Breastfeeding should come naturally. After all, haven’t women been doing this since the beginning of time? But it turns out, there’s a pretty big learning curve. It takes a bit of prep and education (and then a whole lot of practice and patience) to nurse with confidence. The good news: there are some simple things you can do while you’re still pregnant to help with a smoother start to breastfeeding. Here’s our top 5.
Know what to expect in those really early days
You may feel like you have no idea what you’re doing (totally normal, btw), but your newborn sure knows—as evidenced by his or her strong rooting reflex, an adorable open-mouthed move that tells you your baby is looking for a nipple. Still, nailing that latch isn’t as easy as it looks. While you’re still in your labor and delivery room, ask your nurses for a little assistance. They can show you the correct positioning to prevent nipple pain and soreness from the get-go.
Get the right gear
One of the perks of breastfeeding is that you just need your breasts, right? Well, yes, but having a few essentials can make the whole experience smoother. Start with a nursing pillow. It will help you position the baby correctly and make it comfier for you, reducing neck and arm fatigue. You’ll also want to grab a tube of nipple balm to soothe any soreness, common in those first few weeks as you learn how to latch properly. Using a breast pump will help you store milk for future feedings and can also boost your supply. Ask your insurance provider about getting one for free. Other essentials include breast pads to avoid leakage, nursing bras and tops for easy access, and covers for privacy.
Stock up on lactation supplements
Everyone’s milk supply is different. Some women make too much (called an oversupply). Some women make just enough. And others don’t produce enough. If you’re anxious that you’ll be in the last camp, stock up on supplements that will support your supply, easing one worry from your new-mom mind. Formulated by a lactation consultant (more on that below), Mommy’s Bliss Postnatal Lactation Support + Probiotics includes fenugreek and milk thistle for healthy milk production, plus probiotics for immune and digestive health.
Line up your support system
It takes a village. Yes, that’s true even for breastfeeding. When you’re a first-time mom (and even when you’re a veteran mama), nursing can be challenging as you try to find your groove with your newborn. And while it may seem like a pretty personal thing, you don’t—and shouldn’t—have to do it alone. Enlist a few been-there-done-that friends to walk you through the process, to vent to, or even to come over and play with your toddler when your newborn wants to feed non-stop. You can also seek out a support group where new moms meet weekly (babes in tow) to share their struggles and triumphs.
Get the number of a pro or two
Sometimes breastfeeding goes smoothly from the start, and sometimes you need professional help. This is where a lactation consultant comes into play. She can troubleshoot your breastfeeding woes—a painful latch, uncomfortable positioning, cracked nipples, low milk supply, a baby that doesn’t get quite enough breast milk—as well as answer all of your questions (trust us; she’s heard it all). Check out the International Lactation Consultant Association to search for an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) near you.