During one’s pregnancy, there are many things to think about and plan for.
At the start, with nine months to prepare, the list of “things to do” is usually set aside with the idea that “it’s too early.” But you may find yourself rushing everything in the last two minutes.
There are many considerations that can be left on their own and worked out when the time comes. Yet there is one vital concern that I would suggest for you to prepare in advance, to help make things easier, especially for new mothers: breastfeeding.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I thought of everything except nursing. First of all, it wasn’t something I was looking forward to. Plus, since it’s such a “natural” part of motherhood, I figured it would come just as easily and naturally as in the movies. But wow, was I ever wrong.
Despite the support I had from my sister-in-law and friends, the first few weeks were a challenge, and it took a while before I found my comfort zone. In hindsight, I realize that if you choose to make breastfeeding a part of your motherhood, it is something that you have to prepare for emotionally, psychologically and physically.
1. Read books. As I mentioned, nursing, or even the idea of doing so, doesn’t always come naturally to every mother-to-be. Recently, I had the chance to read La Leche League’s “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.” How I wish I had read this book while I was pregnant the first time around.
I think it is one of the best guides you can ask for. It has everything—from scientific information to personal insights and stories for all kinds of mothers. It is very practical, and offers strategies that both stay-at-home and working moms can use.
I also like the fact that it caters to both mothers who would like to nurse only for a short duration, as well as those who would like to go for longer periods. The book doesn’t sound preachy and feels almost as if it is adapting to your preferences and lifestyle.
2. Talk to friends. Chances are, you will have enough friends who have experiences that cover both ends of the spectrum when it comes to breastfeeding. Listen to their stories in order to get a clear picture of what to expect. Listen to the positive stories for encouragement and strength. At the same time, lend an ear to the negative ones for a reality check, and ask friends to teach you how they got past their challenges so you can learn the easy way.
3. Find a lactation consultant or class. While some women prefer to learn from books and personal friends, others prefer to take classes that cover everything they need to know on the ABC’s of breastfeeding. Many hospitals or birthing classes offer breastfeeding classes.
Other women may prefer to hire a lactation consultant (LC) who can guide them when the time comes. A lactation consultant can assist you in the comfort and privacy of your home and help you correctly apply whatever you may have learned from your books and classes prior to giving birth. She can also massage any problem areas you may have in your chest.
If you decide to get one to visit you from time to time, after the baby comes, get your recommendations now. Don’t wait until you are desperate and have to hire the first available name you can get. You can ask your OB or friends to recommend a trusted LC.
Nowadays, many midwives are also trained lactation consultants. While you have time, meet or talk to them on the phone so you can get a feel of whether you will be comfortable with her or not.
Check the LC’s rates already so you can find someone who will fit your budget, and you will not be forced to pay a random LC more than you would like to when the time comes.
4. Find a BFF. No, don’t replace your best friend forever from high school. But if you can find a “breastfeeding friend” who is going through the same situation or has already done so in the past, all the better. It helps to know you are not alone, even if it feels that way at 3 a.m., when everyone is asleep except you and your hungry baby who won’t stop crying.
Sometimes all you need are a few words of encouragement or a simple text message from someone who knows what you are going through.
5. Check for local support groups. When my cousin Buding Aquino-Dee was still based in Canada, she was so grateful to the local breastfeeding support groups in her community. Because of this, when she moved back home to Manila, she immediately started Latch (Lactation, Attachment, Training, Counseling, Help), a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping mothers through education and counseling services.
Amanda Griffin-Jacob also had the same idea when she started Glam-o-mamas.com, which has since evolved into a one-stop online support system for many mothers.
6. Change your wardrobe. Your new chest size may be worthy of a Victoria’s Secret angel, but you’re going to need something more practical and efficient when your milk comes. Since it may take some time before you can get out of the house, buy some nursing bras and tops that you can conveniently and comfortably use.
It’s difficult to guess exactly what size you will be after your milk comes, but you can start by assuming that you will be at least one cup size bigger than you are at nine months. Have a few things you can fit into for the first few weeks, and once you are settled, you can go out and buy the right clothes and choose the perfect size.
7. Ready your tools. In theory, all you really need is your chest and your baby, and you’re good to go. However, in real life, it helps to have a few tools to help make the process easier. Stock up on lanolin creams (Lansinoh is heaven-sent) which you will need to ease the process of building tolerance.
Make sure you also have nursing pads, especially when you are still getting the hang of things. You don’t want to have any accidents while you are out, giving new meaning to the concept of a wet T-shirt look. There are disposable pads as well as washable ones, and any brand you choose will work, so don’t bother spending too much for this.
Nursing at home
8. Create a cozy corner. While you can’t always choose where your baby will get hungry or where you will be when you have to pump, you do have a say when it comes to where you will be nursing when you are at home. A crying, hungry baby can be nerve-wracking enough. Don’t add to your stress by having to find the right position or place when you are at home.
Before the baby comes, decide on a convenient space where you can place a comfortable rocking chair with pillows. You can put a nursing pillow, but depending on your and baby’s size, sometimes a throw pillow or ordinary sleeping pillow may work better. It helps to choose a relatively peaceful and quiet spot and to have an electric fan or air-conditioner nearby.
Have a table within reach with all your essentials—pads, creams, a book to read, a pitcher of water, and whatever else you need to help make the experience as positive and easy as possible.
If you can manage to get your thoughts together long enough, despite lack of sleep, a log book may also help you keep track of your baby’s feeding schedule, and help you come up with a semi-predictable nursing schedule.
9. Go for the galactogogues. “Galacto-what?” was my first thought when I heard this one. Galactogogues are food, drinks or supplements that help you increase your milk supply.
In the Philippines, our most popular choice is malunggay. It can be added to many dishes or taken as a capsule.
I also ate a lot of Manila clams or halaan soup upon the suggestion of my Filipino aunts, and boiled peanuts with pork shoulder soup upon the suggestion of a Chinese friend. I was fortunate to have an efficient supply.
Whether it was due to the galactogogues or not, I don’t know, but it certainly didn’t hurt to eat them, especially since they were so yummy! In fact, until now, one of my kids’ favorite dishes is boiled peanut soup!
There are also a number of natural herbal teas that promote healthy lactation, available at Healthy Options.
10. Find a pump. Most people think that a pump is only for those who spend a lot of time away from home. But it is also very useful even for women who wish to feed directly, because it can help you build up your milk supply, especially in the beginning.
Admittedly, a reliable and efficient pump can be expensive. If you plan to have a number of children in the future, a double electric pump is a good investment. The one I bought six years ago for my first baby is still the same one I am going to use for my third one this year.
However, if you have a sister or a good friend who is willing to lend you the machine, then you can just buy the personal parts you will need, to save money. Just be sure to take good care of her pump!
All of those steps will help you prepare when the baby comes. But this is just half the battle. The other half lies in your determination to commit to a decision that may not always be easy, but is definitely worth your time and effort.
But always remember, not everyone has the same results. What works for one mother may not work for you. It’s good to remind yourself that whatever happens, you are doing, or you did, the best you can for you and your baby, and that’s all that matters.