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I thought breastfeeding is a natural thing.
That every mom will eventually master breastfeeding.
So I did literally nothing during my first pregnancy to prepare for breastfeeding (oh.. except buying a breast pump because I plan to return to work once my maternity leave ends).
And the truth....?
I was overwhelmed...
I was overwhelmed with my baby's constant crying in his second night. It seemed like he wanted to nurse and nurse and nurse. And I was extremely exhausted.
The normal jaundice check routine became a nightmare when the doctor said I needed to give him more milk.
I was blaming myself constantly.
I didn't know what to do when he kept falling asleep during feeding.
My extended family kept pestering me that I should eat more, I should feed him more, and on.. and on...
It was all chaotic...
Though it got better after a few months, I truly regretted the experience. I promised myself that I would do better the next time around. So in the next pregnancy, I made sure I was more well-prepared.
Do you know that you can start preparing for breastfeeding during pregnancy? In fact, it is very crucial to have yourself prepared in advance, so that you feel well-informed and ready to breastfeed once your baby arrives.
This article will discuss 12 actionable tips to get yourself prepared for breastfeeding your baby, even before your baby arrives.
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1. Gather up and read as much as resources about breastfeeding.
Don’t just expect that breastfeeding is natural and you will be able to navigate it easily from the start.
Oh well, I’m not trying to scare you.
Breastfeeding is indeed enjoyable, but the first few weeks can be challenging.
By knowing what to expect and things that you can do to maximize your chance of success, you will be well-equipped should you encounter any breastfeeding challenges down the road.
I talk more about this in my article: Should you attend breastfeeding classes: Is it worth it?
Now, I would like to share with you what class I have attended for preparing for baby #3.
I bought Lactation Link confident breastfeeding course bundle (it’s video based so perfect when you want to follow the lesson while multitasking- I watched it while folding the laundry).
The course bundle consists of 3 courses:
- Breastfeeding Basics
- Breastfeeding Hurdles and How-To
- Pumping and Storing Expressed Breast Milk
Of course, you can always choose to get only one of them, but I chose all 3 because they will give me a comprehensive resource from the basic things to advanced issues such as what to do if breastfeeding does not happen as what I expected, solutions to common problem, plus all the detail things related to pumping breast milk.
The instructor, Lindsey Shipley is an IBCLC with years of experience of helping breastfeeding moms. She frequently conducts webinars and Instagram Q&A sessions free of charge (for the sake of helping), that I've been following regularly, so yes, she's a trusted person in her field.
And I believe, this is a life-time investment because I can always re-watch the video every time I want, and even for the next babies (if any).
But not only that, I decided to come to the complementary breastfeeding class in the hospital I’d give birth in.
Simply because I would have a chance to ask questions directly to the Lactation Counselor about possible issues, plus I want to make sure what’s the common breastfeeding practice done in the hospital (say, do I need to make special request just for having skin to skin contact with baby after birth, or is it part of standard procedure). The more normalized the breastfeeding practice in the hospital, it’s better right.
And you may ask, this is already your 3rd baby, is it really necessary? Do you learn something new?
And I would say yes, I did learn something new and have a better plan for my upcoming breastfeeding journey.
Related: TOP 5 breastfeeding books for new moms
2. Assess your health and physical condition.
Is there any health problem that can hinder your ability to breastfeed? Especially with history of low milk supply (for second time mum).
2a. Consider some blood test
Do you have any history of thyroid imbalance, PCOS, diabetes or insulin resistance? If you suspect to have one of these problems, it is better to have some blood work done to confirm your suspicions.
And then, work with an experienced lactation consultant on your breastfeeding plan, such as:
- taking several medications / herbal supplements while still pregnant (You can learn more about various herbs that can support milk production in this e-book).
- what to do in the early days (e.g. have a stock of colostrum or donated milk ready, have a hospital-grade breast pump ready right after birth)
- have a more frequent follow-ups with the lactation consultant to assess your milk production postpartum.
2b. Assessing your breast
Breast assessment may include checking the shape of your nipple: is it protruding as per normal, flat or inverted.
Do know that there’s a special tool that you can use to make your nipple more protruding if yours are flat/ inverted. Check how it works here.
Also, you may want to monitor your breast growth during pregnancy. While minimal breast growth does not always mean low milk supply, this is one of the factor that may indicate you don’t have enough milk making tissue inside your breast.
Do you have any history of breast surgery?
Please note that not all breast surgery is detrimental to breastfeeding, each case needs to be assessed individually. Thus, it is advisable to have a discussion with a lactation consultant regarding your breast surgery history. For further reading, you can refer to book ‘Breastfeeding after Breast Reduction Surgery’ by Diana West.
3. Read up on supplements that you can take during pregnancy
(Please double check with doctor especially if you are taking medication to avoid counter-side-effect)
OK, this is only for those struggling producing enough breast milk due to health / hormonal problem. Skip if your previous low milk supply history is due to breastfeeding mismanagement (such as not nursing frequent enough, etc).
Do you know that there’s supplements that you can take during pregnancy to increase your breastfeeding success?
