What to expect when you're expecting (to breastfeed)
When you’re getting ready to have a baby, your to-do list is LONG! Getting your nursery ready, stocking up on baby clothing, reading up on what to expect in the first weeks and months of your baby’s life. But is preparing for your breastfeeding journey also part of your pre-baby prep work?
If you’re planning on breastfeeding, a little planning in advance can really help you start off on the right foot. (Or is it, the right boob?) Learn as much as possible
Read up on breastfeeding
Ask your doctor or midwife about breastfeeding resources in your area. These are a few easy steps to take to start learning about what to expect with breastfeeding.
But another good option — and one that many mamas don’t take — is to enroll in a breastfeeding class. While breastfeeding is often covered in a childbirth class, it tends to be a brief section and not the focus of the curriculum. On the other hand, a breastfeeding course will lead you through EVERYTHING you want and need to know about your boobs and your baby.
Science backs up the effectiveness of breastfeeding classes, too. Research shows that mamas that take breastfeeding classes will, on average, breastfeed for longer and have a greater chance of exclusively breastfeeding.
Talk to other moms
Besides lactation consultants, no one knows more about breastfeeding than other moms who have been there. Online breastfeeding groups are a treasure trove of been-there-done-that knowledge. And you’ll get true empathy and compassion in the future for early morning feedings, clogged ducts, and sore nipples. (And no one will ever judge you there for crying over spilled milk.)
Looking for a good place to start? LaVie’s Facebook Group is just for this.
Update your birth plan
If you’re a birth plan kind of mama, then you know how you want your birth to take place. But does your plan include communicating your breastfeeding plans to your care team at the hospital? It should.
It’s important to initiate breastfeeding within 30 minutes of giving birth. But it’s also important to avoid the following (unless medically necessary):
- Artificial nipples
- Sugar water
Basically, you want to keep everything except your nipple out of your baby’s mouth to prevent nipple confusion.
Of course, a big caveat to this is that, if you’re planning on exclusively pumping from the outset, you don’t have to worry about nipple confusion. However, you should still plan on communicating your plans to your care team so they can support you.
Find a lactation consultant
Lactation consultants are worth their weight in liquid gold. It doesn’t matter if you have a smooth, easy breastfeeding journey with no complications or if you experience a few bumps along the way. Lactation consultants help you feel empowered, confident, and informed about your breastfeeding relationship with your baby.
Before you give birth, research lactation consultants in your area. If you’re planning on a hospital or birth center birth, they’ll likely have a lactation consultant to meet with you soon after your baby is born, but these first few days can be a blur. Having a lactation consultant picked out in advance makes it easy to pick up the phone and call once you’re home.
Check the United States Lactation Consultant Association site’s page: Find an IBCLC.
Questions you should ask:
- Do they do home visits?
- What are their certifications and qualifications?
- What insurance do they take?
- What kind of follow up is included?
A lactation consultant can also help you locate support systems in your area, including chapters of La Leche League and other breastfeeding groups, resources for supply and transfer issues, and general maternal health issues.
Stock up on the essentials
Think you need just boobs and a baby to breastfeed? Think again. Yes, you can breastfeed without any additional supplies, but you’ll find your journey much easier (especially in the early days) if you’re prepared with supplies.
- Nursing bras
- Nursing cover (if desired)
- Boppy or another type of support pillow
If you know in advance that you plan to be an exclusively pumping mama, it’s especially important to get your supplies in advance. Whether you’re pumping or nursing, you’ll want to initiate breastfeeding within 30 minutes of delivering your baby. You should research and purchase:
- Double electric pump
- Pumping bra
- Milk storage bags
- Bottle cleaning supplies
And let’s be honest: every journey has its ups and downs. For breastfeeding mamas, even the most rewarding breastfeeding journey can include nipple pain, clogged ducts, engorgement, mastitis, and supply dips. It’s all totally normal but the right supplies can make it easier to manage:
- Lactation massager
- Nipple balm
- Comfort packs
Think about what breastfeeding might look like for you
Breastfeeding is much a mental and emotional experience as it is a physical one. If you’re planning on breastfeeding, whether nursing or pumping or both, you might have ideas already of what you want your experience to be like.
That’s great! But much like a birth plan, breastfeeding plans aren’t entirely in our control. Our bodies and our babies and our lives don’t always do what we expect them to. That’s why it’s really valuable to think about what success means for you. Is it exclusive breastfeeding for a year? Preparing to go back to work? Pumping so your partner can share in feeding responsibilities?
There’s no one right way to have a good breastfeeding experience. What was the most helpful breastfeeding advice you got when you were a new mom?