey:
1. Attend a Breastfeeding Class by an IBCLC
Many lactation consultants and breastfeeding educators will offer classes for expectant couples about the basic mechanics and techniques of breastfeeding. My husband and I attended one of these during my first pregnancy that was held at our birth center. I was blown away by how much I didn’t already know — we both learned so much!
My husband even said it was so good for him to anticipate what a commitment breastfeeding would be and to know how to support me. We learned about what a good latch looks like, how to encourage a good milk supply, the importance of nursing on demand (especially in the beginning), how to time pumping sessions and so much more.
The live setting was great so we could ask questions and get feedback, if there is no live class offered in your area, consider taking an online class like this one. It is very thorough and is available to reference over and over.
2. Form a Support Network
Just knowing other people with the same goals is so important! Finding a mom group you can connect with to share experiences with help struggles feel less daunting. La Leche League groups meet all over the US and the world. These women educate, share tips, and give advice. You can find a group near you on their website. Their book, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, is also an incredible resource.
It is also important to have the name of a lactation consultant on hand whom you can call, text or visit when necessary. Many of them make house calls so new moms don’t even have to leave the house. Always keep your receipts and even if your insurance plan does not have guidelines to cover breastfeeding support or education, submit your receipts for reimbursement. I know several moms who have been paid back what they spent in visits to lactation consultants.
3. Prepare Your Friends and Family
Be upfront about your goals to nurse your baby. If a mother is the first in her sphere of influence, this is especially important. Consider bringing those closest to you along to classes or support groups so they understand more about the benefits and how to assist you. They may be surprised to learn things that can interfere with a successful breastfeeding relationship in the early days, such as artificial nipples, not having plenty of skin to skin time, scheduled feedings, dehydration — all things they can support mom in if they know to!
I talked with a couple recently who explained they planned to let the dad give their newborn a pumped bottle during the night so mom could rest. They were so surprised to understand how in order for most women to maintain a supply to meet the baby’s demand, she would need to nurse or pump throughout the night. He was happy to support her, he just needed to know how.