Breastfeeding feels like the first test of motherhood. It’s quite unfair actually. You’ve JUST made it to the finish line of your pregnancy, gone through labor and dealt with the emotional shock of meeting a tiny human that is half of your DNA. Instead of taking a good nap (or having that long awaited glass of wine) there is a startling jolt of reality that this baby is 100% dependent on you. He or she will be placed on your breast and before you know it, it’s go time!
Here are five ways to prepare for breastfeeding before your baby arrives.
We here stories like this from Milkful Mamas all of the time!
“Minutes after my son was born a nurse hovered over me watching me try and latch him on for the first time. I knew what to look for in a latch, but unsurprisingly, he didn’t get it right away. “Maybe try him in the football hold,” she recommended.
Panic set in. The football hold? I had no idea what she was talking about! How could I already be bad at this, it had only been ten minutes? I mumbled something incoherent before she gracefully lifted him up and placed his body under my arm with his head in my palm. Baby latched and I breathed a sigh of relief.”
Case in point, study the various breastfeeding positions so that you know the different ways to hold your baby right from the start.
The first time you hear the words “latch” “engorgement” “let down” and “colostrum” should be in an environment where you can absorb information — i.e. not in a hospital room with a screaming hungry newborn.
Learn the basics of breastfeeding before your baby arrives. This way the process will get off to a less-chaotic start. Most hospitals hold classes on breastfeeding and lactation consultants offer in-person training. But if getting dressed and out the door at 8 or 9 months pregnant doesn’t sound like your thing, take an online class! Milkful friend Lindsey Shipley of the Lactation Link offers amazing online tutorials and webinars.
You don’t know it yet, but your milk supply will become a focal point of your day in a few weeks or months. Unfortunately you have no way of knowing if your milk supply will be abundant, just right, or if you’ll have a low supply. Regardless of where your body will fall on the milk-supply spectrum, it’s important to know where your supply comes from and how you can influence production.
Supply and Demand
The greatest way to maintain a healthy milk supply is to feed or pump frequently. Your body will produce on a supply and demand basis, so the more demand, the more supply.
Meeting Calorie Goals
Breastfeeding mothers don’t have to eat one specific type of diet, but they do need to be hitting the correct calorie amount in order to make milk. It’s all too easy to stop taking care of your body when your baby arrives.
Milkful Lactation Bars are a wholesome, convenient, energy-packed snack made specifically for breastfeeding moms. Eating one or two bars a day ensures you’re eating healthy ingredients and not snacking on cheap sugar products or failing to meet your calorie count. We recommend buying bars ahead of time (they have a shelf life of 5 months) and keeping several in your hospital bag for when baby arrives.
Additionally, learn what foods you can and can’t eat when breastfeeding. Hint: It’s more relaxed than pregnancy!
Drinking water to thirst is extremely important for breastfeeding women. Always keep a water bottle on hand so that your body is never straining for liquid to make milk.
Pumping is an entirely different facet of breastfeeding. Some women are exclusive pumpers, meaning their baby primarily drinks expressed breastmilk from a bottle rather than from their bodies. Some women pump breastmilk once or twice a day so that they have a bottle on-hand for occasional feedings from other people. And then some women never pump breastmilk because they are never separated from their child.
How do you know which category you will fall into? For starters, consider what will happen at the end of your maternity leave. If there is a set date that you will be returning to work and you still want to continue breastfeeding, you’ll need to pump.
If your plans don’t involve daily separation from your child but you think you’ll want an occasional break from feeding, you’ll need to pump.
Now, you don’t need to feel pressure to pump right away. In fact, many lactation consultants recommend holding off on pumping until a breastfeeding routine is established. But we recommend having your pumping gear ready so that you can easily transition to this next stage of breastfeeding.
1. An electric or manual pump
A dual pump means you can pump from both breasts at the same time (a massive timesaver!)
2. A hands-free pumping bra
This bra is not necessary if you’re going the manual route, but a hands-free bra means you aren’t sitting there holding your breast shields up to your body for 20 minutes at a time.
3. A breast milk storage solution
If you know pumping will eventually be a big part of your routine, go straight for the breast milk bags. These store up to 6 ounces of breast milk and are cost effective. You can also purchase 2.7 ounce vials that are easier to fill and defrost for feedings in the early weeks.
Some babies prefer one style of bottle to another so you can either purchase a few different styles or borrow from a mommy-friend. Once your baby sets a preference, it’s a good idea to stick to one brand so you’re not trying to mix and match parts in the middle of the night.
5. Bottle brush and sanitizing steam bags
Have a new clean brush ready that is only dedicated to washing bottles, and buy a steam sanitizer bag for easy sterilization.
Alright mamas-to-be it’s time to buckle in. Breastfeeding is a job, and most likely the routine is going to kick your butt the first couple of weeks.
Newborn babies need to eat at every two hour mark until they get back up to their birth weight. Every two hours, 24/7. That means a typical day could have feedings at 6 a.m., 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m., 8 p.m., 10 p.m. 12 a.m., 2 a.m., 4 a.m.
The good news is that it is over quickly. The bad news is when you’re in that schedule, it feels like there is no way can you keep going. Trust us, you can!
Psych Yourself Up for the Routine
Go into that crazy feeding schedule knowing you will be challenged but you will make it through. Try to think of each feeding as a positive because it means your child is gaining weight quickly. Once you are given the go-ahead by your pediatrician you can relax into 3-4 hour stretches between feedings.
Know Pain is Only Temporary
Understand that it’s natural for breastfeeding to feel painful at first, but your body toughens up and it gets easier. Many women fail when they begin breastfeeding because it’s uncomfortable. When a baby latches in the first few weeks there is about a 10 second “ow ow ow” where you hold your breath and tense up while your nipples sting. (We would equate it to the pain of a clothespin on your finger.)
Pretty soon you’ll stop having to hold your breath and before you know it, latching is no big deal. Breastfeeding can feel uncomfortable at first, but with all new things, it becomes the norm quickly as your body and mind adjust.
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Folate and folic acid play a vital role in embryo development, healthy pregnancies, and infant survival rates. Up to 50% or more of neural tube defects could be prevented with proper folic acid supplementation prior to conception, reports The American Academy of Pediatrics. Read more about this important micronutrient for women of childbearing age and learn the recommended daily intake as well as foods that provide folate.