pregnant woman

How to Prepare to Breastfeed

By: Sabrina Granniss, IBCLC


9 min

You can do many things during your pregnancy to help prepare for breastfeeding. The checklist below will help set you up for success, but it will also help you have a plan for if the start of your breastfeeding journey is rocky. Your steps of preparation now will come in handy and enable you to spend less time worrying and more time enjoying your new baby.

Your prenatal checklist

Meet your local, private practice IBCLC

An IBCLC is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. They are often available at the hospital to help you and your baby immediately after birth. However, knowing a private practice IBCLC in your community has significant advantages for prenatal information immediately after birth and when you and your baby are back home.

During a prenatal consultation with a private practice IBCLC, you will be able to ask individualized questions and share your excitement as well as any fears or concerns you have. As you and your IBCLC walk through your complete health history, they will assess your breast anatomy, ask about changes you are experiencing during the pregnancy, review your diet and supplements, and discuss what you want your breastfeeding journey to look like. If you had problems nursing other children, your IBCLC could offer information to help prevent the same struggles from repeating. Meeting and connecting with an IBCLC before having your baby makes it much easier to reach out if the need arises after your baby is born.

Take a prenatal class

Midwives, hospitals, and lactation consultants offer prenatal classes. Choose a class that covers the basics of breastfeeding and newborn care. During the class, you will learn about different breastfeeding positions. Using a doll, you can give those positions a try. You will learn what to expect during the first days and weeks of nursing a newborn and how to care for them. Take a local class to connect with and meet other parents who are also expecting.

Know what’s normal

Babies eat, pee, poop, sleep and repeat. It will be a new rhythm to get used to as a parent. Your baby will eat every 1.5 - 3 hours. (1) Sometimes, your baby will want to nurse more often. Keep your baby close and follow their feeding cues. Knowing what to expect and what to look out for helps catch potential problems early on. 

After your baby is born, being skin-to-skin with you is the best place for them to be. Skin-to-skin contact helps regulate the newborn's body temperature, heart rate, and respiration and gives them the opportunity to begin breastfeeding within the first hour after birth. Your baby will start looking for the breast by using their reflexes to crawl 

up to the nipple and nurse. Continue to let your baby do the crawl for feeding each time they are at your chest.

Colostrum is high in protein and fat and contains everything your baby needs for the first few days of life. (2) 

Your baby eats about 1 - 4 Tablespoons of colostrum at each feeding. 

It is very concentrated with nutrients and has protective antibodies to strengthen the immune system. (3) Colostrum also acts as a laxative and helps the baby pass meconium, which is dark, tar-like stools that will transition to softer, seedy, mustard-colored stools as your milk supply transitions.

More copious amounts of milk begin to flow between days 2 - 5 after birth. Your milk doesn’t change all of a sudden; rather, it transitions from colostrum to milk much higher in water content and carbs. This milk continues to meet your baby’s needs for calories and hydration. When milk is removed, it signals the breast to refill. 

The frequent emptying and refilling of milk from the breast leads to a milk supply to meet the needs of your growing baby.

Wet and poop diapers will increase over the first several days. After day 4, you can expect your baby to have at least 8 very wet diapers and several poop diapers per 24 hours. 

Babies sleep in small chunks of time, waking often to eat. Remember, they have a little belly and are growing super fast.

Planning ahead

In your birth plan, include your desire to breastfeed your baby and state you do not want your baby to have any artificial nipples. Your milk is the perfect food for your baby. Additional supplementation is only necessary if there is a special circumstance that your doctor or care provider brings to your attention. Give a copy of your plan to your healthcare providers and the hospital or place you plan on birthing your baby. This will alert the nurses and doctors who attend to you and your baby not to offer a pacifier or supplements without your permission and consent. 

Pumping is not necessary for everybody. If you want to express your milk only occasionally, you may not need a pump at all. A double electric breast pump is recommended if you plan to return to work because you will need to pump to leave milk for your baby. You will pump as often as your baby would feed while at work. This is a good time to look into the many options and contact your insurance company to find out how breast pumps are covered.

Learn how to hand express! It is an invaluable tool. Even if you never plan on pumping, there will likely be a time in your nursing journey when you will be glad you learned this skill. It can be helpful at the beginning of breastfeeding if you feel engorged to relieve some of the extra pressure if your baby has already been well-fed. Hand expression is a tool you always have with you with no needed extra parts!

Investigate your community’s resources

Learn about parent groups and baby and me classes in your area. La Leche League is one group that provides parent-to-parent support for breastfeeding. 

Meeting other folks nursing their babies and hearing their experiences, tips, and tricks is helpful. Each group varies, so if the first one you attend isn’t a good fit for you, try another one. There are also many groups with online meetings as an option. If you don’t have many family members or friends you have seen nurse their babies, you probably have some curiosity. You will benefit from the experience in a comfortable group where you can ask questions and feel supported.

