Your baby has not yet arrived, but you know you plan to breast- or chestfeed. What are the best ways to prepare? Below, International Board Certified Lactation Consultants® (IBCLCs®) share six top tips on how to get ready for the journey ahead. Taking these steps now will maximize your chances of meeting your breastfeeding goals.
Spend time with someone who is breastfeeding.
There is no substitute for seeing the process up close and personal before your baby arrives. “Go and see and be around other nursing mothers,” advises Roxanna Farnsworth, IBCLC. Look in your circle of friends and family for parents with nursing babies who may be willing to share their experience. Or, seek out a local mother-to-mother breastfeeding group—they welcome pregnant and prospective parents, and you will see lots of babies breastfeeding.
Know what normal looks like.
Misconceptions about infant feeding and sleep are common. If you expect your baby to sleep long stretches and eat every three hours, you may panic when he or she does not conform to this idea. You may worry that your baby is not getting enough milk or that there is some other problem. Healthy newborn babies nurse a lot, and unpredictably. It is important to know what to expect. “Focus on learning about what normal newborn breastfeeding behaviors are!” says Lynette Beard, IBCLC. “They are very different from that beautiful five-month-old you may have seen breastfeeding.”
Engage your partner.
Research shows that the messages we get from those close to us dramatically impact our confidence in our ability to breastfeed. If you have a partner, take the time before your baby arrives to seek their support. “Talk to your partner about what breastfeeding means to you and what you think might be helpful from them (and not),” suggests Farnsworth. “Often the partner (if one is involved) says or does things that hurt the breastfeeding person without realizing it. In my class, we practice how the partner can share and show love by asking what the mom needs in the moment (versus giving advice or dismissive comments).”
Learn the basics.
While birth classes may be your major focus leading up to your baby’s arrival, set aside some time to educate yourself about breastfeeding. Gaining knowledge will boost your confidence. “My advice? Take a prenatal breastfeeding class and set up a prenatal consult with an IBCLC if you can,” Bryna Sampey, IBCLC, says. One key skill to learn: hand expression. “Learn and practice hand expression so you can get good at it by the time you need it,” Sampey adds. “It is really beneficial.”
Protect the first hours.
Once your baby is in your arms, plan for breastfeeding to be your only priority for the first hours of life. As tempting as it is to invite friends and family to hold and admire the new arrival, this is a critical time for privacy. “Ask about your hospital or birth center’s policy on skin-to-skin and the hours [immediately] after birth,” recommends Chasta Carson Hite, IBCLC. “Plan for uninterrupted skin-to-skin and breastfeeding for a minimum of one to two hours or longer if needed. Prepare your family that you will be limiting visitors during this time.”
Set up support.
Most importantly, have your lactation support team in place before you need them. Locate the names and phone numbers of local support group leaders and IBCLCs, and keep this information handy. “Having contact information of a lactation consultant and breastfeeding support in your community [will] support your personal breastfeeding goals, so you can have your best experience possible,” says Angie Hilliard, IBCLC. Preparing and educating yourself is key, but knowing you are not alone on this journey is the best peace of mind.
Find an IBCLC to help with your questions about lactation and employment or your other breastfeeding questions.
An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® (IBCLC®) is a healthcare professional who specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding.
An IBCLC can reassure you when breastfeeding and lactation are going well, and provide information and support to help prevent and manage common concerns. Learn more and find an IBCLC in your community here.