How exactly does one prepare to breastfeed?

Are you really ready to breastfeed? What can you do BEFORE baby is born that will help you be more prepared?

First, what have you heard about breastfeeding?  Is it natural, healthy, convenient and free?   Sure, Public health flyers will remind you all about that…. What about painful, exhausting, hard and stressful?  You don’t see that on any posters, but that’s what many expectant parents hear from their friends! 

Well, which is it?  Is breastfeeding a calm, enjoyable bonding experience or a gauntlet of pumps, cracked nipples and babies with excess weight loss?

Honest answer?  It can be both.

It is very common to have at least a few struggles with breastfeeding, especially in the first week.

Whether it’s a painful latch, a sleepy baby, constant crying or someone telling you that baby isn’t getting enough milk.  There are lots of challenges you might encounter, because most of us didn’t grow up in a village where all the mothers were topless and sat around a fire breastfeeding all day.  If we had, more of us would find breastfeeding natural, instinctive and easy….but for many, it’s not.  It’s something you need practice, help, and time to get good at.  Also, there are some great tricks that can make a big difference if you know about them ahead of time, so you can know what to expect and what to try before any trouble starts!

Learning about breastfeeding BEFORE your baby is born, is actually very helpful… although there’s nothing like the real thing when it comes to actually practicing latch, and holding a real-live baby!  Knowing what is normal (like REALLY frequent feeding so baby can tell your body how much milk to make) and what it’s supposed to feel like (it’t NOT supposed to hurt!) are really good to know ahead of time.  Trying to Google “what is clusterfeeding” or “How to breastfeed a sleepy baby” after 30 hours labour is not as much fun as you might think!

Seriously, SO MANY issues that people have with breastfeeding stem from not knowing what to expect, how to prevent nipple pain, and what to do if baby is not latching, is too sleepy to feed well, or when baby is losing too much weight… learning all the ins and outs ahead of time can prevent may of these issues!

Here are some of my TOP TIPS to get you started….

1. Learn about Hand Expression 

If there is ANY reason a baby is having trouble breastfeeding in the first few days after birth, hand express your colostrum every 2-3 hours for 10-15 minutes.  You might only get a few drops but it signals your body that you’re still ‘IN’ for becoming a breastfeeder and that you would like to request a great milk supply even if baby isn’t feeding well right now.  

We can figure a lot of things out later on about a deep latch, nipple comfort, sleepy baby and excess weight loss if your body is reminded to continue making milk.

2. Spoons are made for babies too!

If your baby isn’t able to get colostrum out of your breast the ‘usual’ way because he’s tongue-tied, sleepy, it hurts you or he just won’t latch, then use a spoon!  

First, read #1 …..  Now hand express right into a spoon & give it to the baby! Spoons are easy to use, hold small amounts (which is usually all newborns need anyway….seriously!) and you can express your thick colostrum right into it so you don’t lose your 3 precious drops in the pump valve thingy!

3. Take off your shirt and hold your naked baby!

This one seems simple and obvious once you learn about how much ‘skin-to-skin holding’ can improve breastfeeding outcomes.  Most parents however, think they’re supposed to immediately put their new baby in all the cute outfits and hats they’ve had washed and waiting for this moment…. I don’t blame you, that outfit IS super cute, BUT if your baby is having trouble waking up, calming down, latching, or is cold, I promise that the science here is right.  Your chest is the place to be.  Put your feet up, get comfy and hold your baby.  

4. Keep trying, and get help.
Ask for help, ask for more help, then if you still need help, find different help… (Yes, I do LIVE private virtual sessions ANYWHERE!)

5. We recommend that all our pregnant clients take this on-demand, online Breastfeeding Prep class :

“How to Breastfeed” from our Virtual Academy! 

(use code NUTMEGMOM50 any time to get 50% off!!)

This Breastfeeding Prep course will teach you

* how to sit * how to hold * how to latch * how to know if baby is getting enough milk… and what to do if they aren’t * what to expect in the first few days * how to avoid nipple pain * how to get a great milk supply * what to do with a sleepy baby * what to do if baby won’t latch

…. and how to get breastfeeding off to a great start!!

Breastfeeding takes practice.  Learning about what to expect in REAL life can make a big difference in your confidence.  The sooner you find help the better, but even if things aren’t perfect right from the start, try these things and reach out! Your breastfeeding career really can continue almost always with the right information, if you are a bit stubborn, and just a little bit lucky.

Angela Grant Buechner, BA, BScN, RN, IBCLC is a Registered Nurse • Lactation Consultant • Birth Doula • Postpartum Doula • Newborn Care Specialist • Educator in Toronto offering LIVE virtual support sessions.