How to Prepare for Breastfeeding during Pregnancy

How to Prepare for Breastfeeding during Pregnancy

  • By Tamar Paluch

Breastfeeding is one of the most anticipated experiences of becoming a mother. A well-balanced amount of knowledge and practical expectations is the most helpful way to prepare for the breastfeeding journey. While breastfeeding is the most natural and optimal way to feed baby, it’s a learning curve. In this blog we share how you can prepare for your feeding journey.  

Talk about your intention to breastfeed your baby 

While breastfeeding involves mom and baby, the success of breastfeeding is also tied to the circles around the mom. The most influential circles around a mother are their partner or chosen support person, close family, friends, and the medical community. They will influence the experience itself, how the mother feels about their feeding journey, and how long it lasts.

Take a look at the groups of people who influence you the most and plan on having a conversation about breastfeeding. Here are some helpful conversation starters:

  1. Did you breastfeed your children? How did it go? And if not, why?
  2. I am looking forward to naturally feeding this baby. I will need a lot of support from those around me, especially in the first 2 weeks. Do you feel like you could be one of those people for me?
  3. This is what I am hoping my feeding experience looks like. I am choosing this option because... (baby’s health, my health, bonding, overall easiest way to feed baby once established, etc.)
  4. Would you play an active part in me learning how to breastfeed while in the hospital or if I need support at home?

It can also be helpful to find a nursing moms support group. Engage your insurance or Medicaid coverage if you wish to find a lactation consultant – under the ACA they are required to cover breastfeeding support. Lactation consultants are a great resource for nursing mothers, especially when establishing breastfeeding.

What foods help prepare for breastfeeding?

Staying healthy and well-nourished will help you and your baby get off to the best start. After carrying and nourishing your baby for nine months, one of your body’s new jobs will be producing milk. Take advantage of your time pre-birth to stock up on vitamins and minerals.

  • Eat foods which are rich in iron, protein and calcium.
  • Foods high in Vitamin C help with iron absorption.
  • Stay hydrated! This will help with birth and the days after.

What equipment do I need for breastfeeding?

The possibilities are literally endless when it comes to breastfeeding accessories. But a word of wisdom - keep it simple! Your body has the goods, but there may be some equipment which can make the transition a little smoother:

  1. A good nipple butter or ointment
  2. Absorbent burp cloths
  3. A breast pump. There are several types of pumps available. What you choose will depend on your pumping needs and goals, and whether you have access to power. They are used with breast pump adapters for flexibility and ease of use with your preferred bottle. Breast pumps are covered under the ACA and usually with Medicaid (this can vary between states, so do check) and if you are not covered you can apply to rent one through WIC.
    1. Haaka (vacuum pump) - The vacuum pumps are squeezed and applied to the breast. These are best used when your transitional milk arrives between days 3 to 5 and your breasts are very full. 
    2. Hand pump – A manual pump which is hand-operated. This makes it portable and easy to clean. Good for moms who pump minimally.
    3. Wireless pump - A favorite for travel and work as they are portable and discreet. They are not recommended as your exclusive pump, for trying to stimulate milk production or in the first two weeks.
    4. Double electric pump – The most effective and efficient pump. It can be used on both sides at once, usually offer customizable features and is especially helpful when you need to maintain or build milk supply.
  4. The Emulait app to track feeds and diapers for the first two weeks.
  5. A breastfeeding pillow
  6. A shawl or nursing cover, if you would like some privacy when nursing.

Can I pump before baby is born?

Some moms have embraced pumping a little before baby arrives. It is not safe or recommended to pump or hand express before you are full term and safe to deliver baby, as pumping stimulates uterine contractions.

  • If you choose to have a pump session per day, make it short to avoid irritation to your nipples.
  • You can save the colostrum and store it until baby arrives. Some moms like to use it for the second and third night when the baby is cluster feeding to “bring in the milk”.
  • Hand expression is also a nifty way to express colostrum. Place your fingers about an inch above and an inch below the nipple on the outer portion of your areolas. Let your fingers sink into your chest and then let your finger come in towards each other as you compress down towards the nipple. Hold for a second and repeat. Catch your colostrum in a spoon or small medicine cup.

