Monday, July 21, 2014

Pregnant and Plan on Breastfeeding? Tips on How to Prepare Beforehand

When I was pregnant I planned on breastfeeding. I didn't really know much about the act itself, I just knew I wanted to give it my best try to make it work. I had a few resources that helped out tremendously, and others I stumbled upon along the way. I've kind of proclaimed myself as a resource to my pregnant friends that also plan on breastfeeding. I thought I would offer help and advice that worked well for me. If you're pregnant and plan on breastfeeding, here are some tips to set yourself up for breastfeeding success.

Disclaimer: this post is not meant to put down moms that feed their babies in any other fashion. I understand that breastfeeding isn't for everyone. For those that want to breastfeed, I hope you find this information useful.

1) Golden Hour immediately following birth. Golden hour is where the parents and baby get special skin-to-skin time immediately after the baby is born. Even after your baby is weighed and a wellness check is given, this time is crucial for both the parents and baby. Find out what the policy is at the hospital where you'll be delivering. If this isn't part of it, I'd talk to you doctor about it. If your baby is not immediately sent to the NICU and if you are doing fine too, that time is so important. Don't take my word for it, check out the info here.
On my chest, immediately after birth, even after having a c-section!

2) Hospital lactation support. Does your hospital have a certified IBCLC on staff (having someone certified is important)? Will that employee be there while you're delivering? After you've delivered? If you're not sure if someone will be available, have the number of an independent IBCLC that can come visit you in the hospital. Although breastfeeding is natural, that doesn't mean that it comes naturally for all women. It is better to be prepared, just in case! Here are some great local IBCLC resources. Do your own research. Stick up for you and your baby. is a wonderful breastfeeding resource. Some hospitals and hospital staffs don't understand the complexities that go along with breastfeeding so they look to formula for easy answers. Supplementation with formula before your milk comes in isn't always necessary. (See size of a newborn's stomach here.) Supplementing with formula because your baby is jaundice isn't always necessary. Get a second opinion. If you don't want hospital staff to give your baby any formula, explicitly say so! Know your rights as a parent.

3) Find a local support group. Your hospital probably has one. If not, look for a local La Leche League or Breastfeeding USA chapter as they typically hold weekly meetings. The first few weeks (about 6) are tough. Cluster feedings, all-nighters, snacky babies that only eat a little at a time... Having support IN PERSON of other moms that are doing the same thing you are definitely helped me. It also helped normalize the act a bit. I had never seen a woman breastfeed before and being in a circle surrounded by a bunch of moms also breastfeeding their children made me feel more at ease with what I was doing.
Halloween Party at the Palos Hospital Nursing Mom's group

Online resources are also helpful! There are a few closed Facebook groups (it doesn't show up on your news feed) that offer support to moms that seek it. Breastfeed Chicago is a local Facebook group that I have enjoyed being a part of.

4) Find a breastfeeding-friendly pediatrician. Your local support groups most likely have some great resources available. Or, ask other moms that are also breastfeeding. Most doctors will say that they are breastfeeding friendly, although many are following older, outdated practices. Not all pediatricians understand that breastfed babies grow at a different rate than formula fed babies, and may state that you're not making enough even though your baby is doing just fine. (The updated WHO charts are what should be used.) I thought my pediatrician was breastfeeding friendly, but after several meetings and appointments, it turned out that I didn't like his advice. We switched and the new pediatrician is great. Changing pediatricians is pretty easy and there are lots of options out there. Spend time to find one that works best for you and your family!

5) Make friends with other moms that are breastfeeding. It definitely helps to talk with someone else who's also going through it. Breastfeeding is kind of like a club or alliance. Were all trying our best to make this work. We understand the nuances, the clogged ducts, the nipple pain, the leaking and all the other fun things that go along with being a nursing mom. I have to fight the urge to fist-bump other moms I see downtown with a recognizable Medela tote. Don't worry fellow mom, we got this.
Patsy and Layla play date from several months ago.
Meghan is a fellow nursing mom and we've definitely swapped stories over the past several months!

6) Donate formula samples. Registering for baby gifts gets you on the list for the formula companies. Before Patsy was born, I had received at least 6 tubs of free formula. I kept them around at first "just in case." There were definitely weak times when I was tempted, but I'm also stubborn. The stubbornness won and I didn't open a single tub. After that point, I donated them to a local woman's shelter. They need it more than I do. Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand. If your baby demands more, your body will make more. I felt it best to not have it at home, especially since I had a freezer full of milk once I started pumping. If we had any "just in case" moments, I'd rather give her my own milk.

7) Get the gear. This one is only partly true as not much has changed in the world of breastfeeding in the last thousand years... Breastfeeding doesn't really require a lot of "gear" but a pillow (Bobby or Breast friend) will help make things easier. Also, in the nervous early days/months, I didn't go anywhere without my nursing cover. I felt most comfortable while being covered so that is what worked well for us. Although now that she is quite unruly and a little sweat hog, it is harder and harder to use the cover.
Feeding Patsy, covered, while at the outlet mall

8) Breastfeeding isn't all or nothing. Sometimes mom isn't able to make enough. Sometimes mom can't pump enough. Sometimes babies just need more! When that is the case and mom cannot exclusively breastfeed, that doesn't mean that you can't have breastfeeding success! Any milk you can provide for your baby is better than no milk at all. I love this post from a mom about "inclusively breastfeeding." It is encouraging for all moms that are doing the best with their situation!
I can't always feed Patsy from the breast, so she does take several bottles a day while I'm at work.
I pump enough so she still gets mama's milk even when I'm gone.
Check the latch on that bottle!

9) Don't give up on your worst day. There are going to be tough days ahead. I would equate it to running, since that is something I'm familiar with. Sometimes if there is a tough long race, you just have to tell yourself "just one more mile." Just one more day. Being a mom is hard, whether you're breastfeeding or not. Determination is sometimes necessary when it comes to breastfeeding. Let your mommy instincts guide the way.

2pm, haven't showered in a few days, still in pajamas, covered in baby puke, and the tears keep coming.
Somehow still with a smile on my face. Wouldn't change it for the world!

Spitup on all of my pajamas--on the reg.

Please don't get discouraged by reading this post! Breastfeeding is really wonderful and for some moms, it works out wonderfully and there aren't any issues. But the world is full of Booby Traps and I think we owe it to ourselves to do our best to guard ourselves against them! I hope you find these tips helpful.

Any other breastfeeding mamas out there want to add to this list? What helped you to breastfeed successfully?


  1. Great post! Love your honesty and willingness to talk about your experience with BF. Definitely filing this post away for the future :)

  2. Thanks Xaar! I put a lot of time and effort into this post so I hope you find it useful when the time comes in the future. :)

  3. Wonderful post! I will be sharing for sure.

  4. Great post! It really is fascinating what our bodies are capable of. And even with all of our advances, feeing babies hasn't changed much.

  5. Thanks Maggie. Agreed, it really is quite amazing. And I really enjoy hearing old stories about women that breastfed. I find it absolutely fascinating!

  6. Really great stuff. I BF my girl for 18 months (self-weaned) and fortunately had a really good experience, from start to finish. You've got some great tips in here :)

  7. Thanks Erin! I appreciate it! How wonderful that you had such a great experience!

  8. Hey, random question: has running effected your bf at all?

  9. I eased back into running and I don't think it has really affected my bf. I make sure to drink plenty of water if it is a day where I'm running (more than usual) and I also make sure to bring water with me and lots of snacks too. I plan to put together a post about my running and breastfeeding experience so stay tuned!