You’ve decided you want to breastfeed your baby but what can you do to get ready before your baby arrives?
We’re told as mothers that breastfeeding is “natural”. This gives us the impression that when baby is born we will just do it.
From my own personal experience, I wish so much that someone had told me the realities of breastfeeding before my first baby was born so that I could be better prepared.
I think if health services want more mothers to breastfeed, they need to be providing them with more detailed information on nursing your baby ahead of your due date.
With my girls, I had one baby who I struggled to feed and eventually exclusively pumped for five months. Then with my second, because I had been through all of the struggles before, I knew better how to handle the challenges and was able to feed her for seven months.
This article will give you lots of ways to get ready for breastfeeding your baby while you’re still pregnant, from the products that will help you on your breastfeeding journey to the practical things to do to help.
You may also like this post about beginner’s tips for breastfeeding your baby, which can help give you an idea of what to expect in the first few months of breastfeeding.
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How to prepare for breastfeeding your baby
The key thing to know before we get to the tips is that many mothers, in fact most mothers, struggle with breastfeeding in one way or another.
It can be exhausting and quite emotional at times. However, it is also extremely beneficial for your baby, and for you! Breast milk contains lots of vital nutrients to help with your baby’s development, plus antibodies to keep them healthy.
Breastfeeding also releases hormones that help your womb to contract back to its original size after birth.
In order to get yourself ready for breastfeeding, and increase your chances of sticking with it, here are some top tips for preparing for breastfeeding:
1. Take a course
Some antenatal courses may have a section covering breastfeeding along with giving birth.
However you can also find courses specifically for breastfeeding. I personally love the Milkology course, which allows you to learn all about breastfeeding at your own pace.
The course is online, so you can do it at home in your PJs. It’s the perfect reading for when you’re on maternity leave, waiting for your due date.
I honestly think that arming yourself with knowledge about the practical sides of breastfeeding as well as the potential challenges gives you the best possible chance of nursing your baby for longer.
2. Get a book
There are a lot of books on the market to help you with breastfeeding but one of the best is the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.
I have read some books that contain odd advice, such as The Baby Whisperer’s advice to do a “yield test” using a pump to see how much milk you are producing. The fact is your baby is likely to extract far more milk from your boobs than a pump will so this is not an accurate test for all mothers.
Anyway, take a look at books if you would like something to hand to help and remember that if certain pieces of advice don’t sit right with you, speak to your health visitor or read another book.
Sometimes the best thing you can do as a new mama is take advice from multiple sources, sift out the stuff that you don’t agree with and use only the bits that actually will help.
3. Watch other mamas breastfeeding
If you have a friend who is breastfeeding their baby, ask if you can chat to them and see them nursing to give you an idea of how it works practically.
Otherwise there are tons of videos online of mothers nursing their babies. I thoroughly recommend watching lots of content on how mothers latch their babies on to the nipple. This is one of the key ways you can make breastfeeding easier on yourself.
A good latch will prevent pain and cracking of the nipples, it will help baby to feed efficiently and boost your supply.
4. Get all your kit ready
There are various products that will make your breastfeeding journey so much easier! Get them while you are still pregnant and have them organised at a breastfeeding station in your home where you can get comfy to nurse your baby.
The key essentials for breastfeeding mamas include:
- Breast pads. These ones are the absolute best.
- Nursing bras x2
- Nursing tops. You can simply get a spaghetti strapped top to put under any normal top, so you can just lift that up and pull the spaghetti straps down to get your boobs out.
- Breast pump. I recommend this one which lasted me through two babies. Test out the flange sizes to make sure if fits your breast correctly.
- Bottles and teats. Get at least three.
- Haakaa manual pump.
5. Be braced for it to be challenging
Breastfeeding is not easy. Your baby may seem to feed constantly some days. There may be nights when they are attached to your nipple all of the time.
If you can mentally prepare for this now, and the relentless nature of it, then you will be far less shocked when it actually happens!
