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There’s tons of excitement and anxiety that comes in those last trimesters as you patiently (or not so patiently) anticipate the arrival of baby number 1, 2, 3 or 4. No matter which number this is for you, if you’re trying to get prepared for breastfeeding, you’ll basically be taking the same steps. This list of breastfeeding preparations will get you on the right foot for breastfeeding when baby arrives. And by being prepared, you’ll increase your chances of being able to breastfeed!
Step One: Let Go of Breastfeeding Insecurities
Breastfeeding insecurity is a real thing and I dare say that every mother experiences it. It’s the doubt you feel about whether or not you’ll be able to successfully breastfeed. It’s the uncertainty you hear about with regards to your ability to produce enough milk to satisfy your baby. It’s the worry that your baby won’t accept or know how to breastfeed. And while those fears are normal, they are usually unnecessary and in fact, harmful to your experience.
What is necessary is that you believe that you can breastfeed. This article explains the response expectant theory, which implies that if a mother simply believes she will be able to breastfeed, she’s more likely to actually have a positive experience. On the contrary, if you constantly hear negative feedback about breastfeeding and let your own doubts and insecurities fester, you’re probably going to experience breastfeeding difficulties.
So, whether it’s your own doubts that stem from “failed” attempts in the past or because of negative stories your friends keep telling you about, letting go of breastfeeding insecurities is the first step and most important thing to do to prepare for breastfeeding before baby arrives. Your body is literally designed to breastfeed, so trust in mother nature and believe in yourself!
Step Two: Purchase Essential Breastfeeding Accessories
I’m sure you’ve seen by now that there are thousands of breastfeeding accessories and products. I found after breastfeeding two babies over the past four years, that there are very few essential breastfeeding items. So don’t get overwhelmed thinking breastfeeding is going to cost you a lot, because the truth is, you just won’t need most products.
Breastfeeding products I recommend in preparation for a new baby are these simple and cheap or free items:
- Something to catch the leaking milk! When you nurse a baby on one breast, it’s normal for milk to leak out the other. In my case, I’d have a full on letdown in the “unoccupied” breast and end up losing so much precious milk! I found success using this hand-held breast pump, which really doesn’t require any pumping. You just suction the silicone pump to the breast you’re not feeding on and it catches any milk that leaks during feedings. It was a life saver in the beginning of my second go at breastfeeding. You go through less nursing pads and build your frozen milk supply!
- Nursing pads, get all the nursing pads! My first time breastfeeding I needed to use nursing pads all day and night for two years! But with my daughter, I only needed them the first two months and then I completely stopped leaking. I started out with these disposable pads before buying washable, reusable nursing pads. I liked these organic nursing pads made of bamboo because they were soft, absorbent and didn’t show lines and creases through my bra and shirt. They came with a cute carrying bag and can be washed right along with baby clothes.
- Items for your breastfeeding survival kit (see step three or click here)
- Milk storage bags. To keep the excess milk that you caught using your hand-held pump or if you end up building a stash with an electric breast pump, you’ll need freezer-safe storage bags to keep it in. Milk properly stored in milk bags can be kept frozen and good to use for up to a year!
- Breast pump. You do want to have a good quality breast pump on hand just in case. That doesn’t mean you will ever use it. (For my daughter I didn’t) I believe all medical insurances are now required to cover the cost of a breast pump and you can find out where to get yours by calling your insurance carrier. All new babies are given a new breast pump. You usually just need proof of a due date or proof of birth and the pump of your choice is shipped to you within a couple days. For both kids I ordered the Medela Pump in Style Advance because I found it easy to use with very few parts that were easy to clean. It never failed me and I loved that it came with a car adapter plug.
- Bottles and bottle cleaning products if you want to bottle feed or expect to go back to work. I went back to work after my son was born and he was bottle fed (my breast milk). I did not return to work after my daughter though, and she only ever had two bottles! So, my advice is, if you’re going to work buy 3 bottles, if not, only one. I found these BPA free bottles to be the best because they minimized air in the milk and were supposedly the most comparable to mom’s nipple, plus prevents colic! I used toxin-free soap like this for cleaning along with weekly sterilizing. Check out my bottle and breast pump cleaning routines here.
Step Three: Make a Breastfeeding Survival Kit
With my first child I was completely unprepared for breastfeeding to be honest. I didn’t know what I didn’t know! And I didn’t know how much pain was involved! There’s nipple pain, engorgement pain, clogged ducts that cause pain and mastitis is the worst of all! Now I know these are just small obstacles that you can overcome. Not only was I prepared with the essential survival kit with my second child, but I actually didn’t even experience them all the second go ‘round.
Read the details about putting together a breastfeeding survival kit here and you’ll be prepared to handle all the discomforts of breastfeeding before you encounter them.
Step Four: Download a Breastfeeding App
One handy tool I highly recommend using is a free breastfeeding app. The best breastfeeding apps are Baby Manager-breastfeeding and LatchMe, which help you easily track feedings, pees and poos and your milk production. I only used the apps for the first couple of months for each baby, mainly to feel confident and help me remember which side to nurse on at each session.
