Breastfeeding is one of the most exhausting, tiring, rewarding, challenging, and around-the-clock jobs a mother can have. So many mamas set out with the goal of exclusively breastfeeding only to find themselves giving it up in the first 3-6 months after birth. A complex combination of minimal (or no) support, unexpected challenges, family pressures, and pain while feeding are some of the most common reasons why moms choose to end the journey earlier than planned.
In many of those situations, the right preparation and support could’ve prevented the struggles that ultimately led to early weaning. In this post, I am sharing seven, intentional things you can do while pregnant to set yourself up for breastfeeding success. Regardless of the start, middle, or end of your journey, I can guarantee that incorporating these things into your preparations for new motherhood will set you up to confidently breastfeed your baby for however long you choose to do so.
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Learn all you can about breastfeeding.
One of the best things that you can do in preparation for nursing your baby is learn as much as you can about breastfeeding before your baby arrives. Our culture has lost the intuitive wisdom of breastfeeding. No longer do we grow up seeing mothers breastfeed on a regular basis. Instead, we have to pave the path for ourselves, learning the skills that our ancestors gained from simple observation. Thankfully, there are a variety of valuable resources at our fingertips to help us along the way.
Talk with your Chiropractor about newborn adjustments and how they can support breastfeeding. Chiropractic adjustments were a crucial part of our breastfeeding journey after the births of both of my sons. (Find their stories here and here.) The infant adjustments were extremely gentle and breastfeeding went from painful to comfortable almost immediately.
Don’t have a Chiropractor? I share why you need one while pregnant and how to find a Webster Trained Chiropractor here.
Specific topics you should research include:
Attend La Leche League meetings.
La Leche League meetings are a wonderful place to ask questions. I so greatly appreciated attending La Leche League meetings when my oldest was an infant. It was a wonderful opportunity to connect with other breastfeeding moms and learn by listening to the discussions. Each meeting has a dedicated discussion topic followed by an opportunity to ask any breastfeeding-related questions you have. Many groups have evening meetings to accommodate working mothers, in addition to daytime meetings. Once you are connected with a group, you can also reach out to your leader (who is a veteran breastfeeding mama and volunteer) if you have questions or need support. You can begin attending meetings while pregnant.
As already mentioned above, I am a big fan of the La Leche League books, as well. They are incredibly comprehensive and ones I recommend to my clients on a regular basis.
Connect with a lactation consultant.
Save yourself the stress of trying to find a lactation consultant in a crisis. During pregnancy, sit down with a few lactation consultants so that you can find one who will be available to support you once you deliver your baby. Lactation consultants have varying levels of education and credentials.
- IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) – education includes 95 hours of breastfeeding-specific education, 300-1000 hours of supervised practice, successfully passing the IBCLC exam, and a dedication to ongoing education on the topic of breastfeeding.
- CLC (Certified Lactation Consultant) – education includes 52 hours of breastfeeding-specific education, successfully passing the CLC exam, and a edication to ongoing education on the topic of breastfeeding.
- CLE (Certified Lactation Educator) – education includes 20 hours of breastfeeding-specific education and successfully passing the CLE exam.
- LC (Lactation Consultant or Counselor) – education varies based on certification program selected.
A great way to find a lactation consultant is to reach out to other moms in your community for recommendations.
Talk to friends who have successfully breastfed for at least a year.
I don’t want to discriminate against moms who only breastfed for a couple of months. Breastfeeding is extremely time-consuming and, sometimes, it’s just downright hard. That said, I highly encourage you to seek out friends who have successfully breastfed for at least one year when looking for insight. Moms who have breastfed one kiddo for at least one year have gained a wealth of experience and information on what the journey is like. They have weathered the many stages of breastfeeding – nursing an infant is very different than a busy toddler! These moms have also persevered through difficulties and, should you run into similar struggles, can be a great ally to you in your own journey.
Facebook groups can also be a great place to connect with breastfeeding moms, but I caution you to take any input from strangers with a grain of salt. An extensive amount of bad advice persists. When in doubt, reach out to your La Leche League leader, and/or lactation consultant.
Invest in a few clothing items and bras designed for nursing mothers to simplify early learning.
Buying a brand new wardrobe can be expensive! Rather than swapping out your entire collection of clothes, invest in a few basics. Nursing tanks are extremely helpful when learning to breastfeed and can be worn underneath regular shirts for easy access. Investing in one or two breastfeeding shirts can also be helpful when going out, as you can breastfeed more discreetly without always having to pull out a cover. Additionally, some maternity shirts are designed to be worn while breastfeeding. When at all possible, invest in these pieces so that your dollar goes as far as possible.
Prep snacks and meals so you can focus solely on breastfeeing (and healing) after baby arrives.
Take time to build out a freezer stash of meals and snacks prior to your baby’s arrival. In the early weeks of recovery from childbirth and learning the ins and outs of breastfeeding, this will keep you from having to spend hours in the kitchen. Plan more food than you think you’ll need. Even if you don’t use all of your freezer stash in the first month, it will be helpful for the times that baby wants to cluster feed or just needs extra attention.
Not sure where to start with freezer meals? I wrote a set of worksheets that walk you through the process of putting your home on autopilot after baby arrives! Order your copy here.
Optimize your baby’s sleep space so you can breastfeed easily.
Planning for a breastfeeding-friendly sleep situation is extremely important for long-term success. Breastfeeding is a supply-and-demand system, with nighttime being extremely important for building out your supply. While it may seem enticing to put baby in a separate room, there are many disadvantages to this for the new nursing mom. Not only do SIDS risks increase, but now you have to get up and leave the bedroom every time your baby needs to eat or be changed.
At the very least, establish a system that allows your baby to sleep in your bedroom for the first several months. Most baby sleep books are not written with breastfeeding or the biological needs of infants in mind. Sweet Sleep, written by La Leche League, is an excellent resource for figuring out the best sleep set up for your family that supports your long-term breastfeeding journey.