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How to prepare for breastfeeding during pregnancy
Congratulations on your pregnancy or newest member of the family…But not what? Where do you even begin with breastfeeding? How do you even prepare to breastfeed your newborn?
I breastfed my firstborn for 13 months and I only made it through a series of praying, cursing, and because I was a postpartum nurse and couldn’t leave with the fact of giving up with breastfeeding when I’m over here teaching parents all about breastfeeding.
What an idiot? Who cares… But after my thinking, I realize that there are many mommas out there with unrealistic expectations of breastfeeding and clueless about what to expect and how to mentally prepare for it all.
The first thing you need to get in your head is that:
Breastfeeding is probably if not the hardest thing you will ever do. Say it aloud a couple of times. And remember this every time you’re ready to pull your hair out.
I’m going to provide you realistic expectations for breastfeeding and the things you need to do in order to prepare for it.
These tips are going to help you in preparing for breastfeeding:
- Learning to relax and getting comfortable is key
- The importance of staying hydrated
- Understand that breastfeeding can sometimes be painful
- You need to focus on your own journey
- Breastfeeding resources don’t have all the answers
- Breastfeeding classes
- Don’t go into information overload
- Look into breastfeeding supplies
- You will be breastfeeding a lot
- Breastfeeding is not black and white
1. Learning to relax and getting comfortable is key
You need to know that to be successful with breastfeeding you need to quickly learn to relax and get comfortable…So how do you go about it?
Oh to relax. Who can relax when there are a million and a million things going on.
Whether is about taking care of a newborn, healing postpartum, and/or running a house.
Nobody got time to relax.
But here is a secret to breastfeeding or not so secret. When you’re stressed baby will be stress.
Babies are very smart and they can pick up from your energy. If you are tense, anxious, and worrying about any and everything forget trying to breastfeed.
Is going to be a pain and you’re not going to be very successful at it. Just being real. Because you will be crying and then your baby will be crying and then both of you will be crying.
So be like Elsa and just Let it Go. I know is easier said than done. But just tell yourself over and over again to just let it go. Elsa did so why can you?
Take it one day at a time… Shoot one minute at a time… You’re not supposed to know how to breastfeed a newborn DAY ONE.
Is trial and error..
You’re learning your baby and he/she is learning you. Take deep breaths and do something that will make you happy.
- Drinking your favorite tea
- Have your favorite music playing in the background
- Wash your face
- Get out of your pajamas
Find something small that will give you a sense of purpose.
Comfort easily goes hand to hand with relaxation. And trust when I say that you need to get comfortable quickly.
As a previous postpartum/newborn nurse I would see a lot of my mommas struggle with this. I would walk into a room and see a mother hunch over with a baby hanging out.
All because they didn’t take the time to set up for comfort.
If you want to end up having back problems and all sorts of other problems you need to get comfortable.
When your baby and yourself are not properly aligned with each other it can lead to other breastfeeding issues aka a bad latch.
In the first two weeks, you’re going to be breastfeeding a lot. For that reason alone you need to set up for success. Unless you want to add a chiropractor visit to your growing list of things to do.
What to use?
- Breastfeeding/boppy pillow
- Standards pillows
Use both or one or the other but do whatever needs to be done to get comfy. I used my breastfeeding pillow until my baby was around 8 months. It was just easy to prop him up there and nurse.
Use those pillows to help you better support baby and also to get comfortable while nursing.
2. Why staying hydrated while breastfeeding is important?
You need to drink water. If you aren’t a water drinker then you better become one and fast.
Let me put it into perspective. Once you start breastfeeding you’re going to feel thirsty all of the time.
To simplify things your body is producing a hormone call oxytocin that triggers your thirst cues.
Without getting so technical. Oxytocin is a hormone that’s released during breastfeeding. This hormone also affects our thirst cues…
This is good because in a way is helping our bodies by telling us hey I’m thirsty… DRINK WATER…
So if you’re finding yourself for ideas to get you into drinking water.. Here are some.
Here are some simple ways to get you excited about drinking water:
Whether you get:
- A cute cup
- Flavor water
- Insulated cup
Does drinking water increases your milk supply?
