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Breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn't mean it's always easy. As with other aspects of your baby's future care, it's best if you can do some planning in advance.
Many mothers and their partners focus on the labour and birth, to the point where they may not be prepared for the learning needed once the baby arrives. It usually takes about four to six to weeks to feel comfortable with breastfeeding. Having a plan can make it easier.
Develop your personal breastfeeding plan during pregnancy:
- Read information on the basics of breastfeeding.
- Practice the various breastfeeding positions with a doll to get comfortable with positioning your baby. Watch the videos on the first hours after birth, latching, positioning and skin-to-skin
- Learn about how your body changes during pregnancy to help your baby grow and how it gets ready for breastfeeding. Colostrum, your baby's first food, may leak from your breasts from about half way through your pregnancy or not until after birth - both are normal.
Get your support in place:
- Attend a breastfeeding support group held at your community health unit, LaLeche League or other group.
- Talk with other mothers who have breastfed successfully.
- Talk to someone about your specific questions and concerns - another mother, public health nurse, prenatal educator, pregnancy outreach program, midwife or doctor.
- Arrange for someone to stay with you in the hospital and for the first week at home.
- Check with the hospital for a list of what to bring.
- Share your goals for breastfeeding with your partner, family and friends and talk about how they can support you in meeting your goals.
- Make a list of all the people who can provide support and the types of assistance they can provide. This includes family and friends who have breastfed successfully and those who can provide practical help like supporting you emotionally, making meals or looking after other children. Enlist their help before the baby is born.
- If you are planning to give birth in a hospital, arrange for a tour. Ask about rooming in, skin-to-skin contact, support for breastfeeding and when babies go skin-to-skin after caesarean births.
Consider including the following in your breastfeeding plan:
- Holding the baby skin-to-skin until the first feeding is finished.
- Delaying weighing the baby until the first feeding is finished.
- Receiving help to position the baby skin-to-skin and breastfeed in the operating room if a cesarean if needed. If this is not possible, your support person may hold the baby skin-to-skin until you're ready able to do so.
- Requesting help to breastfeed exclusively, giving supplements only if they're needed for medical reasons.
- Learning to breastfeed and comfort the baby if a painful procedure is needed.
- Comforting the baby at the breast rather than using a soother.
- Getting help to learn hand expression as soon as possible after birth (the baby needs to go to the special care nursery, get help to learn hand expression within six hours after birth).
Planning ahead can make breastfeeding easier. Write a plan for your birth that includes your plans for breastfeeding. Share and discuss your plan with your health care providers, partner, family members and friends so they can help support you in meeting your breastfeeding goals.
Resources & Links:
VIDEO: Admission to Postpartum - Keeping Your Baby Skin-to-Skin
VIDEO: Baby's Feeding Cues and Behaviours
VIDEO: Breastfeeding Positions
VIDEO: Hand Expressing Milk
VIDEO: Latching Your Baby