Congratulations on making the decision to breastfeed! Whether this is your first child or your fourth, it’s always a good idea to have a Breastfeeding Success Plan in place and think about your goals for breastfeeding before your new baby arrives.
There are a lot of old wives’ tales and myths surrounding breastfeeding, perhaps you’ve heard of some of them already! It’s important to know the facts about breastfeeding and rely on evidence-based information to help you on your journey. Not only are some of the myths about breastfeeding wrong, some can be downright detrimental to your success.
For a long time mothers were told they needed to “prepare” their nipples for breastfeeding. Some people might tell you to “toughen up” your nipples before birth by rubbing a towel on them once a day. This is NOT necessary! It can also be very painful to sore nipples. The truth is, there is nothing YOU need to do to prepare your nipples or breasts for breastfeeding. During pregnancy, most women will experience breast changes (e.g. enlargement of the breast, areola, and nipple, darkening of the areola and nipple, more pronounced “bumps” on the areola also known as Montgomery’s tubercles, and perhaps even secretion of milk from your nipples.) These changes happen naturally, as a result of pregnancy hormones and take place in preparation for nursing your baby. Our bodies are so amazing – they do all the work for us when preparing to breastfeed!
Some mothers will also hear that stimulating their breasts and nipples during pregnancy can help bring in their milk supply and prepare them for breastfeeding. This, too, is a MYTH! Breast stimulation during pregnancy is not necessary to establish your milk supply. It can also be dangerous. Stimulating your breasts during pregnancy, either by pumping or hand expressing can cause uterine contractions. And, if you are at risk for pre-term labor, this could led to premature delivery.
Now, it is a good idea to be prepared. You can prepare for your breastfeeding journey by:
- Talking with other women who are currently breastfeeding or who have successfully breastfed in the past – ask them about their experiences and if they would be willing to support you in your nursing journey.
- Talk to you doctor or midwife about breastfeeding – ask them for referrals to breastfeeding resources in your area (e.g. mother-to-mother support groups, La Leche League meetings, lactation helpers (CLCs and IBCLCs), and breastfeeding education classes).
- Brush up on the basics – choose a book or 2 on breastfeeding and bookmark a few helpful breastfeeding websites. Our favorites are:
- Stocking up on nursing essentials – while the only thing you NEED to breastfeed are your breasts and your baby, there are a few comfort items available which will make breastfeeding easier. We recommend you invest in:
- 2-3 properly-fitting nursing bras
- A breastfeeding pillow
- A quality breast pump (if you will be returning to work or school or would like to store milk for the occasional “night out”)
- Build your support system – there is nothing a breastfeeding mom needs more than support. Talk to your friends and family about the type of support you will need in order to reach your breastfeeding goals. You can discuss the benefits of breastfeeding (not only for your baby, but for your own healthy, and for your family), ways in which they can help support you (help with diaper changes, cook meals, help with cleaning and errands), and what they can do to encourage you if you struggle with breastfeeding.
By taking these simple steps, you will be on the right track to beginning your breastfeeding journey. The key takeaway here is that preparing to breastfeed does not need to be difficult. Our bodies were MADE to breastfeed! Mothers have been breastfeeding their babies since the beginning of time. And, with the support of your friends, family, healthcare providers, and the community, you too can reach all your breastfeeding goals!
Congratulations on your pregnancy and best of luck on your breastfeeding journey!