As a mom-to-be, I knew I wanted to breastfeed, and I did everything I could think of to prepare. It did not turn out how I expected and was definitely a struggle for me.
I want to share my lessons learned with my fellow ladies and all the currently pregnant mothers so you can prepare for breastfeeding. And if you like to plan ahead, you might like these lovely mom smart planners to help you from bump smart to nurse smart.
The ONLY 5 things you need to know for breastfeeding
1. Breastfeeding is Natural, but it does not come Naturally
Breastfeeding is hard. It just is. You’re exhausted from sleepless nights. Your body is physically spent from labor and delivery. And yet, you have to be feeding this new life you created every 2 hours.
You may struggle with supply. You may struggle with latch. You may struggle with a baby who only wants a bottle. You may struggle with just wanting to sleep and not wanting to go to battle at the breast, again.
I’ve been there. And let me tell you that it is OK. You are wonderful for giving every drop you can give, whether for one week, one month, or one year, You are doing a great job trying to find your rhythm during this fourth trimester (you can read more about that here) and taking care of both you and the baby.
It’s hard. But it is rewarding, too. I loved holding my baby close and having him latch on (when he would do it). That was definitely a magical connection.
Yes, I supplemented with formula. But yes, I breastfed for 14 months. I gave my son every drop I could handle, and even though it wasn’t his full source of nourishment, I feel like I gave him the best I could and am proud of that.
2. Breastfeeding Supply and Demand (yes, like from Economics class)
I think the thing I struggled most to understand was that your milk supply changes based on demand. Every skipped feeding was a signal to my body that it didn’t need to worry about that feeding. If I was stronger, healthier, and more of a fighter, I should have fought harder. I should have pumped every time I gave the child anything but my breasts. I should have continued to stimulate production. But I was so so tired then, and I have decided to give up on mom guilt so I won’t dwell on my mistakes.
But know this if you want your breastmilk to be the only source of food (and like I said, no guilt on supplementing with formula) then get your pump on a schedule even if your baby isn’t on one. You can read some tips about pumping here.
You can even try power pumping, which I’ll be honest when I say I attempted it but did not follow through. Power pumping is when you pump for 15 minutes, 10-minute break, and do it again, for about an hour. They say it helps to stimulate and increase supply.
3. Take a Breastfeeding Class and find a Breastfeeding Support Group
One of the best things I did while pregnant was to take all the classes our hospital offered. One of them was a breastfeeding class, where I learned everything I didn’t know (since I knew pretty much nothing) about breastfeeding.
After I gave birth, I joined our hospital’s breastfeeding support group while on maternity leave. It helped so much to be able to talk through our struggles with other new moms and have a lactation nurse help correct our latch or give us tips on what we can do at home.
If your hospital doesn’t offer a class, you can find some amazing ones online. This lovely Breastfeeding class called Milkology will teach you what you need to know, from the comfort of your own home! You know I believe that breastfeeding moms will hugely benefit from the aid of a lactation consultant, and I feel the same way about taking breastfeeding classes while pregnant.
4. Set yourself up a great Breastfeeding or Pumping chair
Get a good rocking chair or recliner, and set yourself up a breastfeeding station. By which I mean, you will want everything at arm’s reach. Get a basket or end table and make yourself a stash for mom and a stash for baby. Here’s what you will want:
- Water (you must stay hydrated)
- Healthy Snacks (again, breastfeeding takes a while, and mom needs to be well nourished)
- Burp cloths and a blanket or two
- An extra couple of diapers and some wipes, if you won’t want to get up
- Nipple shieldand case if you need one (I did, no shame)
- Nipple butter because ouch, and some cloth breast pads (learn about how to get these free) to tuck into your bra.
If you’re pumping, put a basket in the refrigerator to store pump parts in between pumping sessions. You certainly don’t need to wash them each time! Read more about breastmilk storage. In fact, just wash your pump parts at the end of the day. If you’re pumping, your chair setup should also include:
- side table for pump
- Extension cord if you need one, so you don’t have to get up and plug and unplug
- Hot compress or heating pad – it helps with milk let down
- extra pump parts are good to have on hand
- Breast milk bags or bottles
Bonus tip – when getting up to breastfeed or pump, pee first. You’re welcome.
5. Plan for going out while Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding on the couch in the comfort of your own home is an entirely different game than being out and about. You won’t always have a nice private place so you may want to have a breastfeeding cover with you if that helps make you more comfortable.
Once your baby is older and you have your routine somewhat established, you can try to time your outings such as grocery shopping trips. Have these outings begin immediately upon finishing a feed, so you have the most time before another feed starts.
You will want your diaper bag packed with all the essentials that are part of your chair set up – the snacks and water, clothing changes for you both in case you leaked all over and breast pads to help prevent that, extra burp cloths, nipple shield if you’re using one, etc.
Over to you. How are you preparing to breastfeed?