Get breastfeeding started on the right track
Planning to breastfeed? Amazing! Breastfeeding offers a ton of health benefits for babies and moms. Your little one gets an immune system boost, reduced risks of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), infections, childhood obesity, allergies, and more. You get less bleeding after delivery, lower risk of postpartum depression, and some long-term protection against health issues like breast and ovarian cancer. Win-win.
But – just because breastfeeding is a natural process, doesn’t mean it always comes easily. Nursing is a skill that you and your baby will learn together, and it often takes time, practice, and hands-on help before things go smoothly. Breastfeeding is also a choice that will impact the next several months (or even a few years) of your life. So, it’s a good idea to start planning during pregnancy. Certain experts, like certified lactation consultants or postpartum doulas, can help you prepare and manage any issues once your baby is here. If you need it, don’t hesitate to find help to connect you with the right resources.
Tips for success
Preparing for breastfeeding early can save time and struggle during the postpartum period. Here are some tips to get started:
Get knowledge. Take a breastfeeding class, if you can, or read books and websites to learn the basics of latch and positioning.
Get support. Find lactation consultants in your area and ask your doula or friends for recommendations, so you won’t need to search for help later. When you choose a pediatrician for your baby, ask if they support breastfeeding – not all physicians do – and if they have a lactation consultant on staff. Join a support group or social media group for community. And find out if friends or family who have breastfed can help during your baby’s early weeks.
Get pumped. A breast pump can be an essential tool, allowing another parent or caregiver to feed your baby, relieving engorgement, increasing milk supply, and helping you prepare if you’re returning to work. Most insurance plans are now required to provide breast pumps free or at low cost. Find out which pumps are available with your plan, check out their features and reviews, and order one early.
Get stuff. Pick up supplies to make breastfeeding more convenient. Soft, comfortable nursing bras or tanks, soothing nipple cream, breast pads to catch leaks, milk storage bags, and a nursing pillow can all be useful.
Get going. State your desire to breastfeed on your birth plan and remind providers during labor. Request skin-to-skin contact with your baby right after birth and breastfeed as soon as possible, ideally within an hour of delivery. This should usually be possible even if you have a C-section. If you give birth in a hospital, keep your baby in your room and tell staff you will not be using formula unless it’s medically necessary. Try to latch your baby every few hours, even overnight, and make sure that a nurse or lactation consultant helps you breastfeed several times before you leave.
Make plans. The first few weeks with a newborn are intense. Plan to spend lots of time resting, holding your baby, and breastfeeding. You can’t hold your baby too much or breastfeed too often. Your baby will probably wake often at night to nurse, so plan how your partner, a family member, or doula can help you take breaks to rest or nap.
Think ahead. As your baby grows, breastfeeding is still a big job. Once you’re getting out of the house, remember that your right to nurse in public is protected by law in all 50 states. Consider how nursing will affect your schedule, especially if you’re returning to work. If you will be away from your baby during the workday, you will need to pump frequently. Under federal law, your employer must provide you with a private space (not a bathroom) and reasonable break times to pump.
Remember. Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. If you’re in pain, call your doula or lactation consultant. While breastfeeding won’t be possible or the right choice for every mom, most nursing problems can be solved with the right information and support.
Need more info? Talk through your breastfeeding questions with one of Mae’s experts.