Think there’s no way to get ready for breastfeeding while still pregnant? Guess again! Preparing for breastfeeding before your baby arrives should be at the top of your priorities during the second and third trimesters. Things will work themselves out once the baby is born, and life has a way of throwing curve balls, but arming yourself with knowledge and preparing your home for frequent nursing sessions is sure to make things run more smoothly.
If there’s one thing I wish I could go back in time and do over when it comes to parenting, it’s preparing and learning more about breastfeeding before my first baby was born.
First time moms tend to worry about all the wrong things, especially when it comes to breastfeeding. They buy the top name-brand breastfeeding gear and search the internet for ways to toughen their nipples for breastfeeding while they’re still pregnant.
(Which, by the way – don’t do that. Your hormones will do enough to prepare them naturally. Plus you’ll just hurt yourself and possibly make them more sensitive by the time your baby is born).
Even second and third time moms get overwhelmed thinking about how to get ready for breastfeeding again, particularly if several years have passed since they last broke out the trusty ol’ pump. Preparing to breastfeed your second baby, regardless of your previous breastfeeding experiences, isn’t difficult. It’s a clean slate!
There’s only so much you can do to prepare for breastfeeding, but you can arm yourself with knowledge. It’s 1000 times easier to maintain and increase your supply when you truly understand how milk production works beforehand. And, of course, you can put together a breastfeeding station and stock up on breastfeeding essentials.
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Preparing to Breastfeed Before Baby Arrives
1. Prepare a Breastfeeding Basket
I can’t recommend creating a breastfeeding basket enough. It’s one of the best things I did for myself when I was pregnant with my son.
There’s no way to describe how exhausting and draining breastfeeding is for the first few weeks (or even months), and having a kit together with all of the essentials is a total lifesaver.
Whether you plan on nursing in one spot most of the time or not, it’s smart to put everything in a caddy or a basket so it’s contained. That way, you can take it around from room to room. At the very least, it keeps everything organized!
Here’s What I Put In My Breastfeeding Basket:
- A basket (preferably one with different compartments, like this one)
- Nursing Pads
- Nipple Balm
- Haakaa (These are amazing! They catch all of the milk that comes out of the breast your baby is not nursing from, that would otherwise be wasted. The suction makes them hands-free, and super convenient.)
- Reusable Water Bottle
- Lactation Support Drops (always be aware that different people respond differently to fenugreek and blessed thistle.)
- A Book or Magazine
- Burp Cloths
- For Pumping Mamas: The only thing you’ll need to add is your pump and any of the pump’s attachments.
2. Join Breastfeeding Support Groups
There may be local breastfeeding support groups in your area, but you should at least consider joining some breastfeeding groups on Facebook. Milky Mamas is my personal favorite. They provide real, accurate advice and support to breastfeeding mothers. I’ve never run across misinformation being spread in that group.
It’s really nice learning new techniques and seeing other women encouraging each other simply by scrolling through your Facebook feed.
3. Look Into Milkology
Milkology offers two online breastfeeding courses, both for $19 each. You really can’t beat the price! It’s full of valuable information that will prepare you for nursing your baby and ensure that you have a well-rounded understanding of exactly how breastfeeding works.
Because, contrary to what I believed before having my first baby, it’s not as easy as it seems. You don’t just hope your baby has a good latch and let them feed when they’re hungry. There’s so much more to it.
The Ultimate Breastfeeding Class is an easy step-by-step program that goes over everything you could possibly need to know about breastfeeding your baby.
Here are just a few things this class will cover:
- The biggest mistake women make that can sabotage breastfeeding.
- The most effective breastfeeding position to get a deep latch.
- 2 simple ways to ensure baby is getting enough milk.
- A powerful strategy to make more milk whenever you need to.
… And more!
For those of you that will have to return to work at some point, and want to continue breastfeeding and pumping during that time, The Ultimate Back To Work Pumping Class is another course you might consider looking into.
4. Choose A Pump
If you didn’t already know, your health insurance should cover the cost of an electric breast pump! Simply call them for more information. You should certainly look through the various models and brands, but I’ll let you in on a little secret (that’s mostly just personal opinion and poll results from other breastfeeding moms this year): The Medela Pump in Style and Spectra s2 are the winners.
That being said, it’s important to understand that everyone reacts differently to different pumps. In fact, some women don’t do well with electric pumps at all, regardless of the brand, and instead turn to hand expression or manual pumps.
Typically, though, these two double electric pumps are top choices among breastfeeding mothers.
5. Learn Different Breastfeeding Positions
You’ll want to familiarize yourself with the common breastfeeding positions. You won’t know which position is most effective for you and your baby until they’re here, but you’ll know more than many new moms!
I never even thought about how to hold my son while nursing until he was here, and I was struggling. It seems like an easy thing to do, right? Like it would just come naturally. But it’s surprisingly difficult. At least, it was for me! I felt strange holding him, and nothing felt right until a lactation consultant stepped in to help.
Here are some breastfeeding positions to look into:
- Cradle Hold
- Football Hold
- Crossover Hold
- Side-Lying Position (my personal favorite)
- Laid-Back Position
6. Stock Up on The Breastfeeding Essentials
One of the few things you can actually do to prepare for breastfeeding your newborn is stocking up on the essentials! Aside from the breastfeeding basket items listed above, here are a few other items you should consider purchasing. These are the exact products I have, love, and used constantly!
- Bottles if you plan on bottle feeding (start with just a few because you might have to switch to a different brand if your baby has tummy problems, or refuses the nipples. Don’t forget that different bottle brands can fit on different pumps!)
- Nursing Pillow (Boppy’s work great, too!)
