Preparing to Breastfeed
For first time moms breastfeeding can seem like a daunting task. What do you do, how do you do it, how do you know if you are successful, and what if you run into problems? The mistake many make is that they do not prepare ahead of time to breastfeed their baby, instead waiting till the baby is there and learning by trial and error. There are several things a woman can do however to successfully prepare themselves for the hurdles that may accompany breastfeeding.
1. Prepare during pregnancy! Try to breastfeed immediately after your baby is born. In most cases you can request that the eye drops, weighing and other protocols that your baby will go through after birth wait until you have tried to create that bond. Most healthy babies will breastfeed eagerly within their first hour of life. If you can’t breastfeed in the first hour, don’t give up, your baby will learn!
2. Gain the recommended amount of weight. The fat you gain during pregnancy is Mother Nature’s way of ensuring enough calories for your breastfeeding baby. Make sure you gain the recommended weight and try not to gain more or less. Breastfeeding also burns several hundred calories a day.
3. Before the baby comes find a pediatrician that supports breastfeeding. Ask if they follow the American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on breastfeeding that details the benefit of breastfeeding to moms and babies.
4. Have your breasts checked out by a lactation consultant (LC) before your baby comes. If you have an inverted or flat nipple it may be difficult for your baby to latch on. There are specific shields, positions and techniques that will help you make breastfeeding successful.
5. Don’t try to over “clean” your nipples. Soap or antibacterial solutions can strip essential oils.
6. Moisturize your nipples and breasts if you have dry skin. Studies show moisturized nipples are less likely to crack.
7. Buy an inexpensive nursing bra prior to coming home that is free of wires which can cause ducts. Remember that when you are pregnant your rib cage is wider and bras that you buy before you have you baby may not fit within a few weeks of your baby being born. Save your money for the expensive bras till after your ribs have gone back to their normal position.
8. Take a breastfeeding class with other pregnant moms. Educate yourself and your family on the benefits of breastfeeding (there are hundreds) by reading books, attending meetings, and looking up information on the internet.
9. Find a network of support. If your family doesn’t support you, find friends that do. You may need their help and encouragement. Call a La Leche League Leader, who is trained to help other mom’s breastfeed. Go to a support meeting where you can meet pregnant moms like you.
10. Soreness will be caused by an incorrect latch. If you’ve never seen a baby breastfeeding, watch a video or go to a support meeting for breastfeeding moms. You and your baby should be belly-to-belly, with his ear, shoulder and hip all forming a straight line. His nose should be almost touching your breast, and his mouth should be extremely wide open with his lips flanged outward, not rolled inward.
11. Have pillows or a boppy ready to help support your baby and lift him higher before he arrives. Your back and shoulders will get sore if you hunch over. Use a pillow to protect a c-section incision in case your baby moves around.
12. Don’t give up! Remember you may hit hurdles but you can be successful at breastfeeding. Most women can breastfeed even if they think that they can’t. It may just be that you need practice and a little help.
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