As the end of your pregnancy draws nearer, you might start wondering what you need to do to prepare for breastfeeding. The good news is, not much! Your body will naturally take care of things by producing the hormones it needs to get the job done. However, even though you definitely do not need to start doing crazy things, like desensitizing your nipples, there are a few things you can do to support your body as it prepares to feed another human being.
This is one of the most important things you can do to prepare your body for breastfeeding. Did you know breast milk is about 90% water? Yeah. So, dehydration will not only make you feel bad, it may decrease your milk supply. Most people aren’t aware they aren’t consuming enough liquids each day, and many are unknowingly chronically dehydrated. While drinks like coffee, tea, and soda do provide some hydration, water is by far the most efficient, calorie/carb-free liquid you can use to nourish your body. Not only will staying hydrated during pregnancy help bring in your milk, but it will also help ensure you have adequate amniotic fluid levels. Prior to your water breaking during labor, that amniotic fluid actually acts as a cushion during contractions, making them less painful. So, practice drinking plenty of water while you are pregnant. You will thank yourself later!
Eat nutritious foods.
By the third trimester most women have little or no morning sickness. Thankfully, this is the case for me with this pregnancy. Sure, I have cravings, but I don’t have an excuse for eating an unhealthy diet (a.k.a. whatever I can keep down). Nourishing your body with healthy fats, lean meats, and a variety of colorful veggies actually helps keep your hormones balanced and ensures you have adequate levels for lactation. There are also many foods that are said to help boost supply. I can’t say it is 100% true, but I tried many of them with my last pregnancy and my milk came right in. It certainly makes sense that eating healthy, nourishing foods would at least help support lactation. Some of the things I tried include: oats, ground flax seed, brewer’s yeast, almonds, dates, ginger, and a variety of lactation teas. In fact, when I realized I was definitely in labor, I waddled around my house for a few hours drinking tea, eating oatmeal, and baking lactation cookies to take with me to the hospital. The main ingredients were oats, ground flax, brewer’s yeast, and…chocolate chips. Of course, chocolate chips were the most essential ingredient. As I voraciously stuffed my face with them after labor, my nurse commented on how sweet it was that someone brought me freshly baked cookies. I did not correct her.
Build your confidence.
Lacking confidence can make it difficult to relax while breastfeeding, which can mess with letdown. Decrease your stress by gaining knowledge beforehand. Watch some how-to videos and bookmark your favorites now. I’m a visual person, so this was a must for me. Look for videos addressing latching, positioning, and breast massage. These are things that will come in handy in the early days. Of course, having the internet at your fingertips doesn’t guarantee that you won’t feel uncertain or have trouble finding a solution to a problem. Whether you are having your first or third baby, you are almost guaranteed to feel unsure at some point. So, have backup. Find a few support people you can call when you need help. Ask experienced friends, your obstetrician, the hospital, or your local La Leche League. You’ll have some phone numbers on hand, and they’ll all be eager to help you!
Make sure you have supplies.
In my opinion, it is better to have a few things you may not need, than to realize in the middle of a stressful nursing session that you are missing something. I mean, I wouldn’t buy thousands of breast pads I’ve never tried before, but having a few of something that never gets opened or ends up in the trash won’t hurt anything. Things you might need include: breast pads, a breastfeeding pillow, pumping supplies, comfortable clothes, loose-fitting bras and tank tops, a peaceful spot to feed your baby, and a variety of lactation snacks at your disposal. It all comes down to decreasing your anxiety and promoting a feeling a confidence. If you are worried you are missing something, relaxing will be hard to do. So, don’t be afraid that you are going overboard. Get the things you think you might need!
Remember, the best way you can prepare for breastfeeding is to treat yourself right. Take care of your body and it will take care of the rest!
P.S. 16 Minute Club’s breastfeeding support boxes provide many of the things I mentioned above, from helpful advice to great products. I highly recommend subscribing!