Breastfeeding is one of the most natural processes in the world, and yet, it continues to be something that many women struggle with. For many, those first days or even weeks of breastfeeding feel strange and uncomfortable. We tend to forget that the art of breastfeeding is a learnt one that needs preparation and practice.
With that said, here are some tips on what you can do while pregnant to prepare for a successful breastfeeding journey.
Breast changes & Bra Shopping
From the minute you fall pregnant your breasts will begin to prepare for milk production. As milk ducts begin to develop and milk-producing cells multiply, you will notice your breasts start to enlarge, Your body will start to store a little fat that is needed for lactation as well. You may also notice breast tenderness as well as changes in your areola and nipple. This coupled with a little extra heaviness may put a maternity bra shopping spree at the top of your to-do list.
A good feeding bra should support the breast from beneath, even when the cup is open. Avoid bra’s that are too tight as well as those with underwire as this may obstruct your milk ducts, making you more susceptible to plugged ducts which can lead to infections.
You will also want to stock up on breast pads, a tube of lanolin, a feeding shawl and burp cloths. Many moms like to have a breast pump handy but this is something that can be bought at a later stage if needed. Read this post to find out more about how to go about choosing breastfeeding aids.
We generally think about all of the practical stuff before baby is born – while we are prepping for baby showers and packing hospital bags. But so often, we don’t give much thought to the emotional side of breastfeeding.
So, what could a new mom possibly need other than a couple of feeding bra’s…
Rally up some people who are going to support your decision to breastfeed your child. These are the people who should encourage you to keep going, even when you hit bump. Find someone (such as a doula or lactation consultant, or even a close friend or family member) who is going to take the time to teach you the ‘tricks of the trade’. Choose people who are going to build you up, even when your post-pregnancy hormones are trying to do otherwise.
Set breastfeeding goals – that way, you’ve got something to work towards.
Find your confidence
It’s difficult to feel confident in something that you have never done before. Educate yourself, read up and talk to other successful breastfeeding moms. Get someone you can trust to answer all of the questions you may have and consider attending a breastfeeding class or setting up a pre-natal consult with a lactation specialist. I always tell moms to get onto youtube and find a ‘newborn latching video’ to familiarise yourself with the process. Something that’s just a little familiar is bound to be less daunting when the big day arrives.
Now, right after I have told you to rally up support and read up on everything you can find… I am going to tell you to put a cap on it. Too much varied advice can get confusing. Limit yourself to just two or three trusted sources… and then go wild!
Be prepared to practice
Breastfeeding may not ‘just happen’. For some it does, but for others it takes practice. Remember that neither you nor your baby have ever done this before and while all the right reflexes are there, it may just take a little time to familiarise yourselves and to get comfortable. If things are going badly, give baby a little break, spend some time cuddling skin-to-skin and then try again. Keep time at the breast happy and calm for you both – if this is not happening seek help asap.
It’s okay to ask for help and there are so many people out there who feel completely honoured every time a new mother invites us into such a vulnerable time in her life. You are not alone and there is no need to tackle this new venture alone.
See the BIG picture
Remember that feeding is about so much more than just calories. As adults, we socialise over meals, we enjoy each other’s company, we get to know others and we celebrate with food. Feeding is a time of bonding and nourishing and it shouldn’t be any different with your baby. This is the very beginning of your child’s relationship with food, and we want to make it a happy one for you both. It’s not worth stressing about – keep calm and reach out.