Preparing For Your Breastfeeding Journey Before You Baby Is Born

pregnant mother

I’m so glad you’re here! If you’re expecting a baby and have an interest in breastfeeding, this post is for you! I hope is that you will be stress-free and confident starting your breastfeeding journey.  Knowledge is power and I’m here to share tips to promote the best start at nursing for you and your baby.

How did I prepare for breastfeeding?

-I pretty much said “I want to breastfeed”

-I ordered an insurance-covered pump based on what I saw a friend using.

-I registered for a crap ton of bottles and breastfeeding supplies that I didn’t need.

-I purchased a breastfeeding book that I didn’t have time to read.

Oh, how I wish I had a boob mama friend who would have given me a heads up!  Here is what I wish I had done to prepare for nursing my baby. 

What To think about:

  • Think about why you want to breastfeed?  What will keep you going if there is a challenge? What can breastfeeding do for the health of you and your child?
  • Think about your breastfeeding goals? How long would you like to breastfeed? What are the current recommendations from the world health organization? Will it include pumping, bottle feeding, or combo feeding?  What does it look like to you?
  • Think about how you feel about nursing or pumping in front of people?  Are you willing to speak up when it’s time for your baby to eat? So many moms call me and say how they are so engorged because they had visitors all day and now their baby won’t latch.  It’s okay to tell others what you and your baby need.  
  • How can your partner support you?  What will you do if you don’t agree on something? 
  • How will you and your partner balance your baby’s needs, each other’s needs, and household duties?  Have a plan and communicate as much as possible. The first few months are pure survival mode.  Work as a team and be attentive to each other’s feelings.
  • How will you manage expectations and boundaries with those around you?
  • Who will you reach out to if breastfeeding isn’t going well?  An IBCLC is the breastfeeding expert and works as part of a multidisciplinary team caring for both you and your baby.     
  • How will you handle visitors and Covid 19 precautions?  What are you comfortable with?   

What to do:

-Take a hospital or online breastfeeding class. Research shows breastfeeding rates increase by doing so.  Understanding how breastfeeding works, positioning and latch, diaper output, and how to know if things are going well is beneficial.

-Research where to find evidence-based information, for example, an IBCLC, Pediatrician, OB breastfeeding counselor, or  Google, Pinterest, Facebook, and well-meaning friends and family aren’t the experts on you and your baby.  With so much misinformation out there, find someone who will look at the big picture and get you and your baby the expert care you need.  Time is of the essence.

-Research and connect with lactation consultants in your area that are in-network with your insurance plan 

-Set up a prenatal consult with your lactation consultant to see if your medical history puts you at an increased risk for breastfeeding challenges.  Make a plan for the first few days postpartum.

-Ask your insurance company how many visits are covered and if your specific plan has any limitations?  If your insurance provider doesn’t have in-network providers, will they provide a gap extension or reimburse you for lactation care?  

-The affordable care act states lactation care is a preventative service that should be covered.

-Obtain a prescription for a pump from your OBGYN

-Ask your insurance company where you can get a pump and what pumps are covered

-Research primary and secondary pumps, I recommend getting a primary pump first and then evaluating your needs based on your specific situation and goals.  Not everyone needs to pump, but it’s nice to have if needing to be away from your baby, if the baby isn’t effectively removing milk well, or you need to increase your supply.

-If your baby requires time in the NICU a hospital grade pump is recommended to bring in your full supply. These can be rented monthly. 

-If returning to work, what pumping accommodations can your employer provide? What will your schedule look like when you return?  Who will care for your baby?

-Learn normal infant behaviors 

-Research shows extended breastfeeding rates when moms have peer-to-peer support, find a breastfeeding or mothers support groups offered in your area or virtually. 

-Chat with someone who is currently breastfeeding their baby.  It’s so nice to have someone who understands what you are going through and can help guide you to great resources.

-Find a Pediatrician affiliated with the hospital where you will be delivering.  Ask questions to see how they support breastfeeding dyads.

-Watch a video on hand expression. Breastfeeding rates increase with mothers who hand express in the early postpartum period. 

-Have a conversation with your support system on how they can help you in the early weeks

-Prep freezer meals, grocery lists, and snacks for those first few weeks home

-Prep an area to nurse and care for your baby on each level of your home

-Each area should have a safe sleep space for your baby, essential supplies, diapers, wipes, burp cloth, extra outfit, water, snacks, and a phone charger.

Things to consider purchasing:

-Nipple balm for after feedings 

-Organic coconut oil for lubing flanges and nipple care

-They will likely give you lanolin in the hospital, but it doesn’t hurt to have some on hand

-Pumping and or nursing bras 

-Nursing tank tops

-Comfortable loose clothing for the first few months 

-Breastfeeding support pillow

-Reusable nipple pads for occasional leaks

-A water bottle you love and can open one-handed

-Milk storage supplies if pumping

-Hydrogel nursing pads promote moist wound healing.  Nipple pain usually peaks on day 5.  If it lasts longer consult your IBCLC for an assessment

-Breast heat/cool packs are great for engorgement in the first few days and can also help with plugged duct treatment.  Warmth is great at the beginning of a feeding and cool after to decrease inflammation 

-Breast massager (not a must-have, but a nice to have). Your hands can help for gentle breast compression, hands-on pumping, and hand expression. 

-Breastfeeding-friendly bottles have a more coral shape to help maintain a wide latch.-Lansinoh, Evenfow, or Dr.browns- Chat with an IBCLC on the best time to introduce a bottle

-Breastfed babies should use the slowest flow nipple available for a bottle

-Hand pump-Nice to have around if you just need to pump off a little milk for comfort in the early days and don’t want to pump a ton.  Nice to have in a pinch if the power goes out.

-Haakaa- Love for saline soaks, catching let down, or gradually increasing supply.  Can cause an oversupply.  

Anything else can be purchased later if something becomes more of a concern or if you are preparing to go back to work.  

Things you don’t need

-A bottle warmer unless it makes you happy.  Breast milk can be warmed in a mug of warm water in just a few minutes

-Breastmilk Alcohol test strips.  Save your money! If you can drive a car, you can nurse your baby.  Please don’t pump and dump.

-Nipple Shield. If you are using a nipple shield, please reach out to an IBCLC for further evaluation and help.  

-Breastfeeding cookies or supplements.  Contact an IBCLC if you are concerned about supply.

I hope these tidbits help make your life a little easier.  Every pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum experience is different.  The best thing you can do is have an experienced IBCLC review your history before your baby is born.  There are mother concerns that can impact your ability to breastfeed/chest feed as well as baby concerns that can impact their ability to effectively remove milk.  If these are identified promptly, extra support and care will improve the outcome for both mother and baby.  You’re doing a great job already Mama! 

Ashley Feeley and Family

Hi, I'm Ashley!

Like you, I'm a mom in the midst of the chaos of daily life with little ones. I get it, each day is a rollercoaster of emotions. Big smiles and laughter to mom guilt, wondering if you are doing what's best for your child.

My personal struggles with breastfeeding brought me to my passion of helping parents feel supported and in control of their feeding journeys. Life likes to throw out curveballs like tongue ties, mastitis, stubborn latchers, and just plain exhaustion. I understand and I’m here to help you meet your breastfeeding goals and enjoy the precious moments that nursing can bring.