What do I need to know about breastfeeding before the baby arrives?

By Leana Thompson

Breastfeeding and pumping can be overwhelming to think of even before you deliver. The most common question I get asked by expecting mothers is, “What do I need to know about breastfeeding before the baby arrives?” Here are five tips to get breastfeeding off to a great start:




It is important to learn about what to expect before your baby is born. Learning the basics about breastfeeding and all the different breastfeeding positions can be helpful. You want to be prepared and to know what to expect and what to look for. You will also learn relative terminology like colostrum, hand expression, breast compressions, meconium, and jaundice. During your class, you will realize that some of the common myths you were told about breastfeeding are false. For example, have you heard that “Breastfeeding is painful”? Actually, breastfeeding should not be painful!




When your baby arrives, it is so important to do hours of Skin-to-Skin per day. This helps to regulate body temperature, blood glucose levels, to help calm the baby down, and also helps with your milk production. Skin-to-Skin also keeps babies close to you. This can help catch early feeding cues. I encourage lots of Skin-to-Skin for the first couple of months at minimum.




Getting your hands on your breast and practicing hand expressing is key. It is important to get comfortable with your breast before the baby arrives. Hand expression is a vital tool to increase stimulation to your breast, bringing in your fatty milk faster. Learning to hand express before the baby arrives is helpful (even doing some prenatal hand expression if your OB gives you the okay after 38 weeks). Hand expressing for about a minute before breastfeeding can help initiate getting the baby interested and latched on. It can take a couple of minutes of massaging your breast and hand expressing to see some colostrum. Remember colostrum is thick like honey.




If you are breastfeeding or exclusively pumping, you should be feeding at least every 2-3 hours (which is 8-12x per day). I have so many moms that ask me, “Why? If the baby sleeps 5-6 hours, do I really have to wake the baby up?” The answer is YES. Especially if the baby is a newborn within the first two weeks of life and is not back to his or her birth weight yet. Not only is this important for babies, but for your milk supply as well. Moms that go 6+ hours without any breast stimulation usually start seeing a dip in supply and/or can become very engorged and in pain. It is important to not go longer than 4 hours without offering milk to your little one.


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