5 Tips to Help You Prepare to Breastfeed Like a Pro
Congratulations, mama! You're about to embark on the amazing journey of breastfeeding. But let's face it, it can be overwhelming and intimidating. That’s why we’ve put together this list of ten tips to help you prepare for breastfeeding like a pro! When preparing to breastfeed, whether it is your first or third, it's important to educate yourself about the process and find the support you need and deserve to have the best experience possible.
1) Find your resources for breastfeeding success
First things first, breastfeeding education. Truly knowledge is POWER. You’ve made it to a great place! Here at the balanced boob, you can read through our blog posts for a ton of different breastfeeding topics! You can find them by category: preparing to breastfeed, common challenges, support, latching, and milk supply. You can also join our newsletter tips for your nips for weekly tips and new posts to stay in the know throughout your journey.
When gathering information about breastfeeding make sure you are getting your education from reputable sources. Make sure you are reading blogs and following accounts that are EXPERTS in their field as opposed to mommy bloggers who are sharing their personal perspectives. While there is nothing wrong with sharing personal journeys, they don’t always reflect evidenced-based approaches. There is ALOT of really bad breastfeeding information so it is so important to look at the person’s credentials.
Lactation Credentials: A breakdown
The following is a breakdown of different credentials in the lactation field from the United States Lactation Consultant Association USLCA
- International Board Certified Lactation Consultant IBCLC: 95 hours of lactation-specific education, 8 college-level health professional courses (24 academic credits), 6 health-related continuing education courses, 300-1000 clinical practice hours, and successfully passing a criterion-reference exam. IBCLC is the highest credential in the lactation field.
- Certified Breastfeeding Specialist: 95-hour lactation-specific education with no clinical hour requirement.
- Certified Lactation Counselor: completed a 45-hour course with no clinical hour requirement
- Certified lactation Educator or CLE: completed a 45-hour university-based program with no clinical requirement. Lactation Educator Counselors are typically entry-level practitioners and deal primarily with the normal process of lactation
Kelly Kendall, (hi 👋 it’s me), who created Boob School, I am a registered nurse and IBCLC. I have worked both as a postpartum nurse, a hospital-based IBCLC and a private practice IBCLC. After having seen the consequences of parents not having the right education and support, I created Boob School….In Boob School we give you ALL THE KNOWLEDGE in our self-paced modules, a private online community, and weekly support! My goal is to make sure you feel confident, empowered, and supported from start to finish in your breastfeeding journey.
Once you have a good understanding of the basics will make you feel more confident and prepared when your baby arrives!
Many parents assume you will be taught everything you need to know in the hospital and this is simply NOT TRUE. Hospitals are designed to get you in and out as quickly as possible and oftentimes breastfeeding education is not a priority.
2) Next up: Latching 101
First things first…what is latching? Latching is the process of attaching your baby to your breast to begin breastfeeding. A proper latch is essential for successful breastfeeding, as it ensures that your baby is getting enough milk and also prevents sore nipples.
Learning about latching techniques BEFORE your baby is frantically rooting around and coming at you with both fists, while you both try not to cry, can make all the difference in the early days of breastfeeding.
If your baby isn’t latching properly, then your breastfeeding journey will be uncomfortable (to put it mildly), looking at your cracked nipples. That’s why you must learn how to properly latch your baby onto your breast NOW! When considering how to learn about latching, seeing videos, or watching other moms in real time, learning to latch can go a long way to taking that learning and doing those steps with your baby.
Here is a reel with some helpful tips on what is going right and what can be improved. Be sure to follow Kelly on Instagram @thebalancedboob, to see new reels as they come out and get a ton of info regularly!
Go-to Latching Tips
- Start with a leaned-back position, wayyyyy back, think binge-watching Netflix at 9 months pregnant.
- Hold your baby close, tummy to tummy, with both their baby and head facing you.
- Bring your baby to your breast, rather than your breast to your baby.
- Gently touch your baby's lips with your nipple, and wait for them to open their mouth wide.
- Bring your baby in close, so that their lower jaw is against the base of your nipple, and the entire areola (the dark area around the nipple) is in their mouth.
- Make sure that the baby's tongue is down and forward, covering the lower gum.
It's important to remember that it may take a little bit of practice for you and your baby to get the hang of latching. Be patient with yourself and your baby as you both learn this new skill. This is normal and to be expected with each new baby!
How to get more info and help today…
In Boob School we address latching throughout our program with both recorded modules, PDF downloads, and a bonus membership to Natural Breastfeeding.
You can download our free latching resource, here.
