Preparing to Breastfeed
Physically you don't need to do anything to prepare to breastfeed. Your body is taking care of itself. As your breasts prepare to make milk, you probably notice that they grow larger and become tender in the early stages of pregnancy. Your nipples and areolas might become darker and tiny bumps, called Montgomery glands may appear on your nipples. Soon you will able to express tiny amounts of colostrum, baby's first milk.
Meanwhile, in your womb, your baby is practicing movements that he will use for finding the breasts, latching on and nursing. Breastfeeding is instinctual for your baby.
Learning about Breastfeeding
For us, breastfeeding is part instinct and a lot of learning. We need to learn how to help our babies put their instincts to work. There are several good books and DVDs available. I personally recommend Breastfeeding Made Simple by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett and Follow Me Mum by Rebecca Glover. Make sure that you choose sources that are up to date and written by breastfeeding experts. Beware of publications put out by formula or breast pump manufactures, which are written with an agenda.
Many lactation consultants offer prenatal courses. This is your best bet if you have a special situation such as breastfeeding after breast reduction, breastfeeding twins or even a planned c-section as the class can be tailor made for your situation.
Know What To Expect With Breastfeeding
Many of us perceive that there is a breastfeeding problem when reality does not coincide with our expectations. If you know ahead of time that many babies suddenly wake up on their second day of life and want to eat non-stop for hours on end, you will not panic when it happens. Many women visit a breastfeeding support group, like La Leche League, before the birth to see and hear what it's all about.
Birth to Breastfeed
The way we birth affects our baby's readiness to breastfeed and our readiness to care for our baby. Many birth interventions affect the baby's ability to breastfeed. Pain killers during labor pass to the baby and dull his instincts, vacuum delivery bruises his face and can make any feeding painful. Being deeply suctioned may make the baby hesitant to have anything in his mouth. Plan for natural birth and take a labor coach (doula). Studies show that women who are mothered during labor are more ready to care for their newborns.
Choose Your Birthing Hospital
Many hospital policies actually work against breastfeeding. Routine separation of mothers and babies is probably the number one offender. If homebirth is not an option, find out your hospitals policies. Your best bet is to birth in a hospital that has been certified as Baby Friendly (see article). If you do not have one in your area, find a hospital that has similar policies, i.e. rooming in, no pacifiers or bottles and a certified lactation consultant on staff should you need help.