While you’ve been pregnant, your breasts have been preparing for breastfeeding. From your first trimester of pregnancy, your breasts have been growing—milk ducts have been enlarging and fat stores have been increasing. You may have experienced colostrum, the precursor to full breast milk, leaking from your breasts while you’ve been pregnant. While your uterus and other internal organs have been nurturing and growing your baby, your breasts have also been changing throughout your pregnancy—preparing for the job of breastfeeding your newborn.
Breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your new baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, and continuing to breastfeed for the first year and beyond, as long as it is beneficial for both mom and baby.
In addition to the many health benefits to both mom and baby, breastfeeding, unlike formula, is convenient and free. For most new mothers, breastfeeding quickly becomes an easy and natural part of their day. However, breastfeeding can be a little tricky in the beginning, so we have some tips for you on how to prepare for breastfeeding while you’re still pregnant.
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Educate Yourself about Breastfeeding While You’re Pregnant
While you are pregnant is a great time to learn about breastfeeding. Websites like breastmilk.com can offer support and answer all of your breastfeeding questions. You may also want to attend a local La Leche League (LLL) meeting. At an LLL meeting you’ll meet other breastfeeding moms as well as knowledgeable and supportive leaders. LLL meetings are a great place to learn about breastfeeding and make new friends!
If your birth center or hospital offers a breastfeeding class—sign up! You’ll likely meet an onsite lactation consultant who will be available to you after you deliver. Plus, you’ll learn how the hospital or birth center will help you establish breastfeeding after birth, answering common questions about how soon to breastfeed after birth, for how long, and how often.
All you really need to breastfeed is yourself and your baby, but there are some other things that are nice to have. Consider purchasing some of these breastfeeding items to make your experience as a nursing mom easier and more comfortable:
- Nursing bras – a must for convenient nursing, especially in public.
- Nursing shirts – nice to have, but a loose shirt that can be pulled up, or a blouse with buttons work fine too.
- Breast pads – to absorb leaking breast milk and help protect sore nipples.
- Nipple Cream – helps to relieve sore nipples during the first few weeks.
- Breastfeeding pillow – a special pillow to help keep your newborn positioned properly.
- Breast pump – especially if you are planning to return to work.
Make Space While You’re Nesting
Creating a special place to breastfeed is a great gift you can give to yourself and your baby. You’ll need a comfortable place to sit, pillows, blankets if the weather is cold, and a place to put anything you might want while nursing, like a book or the TV remote. You might also want a small table for a glass of water or a cup of breastfeeding tea.
At the Hospital
Fortunately, today, babies are no longer sent to a nursery after birth. Rooming in with mom is the default. This makes early breastfeeding much easier. Ideally, you’ll want to breastfeed your baby within an hour of his or her birth. If you’re having trouble, a nurse can probably help.
Babies that receive artificial nipples (bottles or pacifiers) can become nipple confused which makes it harder for them to learn to breastfeed. Make sure that everyone who cares for your baby during your stay in the hospital knows artificial nipples are a no-no for your baby.