Step Five: Plan Your Lying-In Period
Whether you want to or not, if you plan to breastfeed, you’re going to find yourself “down” quite a lot in the beginning. By down I mean you’re going to be sitting or laying down every couple of hours to nurse your baby-or every second of every hour if you’re cluster feeding. Those first several weeks are going to be the most challenging and there is no way to escape it in my experience. You’ll be dealing with almost all of the hurdles I’ve mentioned previously and for this reason a lying-in period is essential.
A lying-in period is basically a period of time that you plan for in which you’ll mostly be in bed nursing and bonding with your new baby. I lay out the details in a post called, Lying-In Guide for Breastfeeding Mother’s, including how to inform your spouse and support person about your lying-in period and what they can expect as well.
Planning this time period does two main things for you: one, ensures that you and baby have a calm, safe and nurturing environment where you can bond and build breastfeeding skills. And two, allows you to take the time necessary to deal with the challenges that come in the beginning of your breastfeeding journey.
For some, the lying-in period is just a couple weeks, but it can be longer for others. My rule of thumb is, when you feel like you and baby are comfortable breastfeeding, have the energy to be out and about and you’re not in any pain associated with nursing, that’s when you’re ready to end your lying-in period.
Step Six: Eat Accordingly, A Milk Promoting Diet
It goes without saying that you’ll need to eat healthy while you breastfeed. Go ahead and start now. Foods that promote milk production are oatmeal, lots of water, fish and spinach to name just a few. You’ve probably already started saving a bunch of pins for lactation cookie recipes. I have my favorites in this post along with milk-production smoothies and even a carrot cake recipe!
Step Seven: Stop Doing These Things
You want your milk to consist of the most health-promoting components, which means you need to eliminate the things that aren’t good for baby. You want to give your baby the very best so I’m sure you’ve already done this, but if not stop doing these things now:
- Stop taking prescription and recreational drugs. Unless it’s keeping you alive, look for natural alternatives to any medications you’re on. Check out the list of natural alternatives for anti-depressants, allergy meds and anxiety meds, plus other alternatives here. Even if medications are deemed safe during breastfeeding, any pediatrician will agree that not exposing them to medications is the most ideal. And since there isn’t enough research on whether or not recreational drugs like marijuana are harmful to developing babies, it’s best to cut back or completely stop those as well. That being said, if you and your doctor feel like you have no safe option except for being on certain medications, do what you need to do for your health first!
- Stop smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. There are plenty of research studies that show a mother’s frequent use of cigarettes and drinking can pass nicotine and alcohol in the breastmilk to baby. And even more studies that indicate these components interfere with normal development and even cause cognitive delays later in life.
- Stop worrying about judgements and opinions of people who don’t support you. Breastfeeding is generally considered the healthiest thing you can do for a growing baby. Not only are giving your baby all the things they need to develop properly, but you’re also passing to them antibodies you’ve acquired over the years and research has proven that breastfed babies are less likely to acquire certain diseases and even fatalities (like SIDS) than formula fed babies. Medical researchers who examined this hypothesis discovered that “For infants, not being breastfed is associated with an increased incidence of infectious morbidity, as well as elevated risks of childhood obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome.” Moral of this story? When it comes to those who turn their nose up at you for choosing to feed your baby the way nature intended, ignore them!
Step Eight: Establish Support and Know Who To Turn To
With the ups and downs of your breastfeeding journey it will benefit you greatly to have a network of support and a trusted resource when you have questions and concerns. For me, other breastfeeding moms were my greatest source of support. Facebook groups like the one shown below are loaded with answers to all the common questions you’re going to have along the way. And of course, I have an entire portion of this website dedicated to answering most every question about breastfeeding!
You’ll also want to make sure your spouse and close family members are in your corner and can offer encouragement when you need it. And it’s a good idea to find your local lactation consultants so that you know who to turn to for face-to-face breastfeeding support should you need it.
Step Nine: Know What to Expect With Breastfeeding
As I said before, I didn’t know what I didn’t know and that made my first breastfeeding experience pretty tough. I advise reading up on all my breastfeeding posts, becoming familiar with what’s normal, ways to combat the hard days and when to seek the help of a medical professional.
A great place to start is my earlier post about surviving the first six weeks, followed by how to survive cluster feeding. Those were the major road blocks I didn’t know existed until I was in the middle of it! Other topics to read up on are bleeding, sore nipples in the first several weeks of breastfeeding, how to handle nursing strikes and how to naturally treat mastitis. And since I’m very passionate about helping moms succeed at breastfeeding, I’m also available any time to encourage and support you through your journey! Reach out to me here if you have more questions.
Step Ten: Follow Your Instincts
I’ve come to learn, and I read all the time, that the best person to answer the majority of your breastfeeding questions is yourself! A mother’s instincts are truly magical and some how we seem to have ‘gut feelings’ when it comes to the health and well being of our children. I can speak from experience as a mother of two, often even when I feel lost and uncertain, my instincts usually lead me in the right direction. So, my final recommended step to work on is listening to yourself. Let go of your doubts, for the most part, and know that you as the mother of your child will always find a way to do what needs to be done for the health and wellness of your baby. And it begins with breastfeeding!
*For references, please see links to medical articles and studies within the post.