The supplement will differ based on your own condition. Say, a mom who does not have enough milk-making tissue would consume different supplement compared to those having thyroid / insulin resistance problem. I suggest you to do your own research, make a discussion with an experienced lactation consultant and make sure that any supplements you plan to take do not affect any medications that you should take based on your gynae’s recommendation.
For a start, I highly encourage you to read this wonderful book: Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk by Diana West. This book has a complete explanation on what supplements to take for which condition, including recommended dosage and possible side effects.
4. Choose a BFHI-hospital (if planning a hospital birth).
What is a
BFHI stands for baby friendly hospital initiative.
That means the hospital follows 10 standard practices released by WHO to support breastfeeding mom.
Among these are:
- Every pregnant mom will be offered education about breastfeeding prior to birth
- No liquid /food other than breast milk given to baby during the hospital stay, unless with parent’s concern
- Promote early breastfeeding initiative after birth
- Practice rooming in between mother and baby post birth
(this list is not all-inclusive, check out the full explanation here)
5. Aim for natural birth if possible
OK, I know that we are talking about breastfeeding here -not birth, but do you know that having a natural birth will increase your chance of breastfeeding success? Natural birth has the least side effect that can affect both mother and baby.
With natural birth, mother and baby can be united almost immediately after birth and breastfeeding practice can start right after that.
Now, I am not saying c-section mom has less successful rate. Be sure to ask your health care provider if it is possible to have immediate skin to skin contact after birth, provided baby and mother are in good condition.
Now, if you are considering to take some pain relief during labor, have you researched whether your pain relief option can affect your baby's condition? Just to let you know, some pain relief may affect your baby's alertness post-birth; thus, it may hinder him/her to nurse effectively.
Alternatively, you can opt to have a natural pain relief (not by medication). You can learn more about this more natural pain relief options in this book.
6. Know what to do post birth in the hospital
Let me just give you a few examples:
- Use the golden hour right after birth to maximize skin to skin contact and early breastfeeding initiative.
- Practice rooming in to learn your baby's hunger cue faster
- Learn to breastfeed in hospital in various positions (especially side-lying, so that you can fall back to sleep again once you latch your baby, haha)
- Get a lactation consultant to check on your baby's latch / possibility of tongue tie
8. Find a breastfeeding-friendly pediatrician.
Do you know that you will likely to visit pediatrician frequently in the first few weeks after birth?
The doctor may need to assess your newborn for jaundice, weight gain, and growth in general.
When your pediatrician (PD) is not breastfeeding-friendly, he may be very quick in suggesting formula supplementation so that your baby can quickly recover from jaundice / poor weight gain.
However, a breastfeeding-friendly PD will:
- Understand that breast milk (especially the mature milk) takes time to come in (not all mama have matured milk in the first 2 days postpartum, but all have colostrum).
- He will be more patient to monitor the baby's progress as the milk comes in.
- He may also refer you to consult a lactation consultant should he feels that you have difficulty in breastfeeding.
- He, too, understand, that the growth of breastfed baby cannot be compared to a formula-fed baby.
PS: Do you know that WHO has a separate growth chart for exclusively breastfed baby?
I personally experienced this after the birth of my baby #2. We were lucky that the PD that we visited was breastfeeding-friendly. She was not pushy about giving supplementation to quickly clear the jaundice, she understood that it is normal that newborn might loose some weight (and even pretty extreme for my newborn at that time, she was not worried at all).
Her confidence that I would be able to feed my baby well automatically boosted my own confidence in breastfeeding. And we succeed =).
9. Find breastfeeding support (mama group, breastfeeding counselor hotline, lactation consultant contact number).
Your support should not be limited to your family and spouse. Find a greater support outside.
Nowadays, with online community booming, it is much easier to connect with fellow breastfeeding moms, either via a Facebook group, Whatsapp group, or other online forums.
With support from other fellow mamas, you won't feel lonely in your breastfeeding journey. You will see that other moms also experience similar struggles that you are facing (or for some, even worse), and this, will make you stay strong.
Also, don't forget to find information about nearby breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant. It is always better to have a back-up plan (by having consultation with expert like this) when breastfeeding does not go as smooth as what you had expected.
11. Stock up on breastfeeding essentials.
You may have planned for a baby registry before, but have you thought about essential items that will help you in breastfeeding?
12. Research on breast pump.
Do you need a breast pump?
If you are staying at home and breastfeeding goes smoothly, you are unlikely to use a breast pump in a regular basis.
But, if you plan to return to work, or plan to have some mama day out without the baby, it is good to start researching which breast pump fits your need.
You don't need to buy now but it's good to know the model before hand.
Not sure where to start? Here are my recommendation:
I hope this article can give you some actionable tips on how to prepare for breastfeeding during pregnancy.
If you enjoy this post, do share it with other expectant mothers. Prefer to pin? Sure, use the pinnable image there =>
If you are a veteran mom, tell me, what else did you do during your pregnancy to prepare for breastfeeding?
Leave your comment below (you never know that your tips may inspire other mom-to-be =))