I have the privilege of being an admin on a local breastfeeding Facebook Group called SweetDrop Cafe. This is the online portion of an informal breastfeeding support group that meets once a month in Chesapeake. I see all kinds of breastfeeding questions there, as well as questions from the moms I work with as a doula. Based on some of the questions and concerns I’ve seen on the Facebook group, I wanted to share the top five things you can do during pregnancy to get your breastfeeding journey off to a great start.
1.) Attend La Leche League meetings while you’re pregnant. In Hampton Roads, we have a very active chapter of the La Leche League. They host lots of meetings all over the southside and up the peninsula! Check out La Leche League of Hampton Road’s Facebook page for numbers of the leaders you can call and the upcoming meetings. Attending the meetings will give you an opportunity to ask questions and to see other breastfeeding mothers. There is a lot of value in finding other moms who are breastfeeding and who you know will help you and support you. The leaders are also trained by the La Leche League to provide some help as well as being able to point you to other resources.
2.) Read a book (or two) about breastfeeding. I highly recommend The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding or Bestfeeding: How to Breastfeed your Baby. Both of these books have the basic information you should know about breastfeeding and what is normal for a breastfeeding baby.
3.) Have a prenatal consult with a qualified International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Stacy Kucharczk is a very qualified IBCLC in Hampton Roads who does prenatal consults (She also started SweetDrop Cafe). She is wonderful at spotting problematic tongue ties. She has helped me a ton with the issues I was having with breastfeeding my newest baby. I especially recommend a prenatal consult with a qualified IBCLC if you had difficulty breastfeeding before.
4.) When on the internet, don’t just trust the advice given on mom-to-mom formats such as babycenter or facebook groups. Sometimes there is a lot of well intentioned misinformation or just straight up horror stories that can scare you. I recommend using reputable websites for information. My favorite is KellyMom. Dr. Jack Newman’s website has a lot of videos to watch as well as general information about breastfeeding, too. As always, if there is something that you’ve read about online that you have questions about, please ask a breastfeeding helper about it!
5.) Know the warning signs. It’s very very common for women to complain of excruciating pain, cracked, bleeding, scabbed, blistered or otherwise injured nipples. Some initial discomfort is expected while your nipples adjust to feeding a baby. These common nipple injuries, however, are not normal. Anyone who tells you to just suck it up and that breastfeeding just hurts in the beginning is doing a serious disservice to breastfeeding moms. These types of problems are almost always HUGE RED FLAGS that there is something going on with your baby’s latch. If you have a lactation consultant in the hospital take a look and say everything “looks fine” but you are still having these issues, please reach out to a private practice IBCLC for help. The IBCLC will be able to do a comprehensive consult to determine if your baby has a tongue tie or if you just need a little more help learning how to help your baby latch more deeply.
Bonus tip: leave your breasts alone. You absolutely do NOT have to rough up your nipples with a towel or start rolling them between your thumb and forefinger to prepare the nipples for breastfeeding. Trust me on this one.
Note: all images are shared with permission.