- Nursing Cover
- Prenatal Vitamins or Nursing Blend Vitamins
- Nursing Tea (Mother’s Milk is really awesome, and so is this one!)
- Hands-Free Bra (you can just make your own out of an old sports bra!)
- Breast Milk Storage Bags
- Soothies Gel Pads (Lansinoh also has some awesome breast therapy packs that be used hot or cold!)
- *Nursing bras (I actually don’t own these, but this brand is highly recommended)
- *Nursing tops (some people love having nursing tops, but I’ve never owned one! I just did the two-shirt method)
7. Think About How You’ll Make Breastfeeding Fit Into Your Schedule
Breastfeeding is a huge commitment. There’s no easy way around it. It doesn’t matter if you exclusively pump or breastfeed on demand, it’s still extremely time consuming.
If you know you’re going back to work after 6 weeks, you’ll absolutely need to prepare ahead of time. It’s vital that you start your breastfeeding journey off with a bang, and get a milk stash going as soon as you’re able.
Even stay-at-home moms who breastfeed on demand have to fit breastfeeding into their schedule. You’ll either need to learn to babywear, or accept the fact that you won’t be able to get up and do as much for quite some time.
Think about how you’re going to keep your home, work, and personal life running (somewhat) smoothly during those first few critical months. If you’re able to get help from family, friends, or your partner, you absolutely should take advantage of that!
8. Add Breastfeeding To Your Birth Plan
If you’re writing a birth plan, be sure to add breastfeeding to it! The first hour after birth is an important time for breastfeeding, and the nurses and doctors will need to know your plan.
9. Keep Your Partner or Family Members in The Loop
You’re much more likely to have a successful breastfeeding relationship if you have support from those close to you. It’s possible to do it all on your own, but reaching your goals will be easier with people on your side, helping you every step along the way.
And I’m not just talking about telling your husband that breastfeeding is important to you. I mean, make sure he understands the basics as well. I’ve heard far too many ladies talking about their husbands pouring milk down the drain or supplementing with formula without their consent. Make sure the people around you truly understand how much work it takes to breastfeed, and that you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to feeding the baby.
10. Prepare Your Home For Baby’s Arrival
Have I mentioned that breastfeeding is time consuming?
But seriously, one of the best things you can do to make your life easier those first few weeks is prepare your home for baby’s arrival. Set up a nursing station, portable diaper caddy, and have a couple week’s worth of meals planned out and ready to go. Making other aspect of your life easier will leave you with more time to learn how to breastfeed, so let those nesting urges take control and get your home ready for baby!
11. Research The Basics
If you’re not ready to take The Ultimate Online Breastfeeding Class, you should at least research and understand the basics of breastfeeding. You should also check out my post: 20 Breastfeeding Myths New Moms Need To Know.
It’s better to watch videos of babies with a good latch vs. a bad latch, but here are the basics according to americanpregnancy.org:
“Signs That Confirm A Good Latch:
- Tongue is seen when the bottom lip is pulled down
- Ears wiggle
- There is a circular movement of the jaw rather than rapid chin movements
- Cheeks are rounded
- You do not hear clicking or smacking noises
- You can hear swallowing
- Chin is touching your breast
- When your baby comes off the breast, the nipple is not flattened or misshaped”
Colostrum & When Your Milk Will Come In
Your milk won’t come in until your baby is 2-3 days old, but in the meantime you’ll produce colostrum. Unless your baby is a special case, these small amounts of colostrum are all your baby needs! There’s no need to supplement with formula or use donor milk. In fact, keep the baby to your breast as often as possible so your milk knows to come in!
How Often Baby Will Be Nursing
You should go into this knowing that it will feel like your baby is nursing around the clock, especially for the first few weeks. It’s absolutely exhausting.
It’s easy to say you’ll be able to push through, and that the love you’ll feel for your baby will be enough to keep you going, but the truth is, some days you might feel completely overwhelmed and touched out.
It’s okay to feel this way! You will be able to handle more than you know, and you will love your baby more than anything. But it’s also okay to feel like it’s all too much at times.
Many women mistake their baby’s frequent feedings as a sign that they’re not producing enough milk, when it’s actually completely normal. Your baby’s stomach will be super small at first, and they’ll require frequent feedings. Add in cluster feeding and comfort nursing, and you’re looking at 18 hours a day of nursing sometimes.
Maintaining and Increasing Your Milk Supply
The number one way to maintain and increase your milk supply is by consistently removing milk. This means the more you breastfeed and pump, the more you will produce.
The biggest “no-no” when it comes to breastfeeding is skipped feedings or pumping sessions. You’ll need to stay consistent to keep your supply up! Every time your nipples are stimulated and milk is removed, it’s sending signals to your body, telling it to produce more to keep up with your baby’s needs.
That’s why babies cluster feed by the way! They’re essentially letting your body know that it needs to produce more breast milk to keep up with their growing tummy.
It’s also why supplementing with formula is so discouraged. It’s detrimental to your milk supply!
12. Stay Open-Minded
Above all else, remember to stay open-minded and prepared to change your game plan at a moment’s notice. You just never know what life will throw at you.
Some babies just aren’t able to latch on properly, and breastfeeding doesn’t always work out for everyone. Some women even find that the pressure and commitment is too much for them to handle, and that’s fine too!
It doesn’t matter, as long as your baby is fed. Learning and preparing to breastfeed while you’re still pregnant is a great way to start off on the right foot, and you’re much more likely to establish a great milk supply right away. But ultimately, there’s no better way to learn than by doing the real thing once they’re here. Good luck, Mama!
For those of you that already have kids, how did you prepare for breastfeeding? Did you do anything at all, or just wing it? Is there anything you wish you would have done beforehand? Let us know in the comments!
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