Preparing to Breastfeed Before Your Baby Arrives

As you move through your human milk feeding journey and beyond, you may find that friends and relatives look to you for lactation support. Recently, we posed this question on the New Beginnings Facebook page: If a friend or relative told you they were pregnant, what would you tell them about breastfeeding? Below, we’ve compiled some of the top suggestions along with tips from the La Leche League International best-selling publication, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (8th edition).

Moms at LLL meeting outdoors nursing and talking

Several parents suggested they would gift or loan the expecting parent The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.

Rhonda S. said she would encourage expecting families to “educate themselves to make their decision about breastfeeding, read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, and seek support from those who have had success in breastfeeding.”

If you’re not familiar with this essential book, here is an excerpt from The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, describing the kinds of information you may find while reading:

“It’s a book about developing a breastfeeding relationship with your baby, with strategies that help combine breastfeeding with your already busy life, and ideas for meeting any challenges along the way. There’s some science, for sure, but we hope to bring to life the “art” part, the fun part, the way you and your baby figure out your own dance and make this work for you.”

Along with giving breastfeeding books, many parents also shared that they would offer personal support to their friend or relative preparing to breastfeed.

Roberta N. offered, “I’d give them my phone number and say call me ANYTIME!”

Parent-to-parent support can be so crucial in continuing breastfeeding. Having other breastfeeding families in your corner can be a great encouragement and source of strength for hard days. But what if a relative or friend doesn’t already have someone like that in their life? Support groups, like La Leche League, are a wonderful place to start. LLL Leader volunteers around the world offer information and encouragement individually, too, and free of charge.

Amy N. suggested that parents “find a support network before the baby arrives, so you have someone to turn to in those early days, even if everything is going smoothly. If there isn’t a La Leche League Group near you, connect with a group online. Expectant parents are always welcome to attend meetings!”

You can find a La Leche League USA Group or Leader local to you here. Your children are always welcome, too!

When you attend La Leche League meet-ups or read books about lactation while expecting, you will likely learn about the  critical importance of human milk. You may also learn about the way that your milk changes to suit your baby’s needs as they grow, the benefits to your own health, and the immune factors found in human milk that will help protect baby from illness. Learning about the science and studies showing the values of breastfeeding helps many families to make their decision to breastfeed.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (8th edition) states on page 16:

“Every single drop of your milk that your baby gets is wonderfully beneficial, containing immunities and many, many elements that are completely absent from formula.”

Aside from known health benefits, breastfeeding offers a great way to connect with your new little one and become fine-tuned to their cues and needs. Nursing offers a great deal of comfort and security to your new baby.

Jessie D. said, “Breastfeeding has made a difference in the bond my daughter and I developed. She always sought me for both comfort and food.”

Learning about breastfeeding while pregnant may also help you to learn what to expect when your baby arrives. Many families may worry about whether nursing will be difficult. Knowing what the typical course of breastfeeding is like can help to avoid frustration and challenges.

Womanly art of breastfeeding 8th edition coverThe Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (8th edition) shares some great info about what happens in the breasts right after birth and what to expect about milk supply on pages 22-23.

“In the first few days, the alveoli continue to secrete colostrum. The sugar and fat content rise dramatically on about the third or fourth day, pulling additional water (and many other elements) into the alveoli, so your milk is now whiter and increased in volume. Mothers often say this is their milk ’coming in.’” But the basics were there from the start, though in smaller amounts and with different concentrations… Your baby may have growth spurts, when he nurses a lot and increases your supply for a few days …Your milk production will start to work on a ‘supply and demand’system, meaning that the amount of new milk created depends on how much has been taken out.”

Preparing ahead of time and having support systems in place can help new families  to develop confidence during their unique breastfeeding journeys. We hope these suggestions are useful and make you feel more prepared for your very own “new beginning” with the arrival of your baby.

Please send your story ideas to Kylie at [email protected]

Editor’s note: A new edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding will be released October 2024. You can learn more about the updates here.

Some more great resources for expecting parents to learn more about breastfeeding:

Supporting Breastfeeding Families–Today, Tomorrow, Always

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