My first experience breastfeeding a brand-new baby was not what I had envisioned before our first-born son exited the womb.
It was difficult; he wouldn't latch correctly because he was groggy from medical interventions, and he couldn't figure out how to suckle because of his incorrect latch. It was a rough four days before we saw International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Jeanne Cygnus. And by the time we got there, my baby was actually getting milk, but my poor body was bruised and battered.
Admittedly, I was one of those women who just assumed she would not face many dilemmas with nursing because it seemed so natural. I prepared slightly. I read a little; I attended one La Leche League meeting; I spoke with other breastfeeding moms. I honestly thought I had done my homework. This time around, I didn't want to be caught off guard; I wanted to be prepared to establish a healthy breastfeeding relationship with our new baby from the moment he arrived, so I sought Jeanne's guidance and asked her what moms can do to prepare for breastfeeding success. As always, she was a wealth of information, and I've been able to establish a wonderful breastfeeding relationship with the new babe; at four days post delivery he already regained his birth weight! Look how much he's already grown!
What can moms do to ready themselves physically and mentally?
"I always tell moms that physically their bodies are already doing everything they need to prepare for breastfeeding," Jeanne said. "Their areolas may become darker. The little bumps around the nipple (Montgomery Glands) may become more prominent; these actually secrete a very tiny amount of lubricating substance that helps keep the areola soft and pliable, and it also acts as a mild disinfectant, inhibiting the growth of bacteria. They may experience changes in their nipple. The body starts to produce colostrum during pregnancy, and some women will notice they start to leak later in pregnancy. Many women do not have leaking, but their bodies are still producing plenty of colostrum.
Mentally the best preparation is having some idea of what to expect. Reading a good breastfeeding book (Breastfeeding Made Simple is great… or any of the books by Dr. Sears), and taking a good breastfeeding class can help a lot. I also recommend attending a breastfeeding support group, such as La Leche League, while they are still pregnant. It’s a great way to get a glimpse as to what’s coming up and to hear different moms tell their stories.
What should moms have on hand before delivering to help ensure success?
"The great thing about breastfeeding is that contrary to what some product marketing people will tell you it does not require a lot of ‘stuff," Jeanne said. "Really! It’s nice for mom to have a comfy chair, since she may be spending a lot of time in it. A couple of nursing bras will help make feedings a little bit easier. And nice music helps!"
What are some items moms may need, and how can she distinguish between the helpful and not so helpful ones that are marketed?
"A nursing pillow is sometimes helpful but often not. Even when helpful, they’re kind of like training wheels – you’re not going to it forever," Jeanne said. "If you do want to get one, look for a pillow designed for breastfeeding such as the My Breast Friend rather than a Boppy. Boppies were designed to prop babies up to play – and they’re great for that – but were never designed for breastfeeding, and are too rounded to help much. Babies tend to roll into or away from mom. True breastfeeding pillows will be flat on top."
(HFW's own personal note -- we love the Anna Pillow for the newborn stage. For us, it has been helpful both times and has provided the exact support and position help needed.)
"If you KNOW you’re going to need to pump (going back to work, etc.) AND you know which one you want, then by all means get it before the baby is born so that you have it available. HOWEVER, if you’re not sure – wait!! You may never need a pump… or you might only need a hand-pump for occasional use, etc. There’s no sense spending a lot of money on something you might never need, and you might want to wait to see which one will best suit your needs if you do end up wishing to get one," Jeanne said.
Lanolin creams/ ointments:
"You do NOT need to use these products before birth – they will do no good then," Jeanne said. "After baby is born, I still don’t recommend them! They function by forming a protective barrier over the nipple skin to promote healing of damaged nipples… the problem is, they also create a slippery surface on the nipple, causing baby to slip while latching and can actually cause the baby to have a shallow latch! This causes pain… and hence, sells more lanolin products! If you experience nipple damage / soreness it is much better to use a hydro-gel pad to provide the protection and soothing your nipple needs – and these leave no residue on your nipple so it won’t affect your baby’s latch. And be sure to get help early to find out WHY your nipples are getting damaged in the first place!. "
What are the first steps in a breastfeeding relationship mothers should take with their newborns?
"I would say the most important step moms can take is to spend as much time skin-to-skin (mom without shirt / baby just in diaper) as possible in the early hours and days after birth. This skin-to-skin time actually releases hormones in both mom and baby and can help with milk production and can help baby latch more easily and more effectively! Babies stay warmer and have more stable breathing / heart-rates while skin to skin with mom as well! A light blanket can be draped over the two of you while you’re doing this if the room is chilly. This is the best way for mom and baby to bond and connect after the stressful transition of birth! Breastfeeding is a natural result of this intimate time together!"
I couldn't have said it better myself; breastfeeding success certainly makes for a happy mom and a happy baby!