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Preparing for Breastfeeding

• Be well informed. Some advance preparation can set mother and baby up for a rewarding breastfeeding experience. If both parents attend a breastfeeding class, they understand breastfeeding; they’re well informed, and the whole family benefits. Learning to breastfeed a baby can be a challenge. Gradually progressing to breastfeeding with effective and efficient milk transfer is a complex process dependent on many variables. Gradually increasing infant maturation, strength and development are major factors. Patience with the process and vigilance about adequate intake and weight gain are both important.

One of the best predictors of a wonderful breastfeeding experience and a lifetime of good health for your baby is a supportive, empathic, knowledgeable father who understands why “good health begins with breastfeeding.” The more parents know, the more parents and babies can enjoy the many health benefits and the convenience of breastfeeding. If possible, read one or two of the breastfeeding books from our list of “Helpful Books.”

• Artificial nipples (bottles and pacifiers) introduced before breastfeeding is well established sometimes cause nipple confusion, nipple preference or flow preference. Drinking from a bottle requires mouth and tongue movements and sucking actions that are more passive and very different from those your baby uses when nursing at the breast. A healthy full term breastfeeding baby rarely needs formula and does not need water, glucose water or Pedialyte.® Breastmilk is so good for a well or sick baby that filling him up with anything else deprives him of the nutrition he needs. Plan ahead with your baby’s pediatrician, and then you both can be on the same page if someone else suggests giving your healthy full term baby any artificial nipple or liquid not specifically ordered by him or her. You may wish to write out instructions and make copies so that they appear in your baby’s chart and that your nurse makes sure they are made clear to all staff. • The San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition has an authoritative, comprehensive web site that is a treasure trove of the best clinically sound and up to date breastfeeding information. It is provided as a public service by San Diego county’s own Breastfeeding Coalition. Every breastfeeding family needs a copy of their Breastfeeding Resource Guide, available on the web site and in hospitals, in English and Spanish. Please see our Prenatal-Postpartum Resource Guide for more information.

• The La Leche League is an international organization that provides mother-to-mother support and information at monthly meetings, by telephone and with its outstanding web site. It’s a good to call the local telephone number before your baby arrives, and attend several monthly meetings in your area. It can be a fun way to meet other breastfeeding moms and learn a lot at the same time. La Leche League leaders are extremely experienced and generous in sharing their knowledge. Most groups have a lending library of good breastfeeding information.

• Breastfeeding pillows and accessories. A wraparound type breastfeeding pillow helps you position yourself and your baby for comfortable nursing while you’re sitting up. Taking yours to the hospital will increase support and comfort for mother and baby. Additional pillows are extremely helpful. You may want to place a pillow on your lap, just beneath the breastfeeding pillow, and other pillows behind your back or at your sides to for additional support and comfort. Convenient accessories including washable covers further increase the pillows’ usefulness. These pillows are also great for positioning your growing baby in a variety of comfortable positions, and for providing support as she learns to sit up.

• A flat, shelf-type breastfeeding pillow is quite popular, and, because it is deeper, it can be used for bigger babies than the smaller, rounded breastfeeding pillow. An inflatable travel version is coming soon. It should be great for tucking into the bag you take to the hospital and later in a diaper bag for travel.

• The smaller, rounded breastfeeding pillow can also be used when you play with your baby. Set the pillow in the middle of a large space on a blanket-covered carpet, and sit down with your baby, watching her continuously. Never leave any baby or young child unattended. Baby can recline on the pillow as if she’s on a lounge chair, with her head and neck resting on the rounded part, her bottom in the middle of the “ring” and her legs propped up on the pillow or extending out in the space between the ends of the “ring.” For “tummy time,” the closed side of the pillow can be placed under baby’s chest, to support her while she reaches for toys placed in front of and next to the pillow. A crawling baby may like to climb right over the pillow, which can be used as part of a cuddly obstacle course. Sitting in the middle of the pillow can also provide a little extra support to a baby who is learning to sit.

• Getting comfortable. Set up some cozy, comfortable places at home where you and your baby can relax and enjoy breastfeeding, one of life’s sweetest, most heartwarming experiences. At different times you may prefer a sofa, a chair or lying down in bed. A table next to the breastfeeding area is a convenient parking place for things you want to keep within reach at feeding time.

• Using a breast pump can allow a mother to step out from time to time or go back to work and continue to breastfeed. When a mom is away from her baby, whoever cares for the baby can feed the mother’s expressed milk to the baby.

• If your baby is not nursing well when you leave the hospital, and is in danger of being underfed, you may need a good hospital grade electric pump. Your baby needs to be seen regularly by her pediatrician or nurse practitioner, who will carefully monitor growth, development and weight while helping to resolve the feeding problem. Additional help from a highly qualified lactation consultant can help turn things around as quickly as possible.

• Postpone pumping and introducing a bottle. Without an urgent reason, for example, a feeding problem, a very premature birth and a baby who isn’t yet strong enough to nurse at the breast, or a baby who has difficulty nursing because of a cleft palate, or a mother who has to return to full time work right away, introducing a bottle should be postponed until breastfeeding is well established. Breastfeeding may be well established by the time baby is three or four weeks of age. For most babies, breastfeeding progress is gradual and uneven, with two steps forward, one step back, one step forward, etc.

• Selecting a pump. Pumps are not one size fits all products to borrow from a friend or have a girlfriend run out and pick up. You and your baby deserve a carefully selected pump that fits your body, your specific needs, your lifestyle and your budget. It’s ideal to visit an experienced lactation consultant or have a lactation consultant visit you and get what really fits your needs. You can find a lactation consultant with strong credentials and ample experience by consulting the San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition’s excellent Breastfeeding Resource Guide, available free at hospitals and at the Coalition’s web site. Many mothers like to rent a pump, and try before they buy, or just rent a pump, period.

• Borrowing a friend’s pump is not recommended because of possible spread of infection from one person to another, and because many of the smaller pumps get weaker and weaker with continued use. You need a pump that works really well. Mothers who are committed to breastfeeding for a year or longer, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, tend to prefer to rent or buy a powerful hospital grade pump.

• Expert continuing education in breastfeeding. Most hospitals have free weekly breastfeeding support groups led by lactation consultants. Find out the schedule for the hospital where your baby will be born, mark your calendar, and plan to attend with your baby. Some lactation consultants in the community also have free support groups. If a friend or relative wants to come along, that can be very helpful. One person can ride in the back seat next to the car seat and keep an eye on baby while the other person drives.

The materials on this web site are for general information and educational purposes only. Information on this web site is not intended as a substitute for consultation with your pediatrician and nurse practitioner, which is always the best source for sound information specific to your infant, child and family. Always consult a physician or nurse practitioner promptly about specific medical conditions affecting your health or the health of family members.

Not To Worry has no financial interest in any third party books, products, service or web site mentioned within the content of this site; and makes no guarantees or promises regarding any such book, product, service or web site. The information contained in this web site is not guaranteed to be complete, comprehensive or current.

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