Depending on where you are giving birth, find out what resources the facility will have available. If you are at a hospital, ask about IBCLCs on staff for initial help with breastfeeding. Ask about using a pump if one ends up being needed during your stay and pump rentals.

Some parents find working with a doula invaluable. Doulas help support you during birth and early breastfeeding based on your needs and wishes. A postpartum doula will help with various activities depending on what you need so that you can best care for your newborn. They can help with basic infant care while giving you emotional and physical support to adjust to this new life. (4)

Family and friends can be great team players. Let them know what would be most helpful to you. You need to be able to keep your baby close to establish your nursing relationship. Asking for help with folding the laundry, cooking a meal, or spending time with an older child gives you the extra support you need and lets those who want to be involved help in a meaningful way.

Handy tools for early breastfeeding

Purchase a well-fitted, comfortable nursing bra. Remember, breastfeeding over the first several days may make your breasts larger. Underwire is okay as long as the bra is well-fitted and does not put pressure on areas that could contribute to a plugged duct.

Having some throw pillows is useful. Marketed nursing pillows that are sold can make it hard to hold your baby in an optimal position for breastfeeding. Sticking with some comfy throw pillows that support your back and arms while you support your baby is a better option.

If you have a toddler or older kids at home, create a fun box for them. Put some fun new books, toys, or (non-messy) craft supplies like stickers and colorful paper in the box. The idea of the box is that it only comes out when you are nursing your newborn. It can be a time your older child looks forward to.

A nursing stool can prop your feet up, take pressure off your back, and make it more comfortable for you to nurse. It is a nice extra! You can also use an empty box, crate, or other household item to elevate your feet.

Learning about different types of slings and carriers you can nurse in allows you to get comfortable using them before the baby arrives. It is a fantastic way to keep your baby snuggled close in a more hands-free way so you can meet other kids' needs. Babies need and love movement. It is essential for their development and reaching milestones. Wearing your baby to nurse offers extra support in holding your baby and allows them to be in a good postural position.

Just in case, have some coconut or olive oil on hand if you have nipple tenderness from nursing your baby. An ice pack can ease soreness in the early days if you are experiencing engorgement.

Just in case, have some coconut or olive oil on hand if you have nipple tenderness from nursing your baby. An ice pack can ease soreness in the early days if you are experiencing engorgement.

A Healthy You

Your overall health is essential for milk production. Now is a good time to add more whole foods and remove processed foods from your diet. Add veggies that include all the colors of the rainbow, providing you with lots of vitamins and nutrients. 

Take a high-quality, food-based prenatal vitamin. Legendairy Milk’s Dynamic Duo Prenatal (coming soon!) provides 25 vitamins and minerals that support you and your baby during pregnancy and through your entire breastfeeding journey.

Take a probiotic with the bacterial strain L. fermentum, which supports gut and breast health. Lacta-Biotic can be taken in late pregnancy and during your breastfeeding journey. It can help avoid plugged ducts. The strain is also known to help reduce the duration and occurrence of mastitis

Stay hydrated by drinking water and electrolyte beverages like coconut water. Making soups and stews with homemade mineral-rich broth is great for now, and if you make double or triple batches, you can freeze the extras for a quick heat-up meal after your baby arrives.

Your body is going through so many changes, and it may be hard to find a comfortable position while you sleep, but we know sleep is a big contributor to overall health. Use some pillows to support you where you need them most to be in a comfortable sleep position.

Walking daily is a good form of exercise. Ensure you get the okay from your healthcare provider for your situation.

Bodywork can keep your body in good alignment, making you comfortable as your belly grows, help with getting better sleep, leads to easier delivery of your baby, and fosters milk production.

What You Don’t Need To Do

Some advice is no longer recommended but is still often given to parents. 

You don’t need to toughen up your nipples. The nipple has its own support system. The raised bumps on the areola called Montgomery glands secrete an oil that keeps your nipples moisturized.

Fun fact: 
The fluid secreted from the Montgomery glands smells like the amniotic fluid and helps your baby navigate their way up to the nipple for feeding right after birth. (5)

There is no need to rub a washcloth over the nipples. This can damage the tissue and be painful.

Avoid drying soaps on your nipples. Your chest may be extra sensitive, so avoid lotions and creams directly on the nipples.

Breastfeeding should never be painful. If you experience pain, contact your IBCLC immediately so they can help you uncover the reasons and offer solutions.

In conclusion, preparing for breastfeeding during pregnancy can help you have a successful and enjoyable nursing journey. Having a plan and knowing what to expect during the first days and weeks of nursing is essential. Legendairy Milk has you covered with products to support your prenatal and postpartum experience. With the support of Legendairy Milk and the above checklist items, you can reduce stress and focus on bonding with your newborn.


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