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Are You Prepared for Breastfeeding? Tips To Prepare For Success
During pregnancy, your body is already doing everything that needs to be done. By the time you are several months’ pregnant, you’re ready to make milk and your breasts contain colostrum, the “pre-milk” that your baby gets in the first few days after birth. So that’s your body sorted out right there. Here are some other things you may need to think about…
Preparing Your Nipples For Breastfeeding
“Toughening” your nipples won’t help soreness. Learning how to hold your baby will. Nipples are nothing more than a “target” to help a baby know where to nurse; all shapes and sizes work. If your nipples are the kind that never stand out, they may be a bit confusing for your baby at first, so ask about ways to encourage “shy” nipples. Other than that, treat your breasts and nipples just the way you treat the backs of your knees, but without the soap. The little bumps on the darker area around your nipple produce a cleanser/moisturiser that does all the work for you. If you have very dry skin, a very pure lanolin especially for nipples may be helpful.
Preparing Your Mind For Breastfeeding
Your mind needs more preparation than your body. Nursing is learned, not instinctive, and most mothers in this country have had little chance to learn. Try to go to at least one Australian Breastfeeding Association meeting before your baby is born. You’ll see how other mothers handle their nurslings, have a chance to hear and ask questions, and meet local breastfeeding specialists.
Check out BellyBelly’s Top 5 Best Breastfeeding Books, which includes The Womanly Art Of Breastfeeding which is co-authored by Diane Wiessinger. Buy or borrow at least one, and become familiar with it.
Avoid all formula company information! It may sound supportive, but it’s carefully designed to help breastfeeding fail.
Independent childbirth classes (not hospital based) are important and it’s a great idea to consider a birth doula. Breastfeeding is a basic, powerful biological system, and you can breastfeed no matter what kind of start you and your baby have. But it’s easiest when your baby is born without drugs in her system, and when she has unbroken contact with you until after her first nursing. Most alert babies breastfeed within the first hour, and that first nursing may be a very long one. Take your time and enjoy it! There’s plenty of time for weighing and measuring afterwards.
Hiring a trained birth doula is a big help in avoiding interventions and getting a good start. Books that will help sorting out the pros and cons of various birth interventions, read The Thinking Woman’s Guide To A Better Birth by Henci Goer or Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices by Dr. Sarah Buckley.
Preparing Your Wardrobe For Breastfeeding
Your wardrobe already exists. Most mothers just wear their regular two-piece outfits and pull the top up on one side to nurse. The baby’s body covers everything that the top doesn’t cover. A teeshirt or button-front nightgown works well at night. A bra is optional at all times of your life, and doesn’t prevent sagging. If you want to wear one, make it comfortably loose. If you’re an unusual size, call the Australian Breastfeeding Association (if you’re in Australia) for good sources or La Leche League in the USA. In all bras and tops, you’ll find cotton far more comfortable than synthetics. Sections of cloth diaper or diaper liners folded around layered toilet paper make inexpensive breast pads for the early weeks, although most women never use pads at all.
Other equipment isn’t necessary. You’ve got what it takes!
Plan on Listening to Your Baby
You’re giving birth to a competent person, not a doll or a possession. Your baby knows what he needs, and he’ll tell you about it, if you listen. He’ll need lots of holding. Use your arms or a sling to give him the hours of body contact that build a happy, secure baby. He’ll need lots of nursing. Expect your early days to be filled with meeting his needs, so freeze casseroles that you can eat with one hand or have someone cook for you at first, and be prepared to let the housework slide. He’ll need to be with you most of the time, so have him close to you at night. He’ll probably sleep best in your bed, the way most of the world’s babies always have.
Plan on Listening to Yourself
You have excellent instincts, just as your baby has. If something you’re doing as a mother – or not doing – makes you uncomfortable, try doing what “feels” right, even if it’s not what your mother or friend does. Women are so accustomed to doing what other people think that we may have forgotten how to listen to ourselves. If you feel better holding your baby than putting him down it’s because eons of human survival instincts have made you that way. Trust yourself.
Plan on Getting Help When You Need It
We are social animals who naturally rely on one another, especially in issues like birth and breastfeeding. Don’t feel you need to fix problems by yourself, and don’t feel embarrassed to have little or big concerns. Breastfeeding is too important to let it slip away for lack of help or good information. You’ll be so glad you called!
Who Ya Gonna Call…?
Call the Australian Breastfeeding Association in Australia (La Leche League in the USA) or hire an Independent Lactation Consultant, ideally with an IBCLC qualification, which is the gold standard in lactation care.
Further Resources and Recommended Reading
- Check out BellyBelly’s Top 5 Best Breastfeeding Books
- Join in on BellyBelly’s Breastfeeding Forum, which contains loads of great support and information. Our breastfeeding forum is frequented by the former Director of the Australian Breastfeeding Association, Barb Glare, as well as other breastfeeding counsellors, counsellors in training, doulas and midwives.
- BellyBelly highly recommends every breastfeeding mother or mother-to-be become a member of the Australian Breastfeeding Association, for great support, information, resources and friendships.
Diane Wiessinger, MS, IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), is a co-author of the 8th edition of The Womanly Art Of Breastfeeding and author and contributing author of numerous breastfeeding resources. A La Leche League Leader since 1985 and IBCLC since 1990, she is a frequent speaker in the US and abroad, on the mechanics, behaviours, and support systems involved in successful breastfeeding. Visit her website at Normalfed.com.
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