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How successful do you want your breastfeeding experience to be? Probably wildly successful, if I had to guess. But if you’re like a lot of women and don’t give breastfeeding any thought beyond “that’s what I’ll do,” then you’re headed for a bumpy road my friend. You need to get ready for breastfeeding!
I’m not saying become an expert. That’s probably impossible. You can take a class, watch educational videos, and read every breastfeeding book you can find, but you’ll still never be fully prepared to breastfeed your new baby.
When you blend your individuality and lack of experience with your baby’s individuality and lack of experience, you come up with a limitless supply of possible blunders and victories. You guys may be champs. Or you may struggle a bit. Maybe even a lot.
Fortunately, there are things you can do before your baby arrives to smooth out the road ahead of you. Below are eight steps you can take now to make breastfeeding easier when the time comes.
1. Don’t toughen up
So Aunt Mildred thinks you should “toughen up your nipples” using a toothbrush? Maybe she suggests you use a rough towel? Either way, you can just ignore this little nugget of wives’ tale “wisdom.”
There’s really no need to toughen up your nipples because breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. If your baby is latched correctly, there may be just a little bit of tenderness the first few days, but no real pain. Now if your nipples begin to crack, bleed, or hurt badly, then you have a latch problem that has to get fixed. Stat. Or if you have breast pain that isn’t nipple specific, it could be engorgement or an infection.
Please don’t take Aunt Mildred’s advice. You could actually do more harm than good. Nipples are sensitive, especially right now, and you could easily irritate or blister them. You don’t want to start breastfeeding while your nipples are healing from self-inflicted blisters!
Oh, and if you’re getting close to your due date, the nipple stimulation could start labor. Not that it ever worked for me after my due date…
2. Get Ready For Breastfeeding Through Research
A little research never hurt anyone. Read up on breastfeeding recommendations, restrictions, and diet. See if there are any changes in your lifestyle, eating habits, or medications that you should be thinking about now.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to brush up on local laws as they pertain to employer accommodations and breastfeeding in public. Know your rights and restrictions.
You should go ahead and familiarize yourself with the needs of a new baby, like about how often they’ll need to nurse, and for how long. Oh, and if your local hospital offers a class, I definitely recommend signing up.
The more you can educate yourself on the front end, the better!
3. Position, position, position
I know when you think of breastfeeding, your brain probably takes you right to the quintessential image of a doting mother cradling her happily-nursing-infant, right? I pray that’s your experience.
My experience the first time I fed each of my babies was a bit like I was thumb wrestling an octopus. I don’t know if you’ve ever had that particular experience, but it’s almost impossible.
Newborn hands are everywhere, and while you try to navigate Junior’s attempts at helpfulness, your brain will keep chipping in with “watch his head… don’t cover his nose… no, the nipple goes IN his mouth… you jostled him!… keep his hands down…there you go…how did it slip out?!?!?”
Do yourself a favor now, and get familiar with different breastfeeding positions, because the most comfortable position for you may not be the picture perfect cradle hold. Maybe you’ll have better luck with the cross cradle, or the football hold. Who knows, maybe your baby will do the beautiful breast crawl.
Just know that you have options, and be familiar with what they are. If you’re not comfortable sitting up holding your baby while you try to get the right latch, you certainly don’t have to.
4. Line Up Support
Don’t skip this step! Maybe you’ll be one of those lucky women who just instinctively knows exactly what to do and parents a little darling who feeds like a champ. Most likely, at some point, your little darling (or your body) will throw an unexpected curve ball at you. You’re going to want to be prepared in case that curveball is at 2 AM, so go ahead and find the phone numbers for local lactation consultants and 24-hour helplines that service your area. I recommend at least two phone numbers, one of which should be a 24-hour line.
The International Lactation Consultant Association directory is a wonderful resource for finding lactation consultants based on your zip code.
La Leche League has a nationwide 24-hour helpline: 877-4LA-LECHE (1-877-452-5324)
Even if you’re not a super organized person, and even if you’ve never used a chart in your life, this is the time to embrace charting. A tracking log can literally save your baby’s life. You should be charting wet diapers, dirty diapers, feedings and how long the baby ate (or attempted to) This will give you the first sign if there’s a problem.
You can download this free breastfeeding log below, or scribble your log out on notebook paper – just track your feedings! Please.
6. What’s your style?
You don’t have to have a defined style. Maybe you know you’re an attachment parent. Maybe you know you’re absolutely not. But spend a little time reading and learning about different feeding styles and get an idea of how you may want to approach the care of your baby. You don’t have to completely follow a particular method, and you can always change tactics. But knowing how others do things is a great way know what you’d like to try (or avoid!) and also lets you see that there’s more than one way to take care of a baby.
7. Nursing station
If it’s at all possible, set up a nursing station wherever you plan to feed the baby most often. It can be an elaborate nest of comfort and convenience, or it could just be a basket next to your chair, but you will inevitably need things while you’re stuck in that seat. A little advance planning in this area will prove you really have this. Like a BOSS.
Here’s a list of some really useful things to have on hand when you’re nursing:
- bottled water & snacks
- easy to hold books
- pencil and paper
- lap desk
- house phone
- iPad or tablet and a charger or dock
- cellphone charger
- hand sanitizer
- hair clips
- lip balm
- burp cloths
- Lansinoh nipple cream
- extra nursing pads
- nursing pillow
- a way to prop your feet up
Why do all this beforehand? Because you will absolutely need something on this list while you’re feeding, and once you’ve started you don’t want to have to stop to retrieve something. Even more so if you’re having trouble getting started to begin with!
What clothes and bras do you plan to wear? What about at night when baby wants to eat and you’re half awake?
Bras, shirts, and pajamas made solely for breastfeeding aren’t strictly necessary. They’re nice, but you can also use loose fitting tops (love those generous V necks!) and clothes that are easy to move around in. If your regular pajamas are nice and loose, you don’t have to bother with nursing pajamas unless you just want to. I loved the novelty of it with my first baby, but now I’d rather swipe a piece of fabric aside than do the whole snap/unsnap routine at night.
Whatever you wear, be mindful of milk stains! Your breasts are going to leak. A lot. I found out the hard way that milk really does leave a stain, and the older it gets is the worse it looks. (If you’ve got a stain, here’s how to get it out.)
You GOT This
I have the utmost faith in you! Breastfeeding can be a challenge, but it’s really not rocket science. You can totally do this. Follow these 8 steps, and you’re going to make your nursing adventure a whole, whole lot easier. Best of luck and happy milking!
What tips did you find helpful? Like to show me a picture of your nursing station? I’d love to know about it! Please comment and share!