Think of ways you can cope with cluster feeding (where baby feeds on and off for hours at a time), such as co-sleeping or having a side sleeper cot.
Speak to your partner ahead of the birth and tell them you are keen to breastfeed. Make sure they are aware of the potential challenges of nursing a newborn baby and speak about how they can help you.
There are various things that dads can do to help breastfeeding mums, such as changing baby in the mornings, taking baby for a walk wherever possible to give mum a break and doing baby’s bath.
6. Research local support groups
There may be a drop-in service at your local hospital or doctors’ surgery where you can sit down with a nurse or midwife and talk about any issues you are having.
There are also charities such as the La Leche League which has drop-in cafes and services dotted around in local community centres.
Research where these services are while you are still pregnant so that you know where you can turn to for urgent advice when you need it.
7. Look at your birth plan
Amazing breastfeeding will not necessarily happen right away. That first breastfeed may not even happen.
In my case, I had to express my colostrum and give it to my first baby from a small cup. With my second she latched on straight away.
Every baby is different. But it’s important to include in your birth plan that you would like to try breastfeeding and hopefully your midwife can help support you with that first feed in the golden hour (the 60 minutes after giving birth to your baby).
Try to get skin-to-skin right after birth, as this is not only great for that first breastfeed, but it also helps you bond with your baby. Pack an outfit for giving birth that offers easy access, for example a button-up top you can easily whip open or a loose top you can pull down.
8. Try to avoid certain pain medication in birth
Some pain medication can pass on to you baby during birth and leave them drowsy in the first few days after birth. This can make it difficult for your baby to latch on to your breast and feed efficiently as they are too sleepy.
Research the pain relief options available to you and understand the potential side effects of certain medication, such as diamorphine.
There are lots of ways you can relieve pain during labour naturally, so do research those options so that you are prepared before you go into labour.
9. Talk to friends and relatives
If you have close friends and relatives who are breastfeeding or have breastfed, chat to them about what it was like.
One of the best ways to get through breastfeeding in the early weeks is to chat to your peers and hear their stories.
Everyone’s breastfeeding journey is different, but there are similar challenges along the way that breastfeeding mamas face. It’s also good to have sources you can go to when your baby is born to ask questions.
10. Breast milk harvesting
There are certain circumstances where harvesting your breast milk could really help you to succeed at breastfeeding.
You may harvest your colostrum and free the milk because:
- You are having multiple babies
- Your baby is large or small for their gestational age
- You plan to give birth by C-section
Colostrum is the first milk your breasts will produce after birth. It is thicker and creamier, full of fat and antibodies for your baby. Harvesting colostrum can begin when you are 36 to 37 weeks pregnant.
You can simply hand express into a large syringe and then freeze the milk. You can also use a pump if you would prefer.
Store your colostrum in re-sealable breast milk bags or bottles. It can be stored in the fridge for five days or frozen before your baby is born.
There are lots more tips on colostrum harvesting here.
Do speak to your midwife about it if you do plan to harvest your colostrum and add it to your birth plan.
Remember you will need to transport it to the hospital when you give birth, so have some ice packs ready and a cool bag.
11. Pull up the drawbridge
Before giving birth, prepare to pull up the drawbridge and give yourself the space and time to just focus on breastfeeding your baby.
Get stocked up on essentials so that you don’t need to make frequent supermarket runs and have your freezer stocked with easy meals to prepare.
Of course visitors will want to come over and meet the baby, but try not to allow yourself to get too overwhelmed with this. Speak to your partner about who will visit in the early weeks and discuss how long you will be happy to have people in the house.
One of the best things you can do to success with breastfeeding is lot of skin-to-skin contact, which you will be far more relaxed doing if there isn’t a revolving door of visitors all day.
Prepare your house so that you can just focus on the baby in the early weeks, and don’t expect to be into a normal or easy routine right away. Surrender to just concentrating on feeding your baby, and you will find breastfeeding will be much less stressful.
I hope these tips have been useful for getting you ready to breastfeed your baby. If you’re looking for tips on preparing for your baby, you may also love these posts: