Before the baby is born:
*Take a breastfeeding class or read a book – just so you know the basics of how your body works – it really is amazing how the body makes exactly what the baby needs at the time. I think one really important point is that at the beginning the baby will constantly nurse but this is to stimulate your supply. If you start to supplement with formula early, then your body won’t produce enough and it will be harder down the road. Also a book will show you some basic positions to try out. (As an additional note, it is probably helpful for your partner to take the class or read the book with you just so he knows the basics too – that way he’ll be able to support you in the best way he can.)
*Buy 1-2 nursing bras or tanks – buy probably 1 cup size up from where you are near the end of your pregnancy. Don’t get too many as you won’t know how big the ladies will get once your milk comes in. Tanks are nice because they allow you to expose your boob while still hiding your belly rolls J
*Buy some breastfeeding cream – Lansinoh makes one as I’m sure other companies do. You want to have this stuff from the start before the damage can be done.
*Check with your health insurance. Some companies will pay for a breast pump or reimburse you for visits from a lactation consultant once the baby is born (see more info below).
*Pack your Boppy or My Breast Friend pillow for the hospital, if you plan to use one.
*Pack a nursing cover if you are going to care if your visitors (like your dad) see your boobs (surprisingly, I ended up not caring – I think I had bigger worries at that point!)
*Talk to your partner about your desire to breastfeed and the kind of support you’ll need from him. My husband, while trying to be helpful, kept suggesting that we get some formula. He had good intentions, as he saw how frustrated and upset and tired I was getting from breastfeeding. However, I didn’t want formula in the house because I didn’t want to be tempted to use it. If I had made this clear to him before I was in the middle of it, he wouldn’t have suggested it multiple times.
*Breast pump. If you plan to nurse for the long haul and plan to be away from your baby at all (work, pleasure, etc) you’ll need a quality pump. If you are unsure if you plan to continue breastfeeding you may want to rent one to see how it pans out before buying one. We bought one at the hospital and it was nice because the lactation person showed us exactly how to use it. They’re scary looking but once you get the hang of it, not bad at all!
*Get in the mind set that it might be hard! For some people it isn’t but I think for many people it is really tough, particularly at the beginning when you are recovering from delivery. I think knowing that it is hard, but it does get much better fairly quickly, helps when you feel like quitting!
At the hospital:
*When you are getting checked into labor and delivery, they will likely ask you if you plan to breastfeed. We made sure that they wouldn’t give the baby a pacifier in the nursery because we had read that it can interfere with latching.
*Most things I read said that it is important for the baby to begin nursing as soon after birth as possible (even if they really aren’t eating anything). I think I nursed probably within an hour of him being born. If this is something you want to do, mention it to the nurses so they can make sure it happens.
*Ask for help and take advantage of any services offered. Many hospitals have daily breastfeeding classes for new moms on the postpartum floors. I had the lactation consultant come in and help too. The nurses can also be quite helpful.
*However…Try not to get frustrated from all the advice. While it was nice to have so many people want to help, I was given so many different (and sometimes contradictory) pieces of advice that I was left really confused.
*Try many different nursing positions to see which one works for you and your baby. You should have seen the pillow towers I built in the hospital to position him correctly. It would take me so long to pile up the pillows and then place him just so – know that this too will not go on forever – after a few weeks I didn’t need pillows any more….
*Know that your boobs will get huge, rock hard, and hot when your milk comes in!
*Accept that your one and only job in life will now be to feed this baby – at least for the first few weeks. You really will feel like you are nursing constantly (because you are!) The baby will likely need to eat every 2-3 hours (from the start of a session) – and it might take 45 minutes per session. So you really aren’t getting much of a break. Just remember, it won’t go on like that forever…
*Therefore, accept any and all help (and demand it from your husband). Your job is to feed the baby and recover from childbirth and sleep when you can. Therefore it is not your job to clean, cook, do laundry, entertain visitors (unless you want to), etc.
*Get a husband pillow. This thing was awesome and enabled me to really easily nurse while still in bed.
*On a related note, try to learn how to nurse while lying down on your side. It really is wonderful to not have to sit up in the middle of the night to nurse. (though I didn’t learn/attempt this position until he was probably 5 months old – not sure why).
*Drink lots of water!
*Set up a comfy nursing station both upstairs and downstairs (or in the places you’ll be during the day and night). Stock this place with the tv remote, books, magazines, snacks, nipple cream, chapstick, water…
*Have a lactation consultant come for a visit. The hospital or your pediatrician should be able to give you a recommendation. I had one come when my baby was one week old. Nursing was going ok at that point. I was having some pain, my nipples were a little blistered, and I just didn’t think he was latching on correctly. I was also worried about whether or not he was getting enough to eat. I had a lactation consultant come and it was wonderful for my piece of mind. I showed her what I was doing and she basically affirmed that I was doing great – and gave me a few pointers for improvement. Most lactation consultants also have a scale they can bring so you can get the baby weighed to make sure he/she is gaining weight. An added bonus – my health insurance reimbursed me for the visit (and would have reimbursed me for several more visits from her if I needed them).
*Decide when/if you’d like to introduce a bottle. Based on my reading, we gave him his first bottle at 3 weeks. We decided on this time frame because my research indicated that before this might cause some nipple confusion, but if you wait too long, the baby may reject the bottle in favor of the boob. Every baby is different but for us this worked – he takes the bottle or boob, whichever is offered.
*That’s not to say we didn’t have hiccups with the bottle/boob. At times, it would seem like he didn’t want a bottle. Then he’d go on a boob strike. I think it’s somewhat normal and in most cases, passes!
*Once you’ve got the feeding and pumping thing down, try to build a little freezer stash of milk. It’s nice to have some