Antenatal Breastfeeding Preparation
The glorious 1940’s textbook for midwives that a friend gave me as a gift during my training suggests scrubbing the nipple and areola area with a nailbrush during the final trimester of pregnancy to toughen the area in preparation for breastfeeding.
Please don’t try this at home.
Instead of madly scrubbing your nipples with a brush the best preparation you can do in pregnancy is to inform yourself. Learn about normal newborn behaviours, how your body and baby work together to establish lactation and how you and your supporters can get things off to the best start. There is good evidence to suggest that families who attend antenatal preparation classes with a focus on breastfeeding have better feeding experiences and breastfeed for longer than those who don’t.
Your Midwives top tips for preparing to breastfeed:
- Choose your information sources. There are some excellent resources out there but there is also some terrible, misleading and just plain wrong information. If you choose a source that cites the NHS, UNICEF, The World Health Organisation or La Leche League then you know that the information given is based on the best possible evidence and experience.
- Know that even if you have read some excellent evidence-based information on how breastfeeding works your baby has not read those books! Breastfeeding is both natural and a learned skill for both parent and baby.
- Learn how to hand express antenatally.
- Attend a breastfeeding specific antenatal class. Those led by lactation consultants, midwives and peer supporters will be a supportive environment to master the basics before your little one makes an appearance. It makes a big difference if partners or supporters attend too.
- Write a feeding plan! Your Midwives love plans. Preferences, menus, wishes, call it what you will. It is really an exploration of your wishes and the best ones are short, clear and bullet pointed (we also love a bullet point).
- Plan for protecting the precious time after birth so that time and space is given for that important first feed and plenty of unhurried skin-to-skin. Regardless of how your baby arrives this is still very possible.
- Sort out your support networks, both professional and personal. You will need help, even if its just a hot meal or someone to hold the baby whilst you shower. Accepting this and being proactive in planning means that you can concentrate on feeding, snuggling and falling in love with that scrummy new baby. Make space and time to sort the feeding in the early days and let those hordes of visitors and chores wait until after the precious fourth trimester.
- Know when and how to access help and how to troubleshoot common issues.
Your Midwives hold antenatal breastfeeding workshops where you can find out how to get your feeding journey off to the best start. They also offer individual, tailored breastfeeding preparation sessions for women interested in breastfeeding after birth. Check out their website for more information.