A simple answer to this is No. So the name of the game is to not become dehydrated while nursing.
Dehydration is bad because the symptoms caused by it can affect your health which in turn can potentially affect your milk supply.
So drinking water is crucial… Remember your milk provides fuel/nutrition to your baby. Therefore, the more hydrated you are the better that source of fuel will be for your baby.
3. Breastfeeding can be painful
Breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful. When is painful there are usually signs that something else might be going on.
So what do I mean when I say that it can be painful?
A. Is a new sensation of pulling
D. Just plain soreness from the constant feeding
These are all new feelings that will feel painful at first because you never felt them before. Until you adapt to this new normal is going to feel painful for you.
Or it might even just hurt because you’re experiencing a bad latch. Sometimes our brain tricks us into thinking that because tugging and pulling are normal then bitting and pinching should also be normal.
How do you prepare your nipples for breastfeeding?
To be honest there isn’t much you can do. Breastfeeding takes time. And if you have sensitive nipples is going to take even longer to adjust. Or you might not ever adjust.
Don’t want to scare you but I helped mothers who never got over the sensitivity they felt every time they nurse.
OR despite all of the nipple cream they use their nipples were always sore.
This is when your brain truly helps. Training yourself mentally that it can be uncomfortable, that it can hurt, and you will be sensitive can help you get over it. OR at least suppress the feelings.
4. Is crucial to focus on your own journey
Focus on your journey and try your best to not compare to the person next door.
I know is easier said than done when the internet and people are constantly telling you what to do and how to do it. Shoot I’m over here giving you ways to prepare for breastfeeding.
But what I want to tell you is that you need to stay in your lane…
As a previous postpartum nurse, I’m going to tell you that the hospital is the biggest place in which you’re going to feel super overwhelmed about breastfeeding.
You’re going to get any and every breastfeeding handouts, videos, pamphlets, etc. You name it the hospital will give it to you.
Do use the resources and reach for help when you need it.
But don’t give yourself unrealistic expectations of your breastfeeding journey just because the photo of the mom and the baby on the video or the pamphlet doesn’t look like you.
They are obviously not going to put the mom that’s crying because her baby won’t latch on OR
The baby that’s crying because the mom is learning what to do OR
how hard it is to position yourself and on top of that your baby.
Looking at that booklet just makes us feel like we are failing… Just because a stupid photo is giving us a very unrealistic view of breastfeeding.
What I recommend you do is to look at the photo. Laugh about it and keep it moving. Don’t let that discourage you.
Stay the course and focus on you and your baby.
5. Breastfeeding resources don’t have all the answers
If there was only a handout that offers all of the breastfeeding solutions men we would be golden. But unfortunately, we don’t live in la-la land so we got to work with what we got.
You do need to know that there is a lot you’re going to have to learn and that book, video, handout, internet search is NOT GOING TO TEACH IT ALL.
Because each baby is so unique and each baby has its own personality. What might work for me and my newborn might not necessarily work for you.
There is a lot you’re going to have to learn by trial and error. Just know that it’s ok. YOU WILL SURVIVE.
Look I’m the type of person that I need to know everything and I have to plan for everything. Having had three different newborns taught me that at times the best learning happens as you go.
As hard as this might be for some of us who need to know everything and plan from A to Z with breastfeeding is not that simple.
You’re going to need to try something and see if it works and then scratch then and starts over again.
Just know that every day that you’re learning something new the journey and your confidence gets better and better.
Don’t give up. Show up every single day and be ready to learn and experiment with something new.
6. Breastfeeding Preparation Classes
If you have no idea what breastfeeding might look like it would be good to take a class.
I specifically said two because that way you will hopefully have two different teaching styles and two sets of information that you can possibly apply to your breastfeeding journey.
I suggest only two because anything more than that can get overwhelming. You don’t want to be in information overload.
The breastfeeding classes are meant to give you a beginner’s a guide/crash course to breastfeeding.
The best way to pick two different classes is to
B. Attend an in person class
If you aren’t sure how the classes would be different read the class outline before signing up. Make sure you’re getting valuable information from both sources.