3) Hand Expression aka Your Secret Superpower
Hand expression is a technique for expressing milk from the breast using just your hands, rather than a breast pump. It is my go-to skill to teach parents prenatally and can have a huge impact on your supply and overall journey. **Hand expressing in the first hour after birth, aka the golden hour, helps in the short term AND long term. Short term: your milk volume can increase more quickly. Long-term: moms had an increase in milk supply by 130% at 6 weeks of age.
What are some other ways to use hand expression? Your baby is struggling at the breast…consider hand expressing some drop of colostrum to help them find their way. If you are feeling engorged and your baby is struggling to latch…consider hand expressing to relieve pressure and help your baby to latch easier. This can be helpful for a variety of reasons, such as when you don't have access to a pump, when you're trying to stimulate milk production, or when your baby is having trouble latching on. Here are a few tips for hand-expressing milk:
- Get comfortable: Find a quiet, comfortable place where you can relax and focus.
- Massage your breasts: Gently rub your breasts to help stimulate milk flow.
- Use the right technique: There are different techniques for hand expressing milk, but in general, you want to use your thumb and fingers to compress the breast tissue, starting from the outside and moving towards the nipple.
- Experiment with different positions: You may find that different positions work better for you, such as lying down, sitting, or standing.
- Be patient: It may take a little while to get the hang of hand expressing, and it may take some time to express a substantial amount of milk.
- Store and handle breastmilk properly: When storing breastmilk, be sure to use clean containers and label them with the date. Keep the milk in the refrigerator or freezer, following the guidelines for storage time.
It's important to note that hand expression can be a useful tool and more effective than a pump to remove colostrum, your earliest milk, but it may not be as efficient as using a breast pump once your milk has come in. Be sure to consult with a lactation consultant if you have any concerns or need further guidance on how to hand-express milk effectively. You can book a consult with one of our team members, here.
In Boob School we have an entire Hand Expression Masterclass full of exactly how to hand express, collection recommendations, and how to use your expressed colostrum to support your milk supply and early breastfeeding journey. We also have *Bonus* guide with troubleshooting tips, storage guidelines, and supplementation volumes.
4) Learning to recognize your baby’s hunger cues.
Hunger cues are the signs that a baby gives when they are ready to eat. Understanding these cues is important for successful breastfeeding, as it ensures that the baby is getting enough milk and also prevents overfeeding. Here are some common hunger cues to look out for:
- Rooting: The baby will move their head around and open their mouth, searching for the nipple.
- Sucking on hands or fingers: The baby will put their hands or fingers in their mouth and suck on them.
- Making noises: The baby may make soft cooing or mewing sounds.
- Moving their arms and legs: The baby may move their arms and legs in a kicking or kicking motion.
- Alertness: The baby is awake, alert, and responsive.
- Crying: Crying is usually a late sign of hunger, it's important to try to catch the hunger cues before crying.
It's important to remember that every baby is different, and some babies may have more subtle hunger cues than others. Also, it's important to note that hunger cues can be different from one feeding to another, and may change as the baby grows.
It's always a good idea to consult with a lactation consultant or pediatrician if you have any concerns about your baby's feeding, or if you have any doubt about interpreting the hunger cues.
In Boob School we go DEEP into newborn behavior in our First 5 Days of Life module. We go over exactly what to expect in terms of behavior and feeding patterns during these often overwhelming early days!
5) Practice Makes Perfect
The only real way to become confident in breastfeeding is through practice – lots of practice! Take some time while pregnant, if possible, or after your baby arrives to get comfortable with positioning them correctly on your breast and finding which holds work best for each feeding session. Starting a session out when your baby is first showing those hunger cues we just touched on is key!
- Practicing with a doll can help you become familiar with what a proper latch looks like before trying it out with your newborn!
- I also recommend using a 5 lb bag of sugar to help get in a deep reclined position. If you are reclined and the sugar is still slipping off, that is your sign to recline even further into the position.
In Boob School, you will receive a complimentary membership to Natural Breastfeeding, where you can watch over 60+ videos of moms latching their babies. Learning through a variety of ways from in-person classes, online classes, support groups, and watching babies latch, can make it easier for you to use the skills you have learned when you need them.
Check out this reel of a mom latching her baby. Kelly has some great tips for her on small adjustments to make.
You’ve got this, mama!
Becoming a master of breastfeeding takes time and effort but these 5 tips are sure to give any new mom all the tools they need to prepare for success! From getting educated on different topics relating to breastfeeding, learning about latching techniques, hand expression, and more, to practicing positioning holds pre-baby arrival, and finding the support you need and deserve – there are plenty of ways any mama can get ready for breastfeeding her little one like a pro! You’ve got this!!
Cheering you on, always!!
Boob School Founder and CEO
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