3 Ways Pregnant Women Can Prepare for Breastfeeding

vday bookmarksalicia and ennis nursing at gordos

By Alicia Barnes, liciabobesha.com

Knowing all of the benefits*  for mother and baby, many women are motivated to succeed but don’t know how best to help themselves. As an accredited breastfeeding educator, I find that many mothers make the same devastating mistakes. Here are my three best tips to avoid and overcome the most common challenges that mothers face.

1. Find a breastfeeding community. Locate your local La Leche League, peer counseling groups, or Baby Cafe. Find someone who is trained and knows and has successfully breastfed their children who you don’t have to pay to see. Sadly doctors are not usually the best to turn to. I asked an OBGYN friend about their breastfeeding education in medical school, and she said one morning, a nurse came in and gave a presentation on how breast is best, and that was it. They didn’t learn the anatomy or mechanics of breastfeeding. They didn’t learn how to help mothers. They didn’t witness breastfeeding in person, done well, or even poorly. They had no exposure to the basics.

Lactation consultants often charge $100/visit and you only see them after you have a problem. Groups like La Leche League hold regular meetings on series topics and can give you information to prevent problems before you ever face them. They also offer free support and connections to help you through any troubles you may face. Mother-to-mother based support is vital. That firsthand experience can’t be beat.

2. Read before your baby comes. Just because breastfeeding is natural, doesn’t mean it comes naturally without preparation, dedication, and practice. Breastfeeding is a skill that requires development for both the baby and the mom. Learning about what is normal and what is to be expected and how to tell when something is wrong early can mean the difference between meeting your goals and your milk unintentionally drying up. If you read, you’ll know breastfeeding should never hurt and you’ll be able to look for qualified help before your nipples become injured.

Topics to make sure to cover before baby arrives:
How to hold the baby
How to tell your baby is receiving enough milk
How to determine if you have a low supply and if so how to increase supply
How milk production actually works
Hidden Hindrances to a Healthy Milk Supply (formula supplementing, birth control, and sleep training can knock out a supply) 

Books to read
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding
The Breastfeeding Book
-The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers: The Most Comprehensive Problem-Solving Guide to Breastfeeding from the Foremost Expert in North America,

Websites to visit
– Kellymom
– Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere Inc. 
– La Leche League International 

3. Anticipate the intensity and time commitment of back-to-back feedings. Breastfed babies eat more often than formula fed. When mothers try to feed breastfed babies on a rigid formula-based schedule, they often lose their milk. Breastfeeding works by supply and demand, and babies should empty the breasts at least 8 times in a 24 hour period. Honestly, most newborns stay latched and are unhappy to be away from mom and her boob. This is natural. You may feel trapped at times, like you’ve done nothing but breastfeed for days on end, but that’s a beautiful and important thing. Each time the baby latches, the body responds with a cocktail of hormones that are setting up your milk supply for length of your breastfeeding relationship.

By interrupting these first few weeks of latching with pacifiers, passing the baby around, bottles, and sleep training, a woman can signal her body that she doesn’t need to make milk and she loses her supply. So sit and let the baby latch. If the baby roots, let him latch. If the baby fusses, let him latch. If he cries, let him latch. You can’t spoil a baby but you sure can ruin breastfeeding by listening to outside voices telling you you’re feeding too much and you’ll make your baby too dependent. There is nothing wrong with a brand new to this world baby being dependent upon his mother. Ignore those outdated voices and listen to your baby. This frequent latching encourages you to sit still and recover from childbirth and pregnancy. Postpartum recovery plays an important role in breastfeeding. A new mother’s job is to feed the baby and nothing else.

If you’re like me, things sink in best when they’re set to a beat. So be sure to watch this hip hop video “Teach me how to breastfeed.”

Ladies, what tips or advice would you add?

Alicia lives and holds breastfeeding support meetings in a small college town that often challenges her resolve to live as simply and as stress-free as possible. When she’s not working, rereading the same children’s books, cooking, or wondering how crunchy she’s become, she’s busy updating her site,  liciabobesha.com. You can follow her on facebook.