Best place to find classes to prepare for breastfeeding:
- Ask your OBGYN
- Friends or co-workers
- find Facebook, groups, and forums
Read reviews and make sure you show up with pen and paper ready to write down key information.
If possible don’t forget to ask questions.
7. Don’t go into information overload
There is a lot of information out there about breastfeeding. I mean even billboards. You don’t need to do much in order to find breastfeeding information these days.
Try not to go overboard as I did. I know is easier said than done but sometimes too much can’t be hurtful. Because your brain is so overwhelmed that it can’t process it all.
Focus on small batches of information. Find either support groups and/or blogs that can truly give you a human answer to a specific question.
There is nothing better than learning from someone who has had similar experiences as you.
This is also a great time to ask your friends. They know you better than anyone and know exactly what you might need.
Find key breastfeeding resources, books, websites, etc, and stick to those only.
8. Look into breastfeeding supplies
This is the time to look for a pump, pump accessories, a hands-free bra, and anything else that will make your breastfeeding journey much easier.
Whether you’re working and eventually will need to start pumping or having latching issues and you need to start pumping. Having a pump is essential in your breastfeeding journey.
There are many options out there. Start by asking your insurance provider what pumps you can choose from and then do your research based on that.
If you’re not using insurance then focus on your must-haves: double breast pump, electric, weight, portability, etc. And go from there.
Look at your lifestyle to guide you into choosing a pump.
A. Are you going back to work?
B. Just staying home?
C. How often would you need to pump?
D. Where are you going to be pumping?
E. Again: portability? electric? weight?
These are just some of the questions to ask yourself when deciding on a pump.
9. You will be breastfeeding baby a lot
For the first two weeks, your life is going to be all about breastfeeding your newborn and repeat.
There isn’t a specific schedule and/or time to follow… If your baby is hungry feed him/her.
Newborns need to eat often because their stomachs are tiny… They are the size of a marble.
So they need to eat frequently in order to stay full… Plus this is also CRUCIAL for your milk production.
Is a supply and demand thing. The more they nurse the better your milk production.
Take it one feeding at a time… That helped me. Sometimes when we look at the whole picture we get overwhelmed vs just saying I just need to make it through this first session and so on.
The most important thing is to feed, feed, feed…
I know I sound like a broken radio but I want you to remember this when you’re feeling overwhelmed and when you’re feeling like your baby is constantly breastfeeding and you feel that your nipples are going to fall out.
10. Breastfeeding is not black and white
There is a lot of factors that go into breastfeeding. it’s not just about the number is all about how well your baby is nursing.
What that means is that you aren’t going to follow a strict schedule such as you breastfeed every single hour for 15 minutes on the right and then you switch.
You see the point here. Black and white just means is not just one way or the other. It varies. Breastfeeding is baby-driven.
The priority is your baby, not the amount of time your baby is breastfeeding for.
THIS IS FOR HEALTHY NEWBORNS… Babies with medical histories do need strict schedules.. But that’s a story for. another day.
- Wet diapers
- weight gaining: even though babies do lose weight the first two weeks of life. But after that two-week period, you need to be seeing some weight gain
- Do you hear swallows when the baby is breastfeeding?
- Do you see milk in his mouth?
Now to make it even broader:
- Are they content after each breastfeeding session?
- Do they fall asleep easily after nursing?
- Are they being fussy?
These are all signs that breastfeeding is going great but you see how is just not black and white.
Is not this or that. You see how frustrating that can be when is not about numbers or amounts.
But more about the big picture.
If you’re a numbers type of person you’re in for a rude awaking. Because numbers aren’t such a priority.
They are only important when your baby is not thriving.
But if you have a healthy baby that is doing well overall then just keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working. Even if you can’t see/measure the actual results.
Final words on how to prepare for breastfeeding before birth
It’s important to have realistic expectations before you begin your breastfeeding journey.
You need to have some form of a plan but be flexible, learn but don’t go overboard. Most importantly mentally prepare for the challenges that breastfeeding might bring for you and your baby.
Focus on your journey. Take it one day at a time. Breath and give yourself a pat on the back.
You’re doing something that is freaking hard and you’re doing a great job at it.
I would love to hear about your breastfeeding journey in the comments…