The best preparation for breastfeeding is simply making a firm decision. Research shows that women who commit to breastfeeding while pregnant are more likely to breastfeed than those who say they will “give it a try.”
You don’t need to do anything special to your breasts while you’re pregnant. Your body is preparing for your baby without a thought from you. Milk ducts are enlarging, colostrum is being created and your nipple area is becoming darker and more prominent.
Pregnancy is a good time to stop using soap on or near your nipples. It is believed that secretions from glands within the areola (montgomery glands) are constantly cleansing and conditioning the skin of that area. If you use soap on your nipples, you are losing the protection of this natural conditioner.
Many sources will tell you to repeatedly rub your nipples with a washcloth to “toughen them up.” Ack! Who wants tough nipples? This is not necessary and can lead to sore nipples even before the baby is born!
So what can you do to prepare for breastfeeding?
My best advice is to attend a series of La Leche League meetings www.lalecheleague.org. These meetings are free and are open to anyone interested in breastfeeding. La Leche League is an international organization so chances are, there is a meeting in your area. These informal gatherings are facilitated by trained volunteers who are experienced breastfeeding moms. You will see breastfeeding “up close and personal” and will be able to ask questions.
Purchase and read a good book that’s devoted to breastfeeding. Ask your friends for recommendations. My personal favorite is “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” published by La Leche League. I also like “Breastfeeding Made Simple: Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers,” by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett.
Make sure your healthcare providers can provide breastfeeding support. Ask them if they regularly refer to an experienced lactation consultant.
Consider meeting with a lactation consultant during pregnancy. Make sure you have the number of at least one lactation consultant in your area in case you need help.
Enlist the support of your partner! Let your family and friends know how important breastfeeding is to you. The people closest to you have the most influence on breastfeeding success.
Finally, remember that your body and your baby are both beautifully made to breastfeed!
Written by Renee Beebe, M.Ed., IBCLC. Renee is a lactation consultant in private practice in Seattle, Washington. She is available for home/hospital visits and phone consultations. Renee can be reached at www.second9months.com
See also: ” What is a Lactation Consultant?” and “Should I Meet With a Lactation Consultant During Pregnancy?”