Most of the new mothers I see at work felt that they hadn't really taken the chance to prepare for breastfeeding. They were mainly focussed on the birth. It's really common too - if you think aout it most women know that there may be some complications with birth and that if they have problems they might use gas or an epidural etc, but how much do you know about your options when breastfeeding doesn't work out for you?
I think it's really useful to know what some of the common breastfeeding problems are before they come about so that you can deal with them really quickly and your support people like family friends can help you through any potential tough times.
Ultimately it's the first month or so that's the hardest, and mainly the first week, if you know what to expect it makes the transition so much easier!
As you prepare for breastfeeding you will be aware that your breasts will grow in size tremendously in the immediate days following the birth. When updating your bras you may be thinking that because of this it is a waste of time buying a maternity bra before the birth. This is not the case. It is widely recommended that pregnant women do not use underwire from six months (at the latest) onwards. For this reason alone it is worth investing in a well fitted maternity bra during your pregnancy.
The other major advantage to having a few different bra sizes is that as your milk production settles in your breasts will often decrease in size. It is very useful to have some smaller sizes ready in your wardrobe to accommodate this fluctuation. Choosing a maternity bra before you've experienced breastfeeding though can be hard as there are so many different designs available today.
Many women would like to continue to feel somewhat attractive in their bras after the birth and are likely to gravitate towards the lacier styles. The important points to keep in mind when you prepare for breastfeeding in these bras are that they can be less supportive for a breast full of milk, and the lace can often cut into the breast in the time leading up to a feed.
If pure comfort and usability are what you are going for, try to find a style which exposes as much of the breast as possible when the strap is unhooked. This makes it easier for the baby, but is also very god for the circulation in the breast itself, with the least chance of the bra cutting in.
To adequately prepare for breastfeeding at home you need to consider the spaces you are likely to be feeding in. The room that your newborn sleeps in, be it your bedroom or their nursery, should contain a comfortable chair for you to feed in. Even if you are planning on feeding your baby in your own bed at night, you will still want a supportive chair to feed in during the day, and you may not always want to sit on the couch in a shared living space.
All the excited visitors can leave new mothers feeling overwhelmed and make breastfeeding difficult to establish in the early days. It is a good idea to have a separate space which you can escape to which will allow you and your baby to get on with a feed undisturbed.
When choosing the chair make sure your feet can easily touch the ground. If they can't you will need to invest in a stool or pouffe so that your feet are supported. Also, if the seat base is too long you will need to get some large cushions to support your lower and mid back areas. To really prepare for breastfeeding it is important that these areas are supported well, so that all the extra strain will be taken off your upper back, neck and shoulders so that the muscles in these areas are only needing to deal with the weight of the baby.
Another important point about a breastfeeding chair is that the arm rests, if there are any, are at a good height for you to use rather than you having to lean down to them or them pushing your upper arm and shoulder up, both of which will cause pain in the back, neck and shoulders.
If you plan to feed whilst sitting on a couch, to adequately prepare for breastfeeding in it, again it is imperative to make sure your feet can either reach the floor or are supported by a stool. Couches also very commonly have very deep seats, which is okay if you are very long legged, but the average height or shorter statured person will definitely need to invest in some large cushions to help support the lower and middle back, and keep the strain off the upper back, neck and shoulders.
Breastfeeding pillows which hold the baby's weight can also be excellent for decreasing the strain in the upper back, neck and shoulders. Most lactation consultants do not recommend the use of these as they can interfere with the baby's position and latch during a feed, but in terms of looking after the mother's muscle tension there is nothing better. Be sure, if you decide to use one, that it will allow the baby have their mouth in line with the nipple, and not too low or too high. This will help to avoid poor latch and therefore nipple damage.
As the uterus enlarges it becomes necessary to invest in new clothes and as it seems such a waste to only wear the new items for a few months why not prepare for breastfeeding early on and choose clothes that are suitable for breastfeeding in.
We are fortunate these days to have a much wider selection of clothes to choose from than our mothers did. If you ask any woman who was pregnant around 30 years ago they will all talk about the "tents" they used to wear. Baby bumps have become more acceptable to be shown off so there are some beautiful, more fitting items available these days. The materials industry has also advanced and the material available for designers is now stretchier than it used to be allowing for your expanding bump, but also springing back into shape after the birth.
Keep in mind when you prepare for breastfeeding, when choosing your clothes you need to keep in mind how much privacy and coverage you are likely to want when breastfeeding. There are many designs available which have several layers so that only the immediate area around the nipple is exposed, and when correctly positioned, the baby covers all exposed skin. If you are likely to want the least exposure possible it is best to go for some of these designs straight away.