Planning to Breastfeed

(picture of women reading a book called "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding") There is nothing special you must do while you are pregnant to get ready to breastfeed. You can decide to breastfeed at any time, even after you have your baby. There are some things you can think about and plan for before you begin breastfeeding your baby.

Family and Friends

Sometimes family and friends worry that they will be left out if you breastfeed your baby. They think the baby will love only you.

Babies learn to trust and love the people who come to them when they cry for help. Feeding the baby usually takes about 30 minutes. Everything else can be done by anyone who cares for the baby.

(picture of family member holding infant)Your family and friends can:

Someone close to you may be upset, thinking you will undress in public to feed your baby. They do not want to feel embarrassed. Let them know that you can nurse without showing your breast or nurse in private.

You or your family may worry about having enough time for other children when you are breastfeeding. One of the nice things about breastfeeding is that most mothers have a hand free once the baby begins to nurse. You can hug your older child, hold a book to read a story or even zip a jacket.

Some people may ask you questions about breastfeeding. Remember, they care about you and the baby. You may want to share this book with them.

Nursing Around Other People

[Picture of a mother with her two children] Not all women feel the same about nursing around other people. You may feel comfortable nursing around other people. Other women may feel embarrassed to breastfeed in front of others. They are afraid that people will see their breasts while nursing. They also worry that nursing will make the people around them feel uncomfortable. All of these feelings are normal.

With some practice, your baby will learn to latch on and nurse easily and you may be comfortable nursing around other people. There are simple ways to cover your breasts while nursing. You can wear oversized tops or unbutton blouses from the waist up. You can put a blanket or a scarf over your shoulder to cover your baby at the breast. You may want to practice breastfeeding in front of a mirror so you can see how you look to others. Some mothers only like to nurse in private. They use a bottle of breast milk or formula when they are around other people.

Going Out With Your Baby

[Picture of an infant nursing] Breastfed babies are easy to take with you. You do not need to carry bottles or hurry home when your baby is hungry. Your breast milk is ready to feed, no matter how long you have been gone.

Young babies nurse about every 2 - 3 hours. Older babies do not nurse as often. That means your baby will be happy or may sleep for hours between feedings. This is a good time to get a few things done.

Many stores have dressing rooms that are clean and quiet where you can sit and nurse your baby. Churches usually have a cry room, or a quiet classroom where you can nurse. If you are at the clinic and your baby needs to nurse, you can ask for an empty exam room. If you want to nurse privately, nurse your baby in the car. Remember, your baby should always be in a safety seat when the car is moving.

If you do not feel comfortable with any of these ideas, offer a bottle whenever you must feed your baby in public. The bottle can be filled with breast milk or formula.

Going to Work or School

[picture of mother putting her children in the car] Many mothers go to work or school and still breastfeed. You can do what works best for you and your baby. Breastfeed when you are at home, and:

Try and nurse your baby as much as you can so that you keep a good milk supply. Ask your sitter not to feed the baby right before you get home so you can breastfeed.

Getting Ready To Breastfeed

Almost every mother can breastfeed her baby. Women who have certain medical problems should not breastfeed. One of these is being HIV positive (having the virus that causes AIDS). Since the HIV virus can go to the baby through breastmilk, the current advice is that HIV positive mothers in the United States should not breastfeed.

Before the baby is born there is nothing special to do to get your nipples ready for breastfeeding. The little bumps around the areola (the darker area around your nipple) make a special oil that keeps your nipples soft and clean. Do not use soap on your nipples. Soap would wash away that oil.

Your breasts may get bigger and feel tender. They start making colostrum (early milk) while you are pregnant. Colostrum is a clear, yellow, sticky liquid. Some women leak colostrum while they are pregnant. If your bra sticks to the nipple, wet your bra so it does not hurt when you take it off.

You do not have to wear a bra unless it makes your breasts feel better. If you wear a bra, buy a nursing bra that gives you comfortable support. You may want to see if you can open and close a flap easily with one hand while pretending to hold a baby.

Check Your Nipples

Some nipples stick out when they are touched, and some stay soft or go in. If your nipple goes in when you rub it, you have an inverted nipple. Ask someone at the clinic about getting breast shells to wear inside your bra. The shells may help inverted nipples stick out. They can also be worn between feedings for a few days after the baby is born. Your baby's sucking will bring your nipple out more.

Ask the nurse or nutritionist about breastfeeding classes or groups. When you go to the hospital, tell the nurses that you are going to breastfeed.


Back to Breastfeeding: A Mother's Gift

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