Breastfeeding is one of the most natural and rewarding aspects of having a baby. While most women believe that breastfeeding automatically comes naturally and easily, the reality is that breastfeeding is a learned art that takes patience and guidance. It is generally accepted that breastfeeding provides the most complete, digestible diet for a baby, while reducing the incidence of breast and ovarian cancers for mothers. There are many other benefits to breastfeeding, including convenience, the fact that it’s free and always ready, and provides the perfect opportunity to bond with your child. For some mothers, breastfeeding is not possible, either due to illness, work schedule or difficulty getting the baby to nurse. What’s most important is to decide what works best for you and your baby — nobody benefits when breastfeeding turns into a painful, stressful event.
Among all the many extraordinary changes your body makes during pregnancy are the preparations your breasts are making in order to produce milk to nourish your baby. As early as three months into the pregnancy, your breasts are already producing colostrum, an early milk which is chock full of antibodies, made specially to support your baby’s immature immune system in the first several days of life.
Get yourself fitted for a few comfortable nursing bras — be sure to get a couple for day wear and a couple for sleeping in. Engorged breasts are heavy breasts, so you’ll appreciate the support in the early months. Some argue against underwire nursing bras, but if you are large-chested, they may be necessary for support. Sports bra style nursing bras are comfy for around the house and for sleeping in.
Take a look at your wardrobe to see what will work for breastfeeding. Nursing tops are useful, and even though there is more of a selection now than in the past, what you get in accessibility, you may lose in style. Typically, all you’ll need are some comfy nursing pajamas for middle of the night feedings, and nursing camisoles, which come in handy for more public nursing. Unfortunately, your wardrobe won’t go totally unaffected — you may have to give up button down shirts, dresses and one piece clothing until you learn how to navigate your clothes when breastfeeding.
Once your baby arrives, you’ll be breastfeeding frequently — you should make it as comfortable as possible! Find a spot in a quiet room, by the television, in a comfy recliner or rocker and make that your place to nurse. Be sure to have a table next to you where you can stash the phone (someone always inevitably calls during breastfeeding), a glass of water (lots of fluids increase your milk supply), reading material, or the remote. You may want to experiment with a couple of pillows or buy a breastfeeding pillow to make yourself more comfortable.
Most importantly, remember that while nursing may be challenging at first, it can be incredibly rewarding as well. If this is your first baby, do your homework — buy a book on breastfeeding, take a class at your local hospital, or contact your local La Leche League chapter for advice.