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  • Writer's pictureSusan Martin

Breastfeeding Success Begins Before Birth

Updated: May 3, 2021

Some pregnant mothers worry about how breastfeeding will go. They hear a lot of discouraging stories about how hard it is. This can make new mamas anxious about what’s in store for them (as if worrying about the birth wasn’t enough!) Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be hard. There is a lot that can be done in pregnancy to lay the groundwork for breastfeeding ease and success. In fact, pregnancy is the perfect time to prepare for your breastfeeding relationship with your baby. Here are some ideas to help you with your breastfeeding journey:

Prepare for a natural birth: The birth experience absolutely impacts breastfeeding, lactation consultants know this. A large part of their job is fielding the fallout from births with a lot of interventions and drug use. This does not mean that all natural births will have no problems breastfeeding, or that all medicated births do have problems. Nothing in life is that simple. So. there is no need to worry if you do end up needing interventions. It’s just super helpful to take away potential obstacles and to keep the natural sequence of events in place as much as possible.because your baby knows how to breastfeed; it really helps when there is nothing impeding your baby's ability to self-latch and get onto the breast his/herself.

Connect with your baby during pregnancy: A deep connection between you and your baby before birth is extremely helpful for breastfeeding success, as well as for aiding the birth experience. This can be done through meditation, talking to your baby, singing to your baby, communicating with your baby in the womb through touch, and listening to your intuition. Connecting with your baby assures your baby of your love and commitment – it acts as the supreme insurance plan in the event of any complication.

Educate yourself and your partner: Take the best childbirth prep you can find, because pregnancy and birth impact breastfeeding. They are not separate. This is all on one continuum. If your childbirth class does not cover breastfeeding in depth (mine does, but most do not) then take a separate breastfeeding class. Do not be stingy with either your money or your time when it comes to taking classes – you are investing in your child. Doing so now will save money down the line. It's a drop in the bucket. You will not regret being prepared. You may seriously regret not being prepared.

Read about breastfeeding: Two books I like are The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Breastfeeding Mothers. If you need to go back to work sometime during your baby’s first year you may also want to look at Working Without Weaning: A Working Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding. If you have had breast reduction surgery read Diane West's book, Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction Surgery. A breastfeeding class is great, (do it!), but it is not enough all by itself.

Attend a breastfeeding support group: If you have a La Leche League meeting near you, attend a meeting during pregnancy. Groups are led by trained volunteers who have breastfeed their own babies and followed the principles of loving guidance. LLL Leaders are unique – if you have one in your area, you are so lucky! If you don’t, try another group in your area – at the hospital, a local lactation center, or birth center. It’s important to see breastfeeding mothers/babies and to get the imprint that this is doable (because it is!) This gives you a chance talk with breastfeeding mothers - this going to be you soon! Listen, observe, and ask questions.

Prepare for your postpartum: Hopefully your childbirth education will go into this (Bradley classes do). Being supported and prepared for postpartum is crucial to breastfeeding success. Being stressed out, unprepared, and in a free fall after the birth is not recommended. Hopefully you have amazing extended family who will care for you, but if not, then you and your partner are going to have to really talk before the birth and figure this out. Oh, and that brings us back again to make sure your partner is completely educated (about what's going on and what to do pregnancy through postpartum) in a prenatal class. Do. Not Wing. This. Your man has no idea what to do if know one spells it out for him. Partner support is critical. I cannot stress this enough.

Set up your contacts: Breastfeeding will probably go smoothly and you’ll have no major issues. Even so, most moms have questions and concerns as they are transition into this new world. And, sometimes, there really are challenges. Make sure you have names of professionals and friends you can contact. Local lactation consultants, La Leche League Leaders, your childbirth educator, or doula can all be good resources for you.

Prepare your mind: All that education I wrote about? Well, that was to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the new life ahead of you. Breastfeeding is an intensive, time consuming endeavor – totally worth it (I simply loved it) – but if you are not prepared for this, open to this, or are protecting yourself from being totally available – then that’s going to make it hard. The first weeks can be the most challenging – they require a lot of physical and emotional availability. These initial weeks are also crucial for setting up your milk supply. The rest of breastfeeding is so much likelier to succeed when you put in the time up front. If you understand the frequency of nursing, why your baby needs to nurse so often, and how the symbiotic relationship works between the two of you – well, that understanding just makes it so much easier for you. You will never regret being there for your child.

The good news is that not everyone finds breastfeeding difficult. Some parts are a surprise, of course. This is a whole new experience. Talking about and dreaming about breastfeeding is one thing; actually experiencing it is another. However, not everyone has major challenges. Breastfeeding was really “easy” for me and my babies, even with my first; despite the fact that we experienced some difficulties during the birth and some separation, she still nursed like a champ from the get go. I think that our strong connection helped, despite the disruptions. I simply loved breastfeeding. Loved it. Breastfeeding was such a wonderful mothering tool and a great way to meet the needs of my beautiful daughters. Nursing really helped me build my confidence as a mother, too.

You succeed at breastfeeding by preparing in pregnancy. You don't need to be anxious. Really. Being educated and prepared helps you to be calm about it. By preparing during pregnancy, you will be ready to enjoy the experience of nurturing and nourishing your baby at your breast from the get go. It's an amazing experience, not to be missed!

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