Photo from Breastfeeding With Comfort and JoyThe world tells us breast is best, but when you're pregnant for the first time, planning to breastfeed can be intimidating.
All the conflicting advice doesn't help -- toughen up your nipples! No, don't touch them!
You're going to be leaking milk like crazy! No, that milk won't come in for days after baby's born!
We got the skinny on what you really need to know to be ready to breastfeed from Laura Keegan, a family nurse practitioner and author of Breastfeeding With Comfort and Joy: A Photographic Guide for Mom and Those Who Help Her, who maintains a holistic family practice in southern Dutchess County, New York.
"Communication with your partner, family, and friends about your plans to breastfeed and what you'll need from them in the early weeks is THE most important component of breastfeeding preparation during pregnancy," says Keegan. "There's a learning curve experience to breastfeeding and everyone in your circle needs to be prepared."
1. Chat up your family. Limiting visitors postpartum is recommended by the World Health Organization's Baby Friendly Hospital guidelines to get acclimated to breastfeeding. But you'll have to tell grannies and aunties beforehand.
"A good rule for visitors in the first weeks is to limit their stay to 15 minutes per visit and request that they bring a meal," Keegan says. "To provide perspective, in cultures where breastfeeding is the norm, women and their families have a period of 40 days with minimal visitors and activities outside the home combined with full support from their community in terms of meals and child care."
2. Talk to your partner about what to expect. "Although it's difficult to anticipate the experience of a crying baby having difficulty taking the breast in the middle of the night, it's important to talk about the importance of staying calm and focused during those challenging times and understanding and anticipating that it's a normal part of the learning curve," Keegan says.
3. Talk to your health-care provider. "Let them know that you want to have your baby placed immediately on your chest at birth and to delay all routine procedures until after you've had time skin to skin with your baby, allowing your baby the opportunity to feed within the first hour of birth," Keegan suggests. "Consider writing a birth plan to communicate your preferences, because how you birth your baby can impact breastfeeding. With a Cesarean birth, the baby can be brought to the chest and feed even as the incision is being closed."
4. Find a pediatrician with breastfeeding expertise or a lactation consultant. "Ask if someone will be able to observe and evaluate your baby feeding during an office visit, if there's a concern about the baby’s weight," Keegan says. "Have a phone number available for a trusted lactation specialist or consultant in your area to call should you need assistance."
5. Talk to the hospital staff. Ask for the baby to "room in," and let them know there should be no use of artificial nipples (i.e., pacifiers, formula bottles).
6. Find breastfeeding moms. Talk to them for tips now but also so you'll have someone to reach out to when baby comes. They can work with you on ways to hold the baby that "facilitate ease in breastfeeding rather than the ways you may be accustomed to seeing for bottle-feeding," Keegan says.
"In cultures where breastfeeding is the norm, moms hold their babies more to the center of their bodies than you might expect because with bottle-feeding, we hold our babies more to the side of our bodies for bottle placement," she explains. "This bottle-feeding imprinting causes many unnecessary challenges for breastfeeding, and the desire to correct this imprinting was the inspiration for Breastfeeding With Comfort and Joy."
7. Talk to your boss. "Seek out comfortable places to nurse in advance for when you're on the go, so you'll feel prepared to nurse outside your home in comfort just as a bottle-feeding mom is comfortable nursing outside her home," Keegan suggests.