- The foundation for breastfeeding is established in the first few weeks after delivery.
- Planning ahead for breastfeeding can help you build a good breastfeeding routine.
- Minor problems may occur during breastfeeding. But with proper planning, knowledge, and support, you can overcome these challenges and continue breastfeeding.
How to plan ahead
Breastfeeding is a learned skill that becomes easier over time. You are more likely to succeed with long-term breastfeeding if you plan ahead, learn the basic techniques, and know where to get help and support.
Make plans during pregnancy
Plan ahead for breastfeeding while you are pregnant. Doing so before you deliver allows you time to think about how to manage the daily logistics of breastfeeding before you become too busy with caring for your newborn.
- Talk to your doctor early in your prenatal care about your plans to breastfeed. Before each visit, write down your breastfeeding questions or concerns. While you are pregnant is the time to talk to your doctor about any plans you have to breastfeed both an older child and your newborn.
- Arrange to attend a breastfeeding class and possibly join a breastfeeding support group. These are offered at many hospitals and birthing centers by nurses, nurse-midwives, or lactation consultants. Classes and support groups can help you anticipate and manage breastfeeding difficulties, should they arise.
- Talk to friends and family members about your decision. Discuss how their support is important in your efforts.
- Check the breastfeeding policies of the hospital and birthing centers you are considering. It is much easier to breastfeed when you are in a supportive environment, such as in a facility that has a lactation consultant on staff, encourages keeping the baby in the room with you (rooming in), and has a policy of not supplementing your baby's diet unless medically necessary.
- Purchase breastfeeding items, such as breast pads, extra pillows, and nursing bras. Check with your hospital to see whether they have breast pumps available for you to use after your baby is born. And think about what type of breast pump you would use.
- Plan to have help with chores, diaper changes, and other duties for the first few weeks after your baby is born. Getting help can let you focus on caring for and feeding your newborn.
Learn breastfeeding basics
Take a breastfeeding class while you are pregnant. These classes usually are offered through your local hospital or birthing center.
Be ready to start breastfeeding soon after you deliver. A baby is typically very alert during the first couple of hours after birth. This is the best time to start breastfeeding. A nurse or other doctor will help you with proper latching and getting started.
After this alert wakeful time, your baby will become sleepy and less likely to eat regularly for the next several hours. Be sure to try breastfeeding your baby every 1 to 3 hours (even if you have to wake your baby). Usually, a hospital staff person checks in with you routinely. If available, a lactation consultant may help you learn other breastfeeding tips and positions.
You'll want to plan to breastfeed your baby on demand rather than setting a strict schedule. Learn how to recognize your baby's hunger signs. These include sucking on his or her hand and turning his or her head toward your breast. For the first 2 weeks, be prepared to breastfeed every 1 to 3 hours, or about 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period. In the first few days, you may need to wake a sleepy baby to feed. More frequent breastfeeding stimulates your breasts to produce more milk.
Taking care of yourself will also help you to establish your milk supply. Eat right and get rest when you are able. Also, avoid bottle-feeding your baby breast milk until breastfeeding and milk supply are well established (usually after about a month).
Know where to get help
If a minor problem arises that does not quickly resolve, get prompt assistance from a breastfeeding specialist such as a lactation consultant or other doctor who is knowledgeable about breastfeeding issues. Quickly addressing breastfeeding issues helps solve problems and increases your likelihood of successful long-term breastfeeding. If possible, arrange to have a specialist visit you at home, or make plans to visit the specialist's office.
Have a list of resources available to call, such as:
- Your doctor.
- A lactation consultant.
- Friends and family who are experienced with and supportive of breastfeeding.
- Breastfeeding support groups.