Preparing to Breastfeed

The other day, I was talking with a pregnant friend of mine about how to prepare yourself to breastfeed. Both of our mothers had told us that you need to “toughen up your nipples” while you’re pregnant. I’m guessing this must have been a reoccurring theme in the 70’s and 80’s, because I’ve heard it a lot from women who were having babies during that time. Of course we now know that there’s not much you can do for your nipples to prepare them to breastfeed, but just because you can’t do anything physical doesn’t mean you can’t do anything at all.

So how do you prepare to breastfeed? Surround yourself with support.

Considering that breastfeeding is the biologically normal and greatly superior way to feed a baby, you’d think that support would be easy to come by. Sadly, it isn’t. That’s the whole reason I started this blog. Even worse, much of the system works against breastfeeding and those with the best intentions might be causing more problems than good too. So, here are my tips for finding support before you begin your breastfeeding journey.

  • Know who you can trust. If you have problems with breastfeeding, who are you going to go to first? For many, it ends up being your midwife, OBGYN, or pediatrician. While it would make sense for these folks to know about breastfeeding, they often do not. While most health care professionals understand that breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby, most of them have no real training on how to do so. Many of them haven’t breastfed themselves (I know our pediatrician hasn’t because she doesn’t have kids). Even those who have might have been given bad advice themselves. Same goes for the nurses in the hospital, which in my case gave me all different advice that directly contradicted the others. Even well-meaning family and friends may not really know what they’re talking about. I had multiple single men try to give me advice about breastfeeding or parenting in general. Trust me, they didn’t know what they were talking about. 😛
  • Surround yourself with breastfeeding friends. Talk to your friends and family who have had kids. Did they breastfeed? For how long? Did they have any problems? In our society, you may not know anyone who breastfed successfully. That’s okay. Find your local La Leche League (use the pull down menu to select your country and continue from there to find your meeting) and attend a meeting when you’re still pregnant. I felt silly going to a meeting without a babe in arms, but there was no need. Those ladies were happy to give me advice and answer any questions. It also felt less silly to go when I had my baby and went to get help.
  • Get info for a few trustworthy IBCLCs. Look around to find recommendations for lactation consultants. Talk to friends, check out message boards online, ask your midwife or OBGYN. Just try to get some recommendations. The lactation consultants in the hospital aren’t always the best and often aren’t available. Plus, you can always have new issues after you get home. Many IBCLCs will do at-home visits, so you don’t even have to worry about getting baby out of the house. If you’re having problems, call one right away. Any issue, especially those involving pain, is better taken care of quickly.
  • Know where to go online. The internet can be both a great resource and a perpetuator of untruths. Kellymom.com is by far my favorite site for breastfeeding problems. Here’s a post I wrote last year about reliable online breastfeeding resources.
  • Get a book about breastfeeding. Along with the internet, books can be written by anyone. Breastfeeding advice isn’t always trustworthy when from a book, but there is one resource that I have yet to disagree with so far. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. You can get it for just about $10 and you won’t regret it. I’ve heard that older copies are still wonderful, but I’ve only read the most recent one myself. It’s in a super useful format and has many, many useful tips. I plan on doing my best to get one into every breastfeeding basket I make from now on.

How did you surround yourself with support for breastfeeding? Did you know many people who had successfully breastfed? Any other ways you prepared yourself to breastfeed? 

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4 thoughts on “Preparing to Breastfeed

  1. The best thing I did to prepare to breast feed was just to be absolutely determind that it was what I was going to do. Period.
    My baby ended up in the nicu where she was fed formula in her first hours of life.
    I missed that initial latching and it made things very difficult.
    After she was released from nicu the hospital did not honor my request to breast feed ONLY.
    We struggled for a few weeks to get her to latch and then to get her to nurse without a nipple shield.
    I dealt with thrush and mastitis but was able to get through all of our struggles and was successful for an entire year.
    I really feel that my determination was what made it possible. I did not have a ton of support and was often reminded that it “would be okay to give her formula”.
    I plan to exclusively breast feed once again and have a goal of 12-24months.
    You can overcome whatever challenges come your way and you can be successful 🙂

    • It’s so sad that we live in a culture where you have to be stubbornly determined in order to succeed at something that is biologically normal and far superior, but it’s very true. I’m sure my stubborn personality helped me there. 😛

    • I agree. It was my determination that helped me decide that I WAS going to breastfeed for at least a year, a year was my goal. My son had trouble latching on after we left the hospital & I too used the nipple guard (which is the way I had to breastfeed the whole time). I was successful in breastfeeding exclusively with little to no pumping at all for almost a full year (my son weaned himself off a month or so before his first birthday). I even had my own sister at my baby shower in front of others say that I was going to give up & not stick with it. She was very wrong. I was determined to do it exclusively for a year, I started right away at the hospital & besides the little hiccup once we got home and the necessary use of the nipple guard (becuause that was the only way my son would take my breast), I was successful in nurturing my baby with the BEST nutrition source and bond with him on that level. I look forward to doing it with my next child in the future and hope to do it longer without the aid of the nipple guard! : )

  2. This is great advice. I think finding the RIGHT breastfeeding advice, as you said, is key. My daughter had latching issues and after seeing several nurses and one lactation consultant at the hospital, I was ready to give up, she would not latch on. Luckily, I finally met a lovely and kind nurse who showed me what a nipple shield was and told me to use it without worry for as long as I needed. Immediately, my daughter started feeding regularly and without problems. I don’t reallly know what the issue was – some said it was her tongue, others my rather flat nipples, but the nipple shield saved me. Actually, that nurse saved me and my breastfeeding efforts. I ended up using a nipple shield for 8 months and was reassured by one of the most reputable breastfeeding clinics in my area that as long as I watched my supply (by occasionally pumping) and used the shield correctly, everything would be fine. And it was! I am due with #2 in 6 weeks and feel SO much better prepared this time around. And will definitely try without the nipple shield this time, but know that I can fall back on it if necessary.

    So yes, you really need to surround yourself with experienced, encouraging and resourceful people.

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