Breastfeeding is something that I spent approximately 2.2 seconds thinking about when I was pregnant with my daughter. I was so focused on planning and preparing for my natural birth that I didn’t spend much time thinking about nursing. I just assumed that if I could get through a drug-free labor then breastfeeding would be a piece of cake and anything that I didn’t know would get figured out along the way.
I was right about one thing…I did figure it out along the way, but it was through the school of hard knocks and there were plenty of tears shed over this little thing called breastfeeding that was supposed to come oh-so-naturally. I am not in any way saying this to scare anyone who is a first time mama-to-be and has never nursed a baby before. Scaring people away from nursing is the last thing I want to do. What I would like to do is give you some simple ways to prepare yourself for this journey ahead of time.
It is my hope that breastfeeding is a breeze and that you won’t have any issues, but it’s better to prepare yourself a bit just in case and I would like to help you do that. Here’s to hoping that you can avoid some of the challenges that I experienced myself.
10 Ways To Get Ready For Breastfeeding
1. Talk about your commitment
Even though you’re still pregnant, it doesn’t hurt to start talking about breastfeeding and the commitment you’ve made to nurse your baby. Talk to your partner about it and talk to other mamas who’ve been through it. Just sharing your commitment out loud can be a big help.
2. Take a class
Before I had a baby of my own to nurse, I remember thinking that breastfeeding seemed like a pretty straightforward concept. Pull out a boob, pop your baby on there and then just hang out until they’ve had their fill…right? Well, technically yes, but there’s actually a lot more to it than just that. Taking a class can be a really helpful way to prepare yourself for breastfeeding.
3. Read books and personal stories
I read so many books about birth, but ZERO about breastfeeding and I wished I had. I was totally clueless and figured it would just come naturally, but it didn’t. There are many great books out there and I’m sure your OB or midwife would have great recommendations. I’ve also had a lot of my mama friends recommend The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.
4. Find a mentor
Get yourself a breastfeeding mentor. It can be a friend, a mother, a grandmother…anyone who can support you and advise you in your journey. Since going through my own breastfeeding struggles and emerging on the other side, I’ve served as a mentor to a few different friends. Sometimes mentoring can mean something as simple as having someone to text when you’re feeling discouraged, but you will so appreciate it if the need arises.
5. Invest in a pump
Using a breast pump during the early days of breastfeeding can help build up milk supply for women who need a little bit of an extra boost. I used mine religiously during the first few weeks of breastfeeding and I would definitely recommend a hands-free set-up to make life easier. If you can’t afford an electric pump, there are also rental options available.
6. Compile a list of local resources
With a little bit of luck and some preparation nursing will be a breeze and you won’t run into any roadblocks or challenges. But, just in case it’s a good idea to compile a list of local breastfeeding resources. Do a bit of research into lactation consultants and nursing support groups in your area so you can have the information available to you should you need it. I met with four different lactation consultants before finding one I really connected with and it would’ve saved me a lot of time to have asked for recommendations ahead of time. In the end though it was a lactation consultant and a weekly support group that really helped to get me through my nursing challenges, so I very much recommend both if necessary.
7. Create a nursing station
Decide before your baby arrives where you will be spending your time nursing and prepare to set up camp. You’ll need a calm and quiet space with a comfortable chair, a nursing pillow (or regular throw pillows which I preferred) and a basket of all your breastfeeding essentials. You can read more about my recommended nursing station essentials in a post I shared over at Disney Baby!
8. Stock up on the essentials
In addition to a comfortable chair and a nursing pillow there are quite a few other nursing supplies to stock up on that will help you our your nursing journey. Some of the essentials I would suggest are: nursing pads, ice packs, nipple cream, burp cloths and snacks. You’ll be spending a lot of time nursing and you’ll appreciate having everything you need right at your fingertips.
9. Purchase some nursing bras/clothes
For some reason it didn’t really occur to me to consider buying nursing appropriate attire before I had my daughter. I guess I just figured I would wait and see what my sizing was like once I had my daughter. Big mistake. I was already struggling a ton during those early days and without the proper nursing bras and clothes, things were infinitely more difficult. Apparently I thought I would be “up and at ‘em” within a few days and able to take a little shopping excursion to pick up a few things, but it was a good two-and-a-half weeks before I felt healed enough to leave the house. In retrospect I should’ve purchased a few staples to get me through those early day. I would suggest picking up a couple of bras like this or this that can grow with you while your milk is still coming in, and a few basic nursing-friendly tops. You’ll be glad you have them.
10. Look into galactagogues
I can’t speak much about the issue of having an oversupply (definitely something that some nursing mothers struggle with), because my issue was the opposite – an undersupply. I’m pretty sure that part of my undersupply was just due to biology, but there were definitely things I did that helped me to boost my supply. In addition to coming up with a good nursing routine alongside my lactation consultant, I also took a variety of galactagogues (a substance that increases milk supply) to help out too. Getting enough calories and hydration is a huge key, but considering where those calories are coming from is also helpful. There’s a big list of galactagogues, but a couple of my favorites were steel cut oats and almonds. There are also plenty of herbal galactagogues out there. I was taking a laundry list of herbs until I discovered MotherLove’s More Milk tincture that combined a few different ones and it really did the trick.
Above all, know that you aren’t in this alone. So many women have gone before you in this journey of breastfeeding and you can do it too. Breastfeeding can be wonderful and beautiful, but it doesn’t always come easy, so just prepare yourself and know that your journey is exactly that…YOUR journey. It might not look like what you expected and it might not look the same as your friend’s or your neighbor’s, but it doesn’t mean you have failed.
Lauren Hartmann is the founder of The Little Things We Do, a blog about life and adventures in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram or catch up on all of her posts here on Babble.