“I’m pregnant with my second child and planning to breastfeed. I had an extremely challenging experience with my daughter and ended up exclusively pumping for about 5 months. My confidence level is pretty low, so I’m planning for lactation support soon after my baby is born. I was wondering if you offer prenatal consultations.”
The best preparation for breastfeeding is simply making a firm decision. Research shows that women who commit to breastfeeding while pregnant are more likely to breastfeed than those who say they will “give it a try.”
You don’t need to do anything special to your breasts while you’re pregnant. Your body is preparing for your baby without a thought from you. Milk ducts are enlarging, colostrum is being created and your nipple area is becoming darker and more prominent.
Pregnancy is a good time to stop using soap on or near your nipples. It is believed that secretions from glands within the areola (montgomery glands) are constantly cleansing and conditioning the skin of that area. If you use soap on your nipples, you are losing the protection of this natural conditioner.
Many sources will tell you to repeatedly rub your nipples with a washcloth to “toughen them up.” Ack! Who wants tough nipples? This is not necessary and can lead to sore nipples even before the baby is born!
So what can you do to prepare for breastfeeding?
My best advice is to attend a series of La Leche League meetings www.lalecheleague.org. These meetings are free and are open to anyone interested in breastfeeding. La Leche League is an international organization so chances are, there is a meeting in your area. These informal gatherings are facilitated by trained volunteers who are experienced breastfeeding moms. You will see breastfeeding “up close and personal” and will be able to ask questions. If you are in the Seattle area, stop by one of my drop in breastfeeding groups. Pregnant ladies are welcome!
Purchase and read a good book that’s devoted to breastfeeding. Ask your friends for recommendations. My personal favorite is “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” published by La Leche League. I also like “Breastfeeding Made Simple: Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers,” by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett.
Make sure your healthcare providers can provide breastfeeding support. Ask them if they regularly refer to an experienced lactation consultant.
Consider meeting with a lactation consultant during pregnancy. Make sure you have the number of at least one lactation consultant in your area in case you need help.
Enlist the support of your partner! Let your family and friends know how important breastfeeding is to you. The people closest to you have the most influence on breastfeeding success.
Finally, remember that your body and your baby are both beautifully made to breastfeed!