How do I prepare flat or inverted nipples for breastfeeding?

As a first reassurance - babies breastfeed don’t nipple feed! While the nipple helps stimulate a suck response, the baby ultimately latches to the areola and milks the whole breast. Get acquainted with your nipples - place your fingers around the nipple base and pluck at it while your fingers come together and pop off. This usually stimulates a nipple, and you can now feel how your nipple is more like a marble. Even if it is on the shorter side, baby can feel it when they take their first few sucks. If you truly have nipples that are flat and thin even when touched, or nipples that are tethered in the breast and do not ever pop out, consider taking nipple shields to the hospital to help baby latch. Baby's suction will help pull it out. Once your higher volume milk transitions in after a few days the baby can usually milk the breast with the shield so you can still enjoy breastfeeding while waiting for baby and your anatomy to adapt. Using nipple shields long-term is not recommended, so be sure to follow up with a lactation consultant.

Plan for skin-to-skin contact following delivery

Skin-to-skin helps you and your little one get to know each other from the start. That very simple act of baby resting on your chest is called biological nurturing behavior and it is the ultimate bonding time. In fact, there is a correlation between how much time a baby spends snuggled on your chest in the first week and how smoothly breastfeeding goes.

  • Plan on having some private time immediately after the birth - you, your baby and your partner. This time is irreplaceable, as the baby will go into their deep sleepy phase in just a few short hours.
  • If you have a c-section you can still ask for skin-to-skin time. Communicate your wishes to your partner, doula or medical team.
  • Feed baby as frequently as they want.
  • Keep them close - the closer they are to you, the more aware they are that they want to nurse. Being swaddled and in the bassinette is not as supportive of baby getting acquainted with their new environment outside the womb in a calm and peaceful way. They usually sleep soundly and then wake up ravished and uncoordinated.

Look after yourself

To best prepare for caring for baby, care for yourself now. You need rest, nutrients, reassurance, and support. Be honest with your partner about what you need. There is no list of requirements to have accomplished before a baby arrives - balance it with prioritizing your rest and peace of mind in the days before baby arrives.

  • Attend a breastfeeding class. Bring your spouse or partner along. The more familiar they are with the process, the more supportive they can be.
  • Find a lactation specialist you like and trust before baby arrives. Ask friends or your doctors for recommendations. You will be amazed how much easier it is to reach out if you have already established contact with them.
  • Be flexible. It’s very natural to want to plan everything, however it is important to remember that many factors will influence your feeding journey.
  • Research baby bottles for breastfed babies, and when it is best to introduce them. Bottles, like Emulait, have been designed to support ongoing breastfeeding and minimize the likelihood of nipple confusion, where a baby develops a preference for artificial teats (which are easier to extract milk from!).

When to seek professional support

The first two weeks post-birth is the optimal time for your body to respond to efforts to boost your supply. As you get used to your new role (and what your body is capable of), you will also find what positions and techniques work best for you and baby. You should notice greater ease with breastfeeding after around two weeks. However, there are some situations where you should seek professional support from a lactation consultant or preferred health provider:

  • If you do not notice a significant increase in breast size and expressible milk by the end of the first week. This could indicate low supply.
  • If your baby has not regained weight that meets or exceeds their birth weight by two weeks, or you are still needing to supplement for any reason.
  • If you have any nipple damage that is persisting (eg., scabs, severe tenderness, or bleeding).

As with all things in life, we like to plan and predict. Just as it is important to prepare oneself for breastfeeding, it is just as important to be flexible and patient as the journey begins.

At Emulait we honor your choices around feeding. We are excited to offer you a science-backed biomimetic bottle which mimics the benefits of breastfeeding and can support your feeding journey.