Preparing for Breastfeeding
You already have all the tools!
So often we plan for the delivery and forget that once our baby is born, our mothering career begins in earnest. It’s important to think about breastfeeding in advance of your baby’s birth. Breastfeeding is so much more than just a way to feed your baby. Nature has provided you with the perfect design to both nourish her and nurture both of you.
Seek Out Nursing Mentors
In our culture, many pregnant women have never actually seen a breastfeeding baby. Years ago, when breastfeeding was the norm for all babies, you would have been surrounded by breastfeeding women and learned about breastfeeding almost by osmosis as you observed your mother, aunts, sisters, cousins and the women in your community breastfeeding. One of the first things I’d suggest you do is spend some time in the company of breastfeeding women. One of the best places to find breastfeeding mothers is at a La Leche League Canada meeting or drop-in. These are mother-to-mother support groups that meet in communities across Canada. Here you’ll find both new and experienced breastfeeding mothers, and pregnant women like you, and you’ll be able to learn first-hand from the wisdom of others.
There are excellent breastfeeding classes available in many communities and I’d highly recommend signing up for one for you and your partner. Partners need to learn about breastfeeding too so that they will be able to support and encourage you in the early days of mothering your baby at the breast. There are private classes with board certified lactation consultants, as well as classes via public health, hospitals, clinics and, in the Greater Toronto Area, La Leche League Canada. Be sure that the classes you attend offer plenty of opportunity to learn about proper latch and positioning. The key to breastfeeding success after birth is latch, positioning, early initiation and frequent breastfeeding.
Your Valuable Accessories!
There is no need to purchase breastfeeding aids. You have all that your baby needs – your breasts and your milk. Nursing clothes really aren’t necessary; most mothers wear tops that can be easily lifted from the bottom up. If, however, you enjoy shopping for pretty clothes, there’s a wide variety of nursing outfits available. If you’d like to cover up a bit more, then a receiving blanket or a cotton scarf, draped over your shoulder and across the baby, will do the trick. Some mothers do prefer a nursing bra, usually in a bigger cup size than you usually wear (at least in the first few months). However, some women simply wear a regular bra that’s loose enough and flexible enough to pull up or down, depending on what’s most comfortable. There are specialty breastfeeding and maternity stores that carry a wide variety of bras. You’ll probably need a few. This would be an excellent question to ask the breastfeeding mothers at a La Leche League meeting. You may also need breast pads, preferably cotton, to soak up leaking milk. Not all mothers leak but soft cotton pads can be very useful.
If I had to pick one thing, my favorite mothering tool is a soft baby carrier. There are many styles and types available so be sure to ask experienced mothers which ones they prefer. Many of the carriers, especially the sling variety, allow you to breastfeed your baby discreetly. Some have pockets for your wallet, keys or cell phone. Babies love to be carried. Breastfeeding is enhanced when babies are kept close to their mothers, especially in the early days. So if someone is wanting to purchase a baby gift for you, then a baby carrier would be an excellent choice.
Pillows especially designed for breastfeeding are not necessary, and can even be a hindrance. After delivery, the post-pregnancy tummy is the perfect nursing pillow. Babies need to be held against your body for correct positioning and latch and nursing pillows can interfere with this. If you need to support your arm or back while breastfeeding, a small regular pillow is all that you’ll need.
Pump got you stumped?
Please don’t think you need to buy a breast pump. Many breastfeeding mothers never pump or express their milk. If you are having occasional periods of separation from your baby, then a manual or battery operated pump, or hand expression, will allow you to express and store adequate amounts of milk. But you certainly don’t need a breast pump prior to the birth of your baby nor do you need to purchase bottles, artificial nipples or formula. Plan for success and stock your cupboards with good food for yourself and your family. A nourished and adequately rested mother will make all the milk that her baby needs, naturally!
Soon you’ll be holding your baby in your arms. Trust your heart and know that you are just the mother your baby needs and wants.
Lenore Kilmartin is an experienced CAPPA certified doula who has been helping in the birthing, breastfeeding and postpartum fields for over twenty-five years. She is the mother of five adult children and the grandmother of four grandsons. As an advocate of empowered, natural childbirth, Lenore brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and passion to her role as doula, educator and mentor. Lenore is the owner/operator of Mother Matters which offers a full range of support for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and postpartum.