For new mothers, breastfeeding can be a daunting journey, especially since it is something that’s completely new and they also have to cope with the demands of being a parent for the very first time. Senior lactation consultant at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, Yasa Yong Nyuk Yin, shares what mothers should know to better prepare themselves before they start breastfeeding.
#1. Your body naturally prepares itself for breastfeeding during pregnancy
While you are pregnant, estrogen and progesterone are released from the placenta and prolactin from adenohypophysis and these will cause your breasts to develop to prepare for the production of breast milk. In fact, women’s breasts are prepared to produce milk from as early as the 16th to 20th week of gestation. The breasts will increase in size due to an increase in lobules and alveoli, while the nipples grow darker to help the newborn find milk immediately after birth.
Postpartum, milk production is initiated due to prolactin production and the decrease in estrogen and progesterone after delivery of the placenta. Women who undergo urgent caesarean sections or had a prolonged duration of labour before vaginal deliveries are more likely to have a delayed onset of breast fullness during the first few days after delivery.
#2. Read up about breastfeeding before you start.
Though practice makes perfect when it comes to learning how to position your newborn to your breasts and mastering the skill of latching your baby correctly in order to avoid sore nipples, it is only through reading that you can better understand the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child. This knowledge can help motivate you to be committed to breastfeeding and when you have an understanding of how milk supply can be stimulated, you will also be more confident.
#3. Attend an antenatal class for a better understanding of breastfeeding
Antenatal classes are designed and aimed at providing expectant mothers with the knowledge and confidence to breastfeed successfully. The classes are usually run by accredited and recognised lactation consultants who have observed thousands of mothers with successful and unsuccessful breastfeeding outcomes.
The classes cover information on avoiding potential breastfeeding issues and pitfalls in the early weeks like sore nipples and engorgement that many mothers worry about. The instructors will also demonstrate how to massage your breasts, as well as steps to hand express and collect breast milk properly. Classes will give an overview of the different types of breast pumps in the market. Instructors share research-based evidence on the benefits of breastfeeding and let mother have the chance to clarify any myths that they have heard. All the above motivate mothers to take on total breastfeeding, preparing them mentally equipping them with the knowledge to persevere during this process.
Additionally, classes will give an overview of the different types of breast pumps in the market. During your class, instructors will likely share research-based evidence on the benefits of breastfeeding and let you have the chance to clarify any myths that might have heard. All the above are essential to motivating mothers to take on total breastfeeding and prepare them mentally to persevere through this process.
Based on my experience, couples who have the opportunity to prepare and ask questions during the sharing session, before the arrival of their newborn, are more likely to be successful than those who do not.
#4. Include your desire to breastfeed in your birth plan
Let your obstetrician know that you are committed to breastfeeding your newborn, so that he or she would be able to refer you to a paediatrician who is supportive of the process. You should also indicate your decision in your birth plan so that the nursing team will be able to assist you in achieving your goals from the start of your hospital stay.
Items to aid your breastfeeding journey
Though you may be keen on jumping into your breastfeeding journey, I suggest that you enjoy the first few days of your baby’s life before deciding on your breastfeeding journey. Accessories or equipment are not usually required if your baby is breast feeding on demand. However, the following items will be required when you are making preparations to go back to work and need to store breast milk.
- Breast pump: Make sure the breast shield size fits well onto your nipples. If you are planning to use a breast pump frequently, buy an electrical pump that can express simultaneously on both breasts as it will save you some time.
- Milk bags or milk bottle: This is used to collect and store your breastmilk.
- Steriliser: To ensure the bottles and bottle teats are properly sterile before use.
- Nipple cream: Helps to soothe sensitive nipples, especially essential during the early feeding days.
- Comfortable bras: Get them a few sizes bigger to make it convenient when you breastfeed. Remember to choose those with no supporting wires as they may cause blocked ducts.
- Reusable breast pads: Use it to stop milk from leaking on one breast while you nurse your newborn on the other side.
Also read: Tips on breastfeeding from real mums.