Preparing to Breastfeed
By: Gabrielle Hathaway M.S., IBCLC
One of the questions I am often asked is, how do I prepare for breastfeeding? I could answer that there is no preparation needed and that breasts are "ready to feed". However, there are things you can do to maximize your chances of having a successful breastfeeding experience.
Attend childbirth and breastfeeding classes and don't be afraid to ask questions. When friends and family ask about shower gifts include a Brest Friend (the best nursing pillow) and an electric breast pump if you'll be working and breastfeeding. Prepare meals in advance and freeze them so you'll have more time to devote to baby after the birth.
During the birth: An awake and aware childbirth is the ideal precursor to breastfeeding. Make sure to have a birth plan and let all of your providers know that you wish to breastfeed. Ask to have your baby with you as soon after birth as possible (within 30 mins is reasonable) for skin to skin contact. Finally, ask for help! Breastfeeding is natural but doesn't necessarily come naturally. Be sure to ask your nurse or hospital IBCLC for help and room-in with your baby if the hospital allows it. Even one bottle of formula can negatively affect your baby, so try to avoid supplementation. Finally, if you don't feel comfortable nursing when you leave the hospital, contact a lactation consultant or your local La Leche League* for help. The hospital may also offer a free VNA visit after you go home; many of these nurses have breastfeeding training and can help with latch and positioning. It is well worth the effort to get breastfeeding off to a good start and can help you to avoid problems later.
So, although breasts are made for breastfeeding, there are ways to prepare for a successful nursing experience. However, if you need more help or have special circumstances (medical conditions, breast surgery, etc.) contact an IBCLC during your pregnancy to develop a plan of action – knowledge is power!
*go to http://www.llli.org/webus.html to find a group or leader near you
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