Ready, Set, Feed – Tips for Preparing for Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is one of those things that comes up in a lot of conversations when you're pregnant. People will often ask you if you are going to breastfeed your new baby, and then proceed to tell you a horror story about themselves or someone they know when you tell them you are.
Whilst it's not something you can practice, there are a number of things you can do to prepare before your baby is born.
Firstly, and perhaps most strangely, is a contradictory instruction - you have to be prepared to persevere, and at the same time, let it go. If you can't get it right the first time (and nobody does) you may feel distressed, and even dread feeding times. This becomes a Catch 22 - new mothers feel stressed about having trouble breastfeeding, the stress and anxiety affects their ability to breastfeed…leading to more stress and anxiety about breastfeeding.
A really great strategy you can use to help you persevere through the challenging first few days or weeks is to be prepared. Organise to hire or buy a breast pump. Make sure you take it out of the box before you have your baby, and read the instructions on how it works. If it's too sensitive to feed your baby in those first few days or weeks, you can still feed them breastmilk if you can express.
If you have the space, set up a place to feed your baby that's quiet comfortable for you. A good place is in the baby's room. Have a small table beside you that you can keep a bottle of water and any other items you might need, within easy reach.
You wont always be able to feed your baby at home. While I have no problems at all with feeding my baby in public now, to begin with I was very shy about it. Make sure you have a wrap to cover yourself in the event that you feel you need it. I used one like the Aden and Anais swaddling wrap with my daughter. It's light enough for them to breathe through and big enough to cover everything. That didn't cut it with my son. He's much squirmier and loves to look around. He needs something a little more substantial, and anchored. I ended up getting the natural nursing cover which he can't pull off in the middle of the shopping centre!
Talk to your family and friends and let them know that you are planning to breastfeed. It's very discouraging to find out just after you have had your baby, that an important member of your family (mother, father, sister, mother in law) has strong negative views about it. While you shouldn't let it discourage you from persisting, it's much harder to discuss when you are already feeling vulnerable as a new mother. Let them know what you are planning and that you expect their support before you have the baby, so there are no surprises.
When you begin breastfeeding, even if it's not your first child, it can be very painful. Once you get the hang of things it gets better, but those first few weeks are extremely challenging. I cannot recommend Lansinoh highly enough. It creates a barrier over sore and cracked nipples allowing them to heal more quickly, and can be used while feeding your baby. It's the thing that gave me that little extra nudge to keep going when I thought I couldn't breastfeed any more.
Be prepared, but don't over think it. Ask questions and for help if you need it. Cuddle and enjoy your baby, and persevere.