I sometimes wonder if the reason some women have difficulty with breastfeeding is because they don't think about breastfeeding much BEFORE the baby arrives. If you are formula feeding, you really don't need to think about it too much beforehand. Parents just need to choose a formula and bottles, read some directions a few times, and then stock up.
Breastfeeding is more complex. While there isn't much to buy, there is a lot to know that can make breastfeeding easier. But, it is hard to take in all of this information when you are tired and sore, not to mention emotional from baby blues. Also, after baby is born, you suddenly have a lot less time to surf the web and read books from the library. Even though a lot of breastfeeding information makes the most sense once you've started to breastfeeding, moms who plan to feed this way really should do some things BEFORE baby arrives.
- First and foremost: Get Informed:
- Get a good breast feeding book. My favorite is Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohrbacher. Read the book before baby arrives, but keep it around to reference afterwards, because you will find many reasons. I'd suggest taking it to the hospital with you.
- Take a class. Your OBGYN, hospital, or birthing center will probably offer one right along with your child birth class. This is a great place to get the basic information about breastfeeding and offers you a place to ask questions.
- Find a LC. That stands for lactician consultant, which is a person whose job it is to support your breastfeeding and be knowledgeable on all aspects of the subject everything from latch to bras. I was lucky that LC at my hospital was the woman who taught my child birth and breastfeeding classes. She then came to see all woman who wished to breastfeed during their hospital stays and offered to make an appointment with them for after discharge. When you struggle with breastfeeding, a LC is the professional you want to see above all others, including your pediatrician.
- Find a support group. This may be more difficult. Your LC can help you find one. If you can't find one to go to in person, there are many on line communities such as the Dispelling Breastfeeding Myths group on FB.
- Watch some nursing videos on YouTube including breast crawl and different holds (side laying and cross cradle are a must, but also football in case of C section) and on latching. Nothing beats seeing it in action.
- Create one or two nursing spots. These are places in your home where you will spend a lot of time the first few months. You want somewhere you can sit comfortably with support for your back. You also want to have a table near by for a drink, a book, a nasal aspirator, etc. I wrote a whole blog on this.
- Stock up sitting activities. For me, this was books. But other great ideas are crossword puzzles, a magazine subscription, on demand movies, or DVR saved TV series. You will be doing a lot of sitting. Sometimes you will stare lovingly at your child. Sometimes you will fall asleep sitting up. But there will be times you will want entertainment.
- Get some gear. As I said, to breastfeed you really don't have to buy anything, but there are items that will make it easier. Number one is a nursing pillow. I love my Boppy pillow and have two so I don't have to move it from room to room like I did for my daughter. Breast pads are another item you want to have some of in case you have leaking from your other breast while baby eats or from both in between feedings. Lanolin and cooling pads are necessary for alleviating the pain you will have at the start or when things go awry. Milk storage containers are a necessity if you plan to work; some women use bags and others hard plastic containers. Whether you plan to ever offer a bottle or not, I recommend a pump, at least a small manual one. This will help you if you need to alleviate engorgement or empty a breast due to a nursing strike, plugged duct, or a variety of other problems. A pump can keep a small problem from turning into a big one (mastitis, if you don't know what that is you need to add it to your get informed list).
- Get some fun gear. A smartphone, e-reader, or tablet computer will all be fun toys to use when you are sitting up feeding your baby at 3AM.
- Consider a sling. Once you've mastered the basics of nursing, you might want to baby wear and nurse at the same time. This will allow you to get up and get things done without sacrificing the closeness your baby craves.
- Make an agreement with your husband. Before baby arrives, you should decided how he is going to help out and where he is going to sleep. For us this time around, my husband slept with us on weekends, but not during the work week because the lack of sleep really made him feel awful. Also, its my husband's job to sooth during the night before bed time and to take care of my older child's wakings. Figure out what you think will work for you before hand. (And no matter what you decide, you will look at him some night as he goes off to sleep and you are stuck awake and hate him just a little bit. Its okay. I think its a nursing mom's rite of passage).
- Inform the nurses. Include in your birth plan or otherwise inform the nurses that you plan to nurse. Tell them you want no bottles or pacifiers to avoid nipple confusion. Tell them you want to hold your baby immediately for a breast crawl. Room in if possible to feed on demand. And let the nurses know you want to meet with a LC. Letting the nurses know this right from the beginning in a polite manner helps them provide you with the type of care you want.