If you are planning on having a baby, these are some great ways to prepare yourself, your supports and your house for the task of infant feeding. While these are aimed at breastfeeding, many of these are appropriate for bottle feeding as well.
- Educate – Some of the biggest obstacles to successful breastfeeding are lack of knowledge and understanding of how the breastfeeding relationship works. Learning what these common “booby traps” are and how to overcome them are keys to reaching your breastfeeding goals. Classes, support groups, books and reliable evidence based websites like Kellymom.com are great sources of information.
- Support – Setting up your support prenatally can be an immense relief when the time comes to ask for help. Attending local support groups like La Leche League or Breastfeeding Café meetings during pregnancy can be a great way to get to know the people of these groups and make it not as daunting to attend a meeting or call for help during the hectic time after baby arrives. Other supports can be: your partner, friends and family, and a postpartum doula.
- Meals – Having a new baby is exhausting. In case no one has told you, babies don’t sleep on your schedule. And for breastfeeding, this is a good thing as frequent feeding helps stimulate milk supply. But, this means that you have little energy for doing pretty much anything besides caring for baby and basic self-care. Preparing freezer meals and setting up meal delivery (either paid or a family/friend meal train) for after baby arrives are great ways to free up time to rest and recover, which are essential when learning to breastfeed.
- Home – Set up feeding stations at key locations around your home. Common feeding station locations include: the couch, your bed and a comfortable chair in baby’s room. Put a basket or bedside table beside these locations filled with necessities for you while feeding. Include things you will need like: remote for the TV, home phone, bottle of water, snacks, phone charger, and a list of phone numbers for professional breastfeeding support (ask your doula for suggestions!). If you have older children, keeping a few special toys and snacks just for this time will help keep them occupied while you are feeding the baby. Keeping these stations stocked is a great task for your partner to help them support you in breastfeeding.
- Help – If letting the house get messy is not an option for you, don’t be afraid to find some help.
- Doula – A doula will help you get prepared prenatally, as well as provide hands on breastfeeding support when baby is born. She can help you recognize signs of a good latch and understand some common roadblocks to successful breastfeeding. A postpartum doula will help support you in the home after baby is born. Her job is to make sure you are supported, emotionally and physically, so that you can better care for your baby.
- Stuff – While all you truly need to breastfeed is a baby and breasts, researching what items you may need can be beneficial. Things like nursing wear, pillows and pumps can make breastfeeding easier for you and your family.
- Breast Pumps – Research, but do not buy! You will not know what your breastfeeding relationship will look like until after baby is born. While it is good to research what type of pump you think you will need (and set aside the funds), your true needs will not become clear until the second person involved arrives. For pumps, very basically, a manual pump is great for those expecting to pump occasionally, a single electric pump is great for moms who need to pump often (say, to go back to work) but not all the time, and a double electric is the best for those that are exclusively pumping. Remember that there are places that will rent pumps until you are able to buy the one that suits your needs.
- Talk – Ask your care provider if there is anything they recommend you do to help prepare for successful breastfeeding (whatever that looks like for you/your family).
What NOT to do:
- Nipples – While I understand that it somewhat makes sense, there is no need to “toughen up” the nipples or breasts prior to breastfeeding. This is some really old advice. Our bodies are designed to breastfeed without any physical preparation.
- Pump – Again, some people feel that pumping prior to breastfeeding will help prepare the body. However, pumping will stimulate the breasts to produce oxytocin, which is the hormone used to start labour. So while pumping can sound like it would “prepare” the breasts for baby’s arrival, it could also start labour. Best to leave the stimulating up to baby once they are born.
I hope these tips are helpful and give you some ideas of ways you can prepare for breastfeeding. Have any other suggestions that I missed? Comment below with your tips.