Preparing to breastfeed
Congrats on wanting to breastfeed your little one! Breastmilk is the most complete form of nutrition you can provide your baby. It’s made specifically for your little one and changes to meet their needs as they grow and develop. There are also many other substances in breastmilk that promote your little one’s health, including those with anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, growth promoting and immune-strengthening properties as well as prebiotics and all the nutrition they need.
While breastfeeding support is most needed after your little one is born, knowing what to expect now can help you feel confident in feeding your baby after he is born. Here are some tips on how to prepare for breastfeeding.
Classes: Attending prenatal classes can help you prepare for the whole picture. Understanding what is to come in all aspects of having a baby will allow you to feel a bit calmer, and most classes include breastfeeding instruction as well.
Prenatal appointment with a lactation consultant: Having an appointment before you give birth will allow a lactation specialist to identify any medical or anatomical issues that may interfere with successful breastfeeding. If you haven’t noticed any (or only minimal) changes in your breast cup size during your pregnancy, or if you have any endocrine disorders such as PCOS or hormone-related infertility, these are signs that you may benefit from meeting with a lactation counselor.
Get your birthing team and family on board: Make sure that your doctors, nurses, family, and any other support understand your plan to breastfeed. Some hospitals will take your baby to the nursery, and some will even provide your baby with formula without permission. If possible, ask that your baby ‘room in’ with you. This means your babe will stay in your room at all times, which will allow you to feed him on-demand – or whenever he is hungry. Feeding on-demand is best for your milk supply.
Skin-to-Skin: Breastfeeding tends to be most successful if you are allowed to go skin-to-skin for at least the first couple hours after your baby is born. Research shows that this helps to regulate your baby’s temperature, heart rate, and breathing. Have your team put your babe on your chest right after birth in the delivery room! Tests such as the APGAR can be done while baby is on you. Weighing, eye treatment, and all other tests can usually be postponed until after the first nursing session, which usually happens within these first two hours.
Cesarean Section: Even after a birth of this type, you may still be able to do skin-to-skin and breastfeed your baby in those hours right after birth. If for some reason you aren’t able to, have your partner do skin-to-skin with baby until you are ready. Make sure the staff does not provide formula unless medically necessary. Breastfeeding while lying on your back, even under the effects of a spinal/epidural, is usually still possible. Using the ‘laid back’ breastfeeding position, place baby facing down (nose free to breath) lying across your chest but away from the incision. Have someone nearby to help if needed, particularly to ensure baby’s nose does not get blocked by being too close to you. Use lots of pillows for support. Once you are able to move, nursing in the side-lying or football positions may be most comfortable.
Lactation Consultant and Resources: Ask if there is a lactation consultant on staff at the hospital/birthing center who can help with latching and positioning. Also, request a list of lactation resources, such as breastfeeding support groups or lactation consultants, to bring with you once discharged.
Nurse often: In the first few days and weeks, your baby needs to eat often to get enough calories and nutrients. Generally, babies at this age will need to eat about every 2 hours, or approximately 10 times per 24 hours. Feeding often is also important for your supply.
Studies have shown that breastfeeding happens more readily when lots of skin-to-skin happens in the first week as well as minimal swaddling. This will allow you and your babe to best learn how to breastfeed together!
These are the first steps! Once you are home and working on your breastfeeding more, come chat with the Happy Mama Mentors to help support you in your breastfeeding journey.
Wombach, Karen; Riordan, Jan. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation 5th Edition. 2016.
Lyford, Eva. “Information is Your Ally in preparing to breastfeed: 10 Tips for Success” Kellymom. Date accessed 14 July 2018.
“Preparing to Breastfeed.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health. Date accessed 16 July 2018.
Ballard O, Morrow AL. “Human Milk Composition: Nutrients and Bioactive Factors.” Pediatr Clin North Am. 2013 Feb; 60(1): 49–74. doi: 10.1016/j.pcl.2012.10.002. Date accessed 16 July 2018.