Preparing To Breastfeed

Studies have proven that breastfeeding provides an array of benefits, from improving a baby's resistance to colds to reducing the mother's risk of certain cancers.  As attitudes toward breastfeeding change, more resources are available to mothers who choose this option. However, breastfeeding is still a personal decision that carries its own consequences and challenges. There are things expectant parents can do to ensure these challenges are met. 

Create A Comfortable Place

Especially in the first exhausting weeks, breastfeeding can be time-consuming and monotonous.  To make the experience more convenient and relaxing, it is helpful to set up a designated "feeding station," where any necessary supplies will be close by.  The most important part of this station is a comfortable, supportive chair.  Many mothers find the motion of gliders soothes their infants; others prefer armchairs or rocking chairs. In addition to a supportive chair, having a supply of different pillows will help improve posture while breastfeeding.  Poor posture can lead to back pain and even trouble with the baby's latch, so pillows are a necessity.  Blankets, burp rags, and nursing pads will all see frequent use. Breastfeeding also requires a lot of calories, so providing high-energy snacks like nuts or granola bars, along with a plentiful supply of water, will give the mother's body the fuel it needs. Finally, having access to reading material or television remotes can make a baby's marathon feeding sessions more enjoyable.

Be Prepared

In addition to the everyday necessities of breastfeeding, there are a few specialty items to consider.  If the mother plans to continue breastfeeding after returning to work, an electric breast pump is a worthwhile investment.  Even if the mother is planning to spend the majority of her time with her newborn, a pump and breast milk storage equipment can simplify feeding by allowing milk to be collected in advance.  Even manual pumps, though not as easy to use, can help with issues such as resolving blocked ducts or increasing supply. If you have insurance check with your provider to see if they will cover your pump. Usually, your doctor will write a prescription for a pump and you can get it at a huge discounted rate or even free! It is also helpful to have a small supply of formula on hand, regardless of whether a family wants to breastfeed exclusively.  Unexpected situations may arise when the mother is not available, and having high-quality formula ready will keep a baby temporarily satisfied until breastfeeding can resume.

Do Your Research

Finally, before the baby arrives, research local resources for breastfeeding.  Many hospitals now offer lactation consulting and may even offer a hotline where trained consultants answer questions. Organizations like La Leche League have chapters in many cities and offer support, education, and social events.  Family members or friends who have breastfed can offer their experience and encouragement. Couples should also be sure to discuss their goals for breastfeeding and troubleshoot potential problems in advance.  A nursing woman's partner can be her most immediate and valuable source of help.

Deciding to breastfeed your child, whether for one month or 20, can provide physical and emotional benefits to both mother and child.  As with many aspects of child-raising, expectant parents will never successfully anticipate all the breastfeeding challenges they may face. However, making some preparations can help ensure a positive experience, while making any challenges easier to overcome.


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