The other day, I was talking with a pregnant friend of mine about how to prepare yourself to breastfeed. Both of our mothers had told us that you need to “toughen up your nipples” while you’re pregnant. I’m guessing this must have been a reoccurring theme in the 70′s and 80′s, because I’ve heard it a lot from women who were having babies during that time. Of course we now know that there’s not much you can do for your nipples to prepare them to breastfeed, but just because you can’t do anything physical doesn’t mean you can’t do anything at all.
So how do you prepare to breastfeed? Surround yourself with support.
Considering that breastfeeding is the biologically normal and greatly superior way to feed a baby, you’d think that support would be easy to come by. Sadly, it isn’t. That’s the whole reason I started this blog. Even worse, much of the system works against breastfeeding and those with the best intentions might be causing more problems than good too. So, here are my tips for finding support before you begin your breastfeeding journey.
- Know who you can trust. If you have problems with breastfeeding, who are you going to go to first? For many, it ends up being your midwife, OBGYN, or pediatrician. While it would make sense for these folks to know about breastfeeding, they often do not. While most health care professionals understand that breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby, most of them have no real training on how to do so. Many of them haven’t breastfed themselves (I know our pediatrician hasn’t because she doesn’t have kids). Even those who have might have been given bad advice themselves. Same goes for the nurses in the hospital, which in my case gave me all different advice that directly contradicted the others. Even well-meaning family and friends may not really know what they’re talking about. I had multiple single men try to give me advice about breastfeeding or parenting in general. Trust me, they didn’t know what they were talking about.
- Surround yourself with breastfeeding friends. Talk to your friends and family who have had kids. Did they breastfeed? For how long? Did they have any problems? In our society, you may not know anyone who breastfed successfully. That’s okay. Find your local La Leche League (use the pull down menu to select your country and continue from there to find your meeting) and attend a meeting when you’re still pregnant. I felt silly going to a meeting without a babe in arms, but there was no need. Those ladies were happy to give me advice and answer any questions. It also felt less silly to go when I had my baby and went to get help.
- Get info for a few trustworthy IBCLCs. Look around to find recommendations for lactation consultants. Talk to friends, check out message boards online, ask your midwife or OBGYN. Just try to get some recommendations. The lactation consultants in the hospital aren’t always the best and often aren’t available. Plus, you can always have new issues after you get home. Many IBCLCs will do at-home visits, so you don’t even have to worry about getting baby out of the house. If you’re having problems, call one right away. Any issue, especially those involving pain, is better taken care of quickly.
- Know where to go online. The internet can be both a great resource and a perpetuator of untruths. Kellymom.com is by far my favorite site for breastfeeding problems. Here’s a post I wrote last year about reliable online breastfeeding resources.
- Get a book about breastfeeding. Along with the internet, books can be written by anyone. Breastfeeding advice isn’t always trustworthy when from a book, but there is one resource that I have yet to disagree with so far. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. You can get it for just about $10 and you won’t regret it. I’ve heard that older copies are still wonderful, but I’ve only read the most recent one myself. It’s in a super useful format and has many, many useful tips. I plan on doing my best to get one into every breastfeeding basket I make from now on.
How did you surround yourself with support for breastfeeding? Did you know many people who had successfully breastfed? Any other ways you prepared yourself to breastfeed?