If you are like me, when you find yourself expecting a baby you take a deep dive into all things pregnancy.
Apps that tell you the size of your expectant joy in terms of fruit and vegetables alongside week by week diagrams and videos of development.
Maybe you've also fallen down the rabbit hole of the birth process and the benefits and risks of different birth preferences and interventions. Podcasts of birth stories and videos of birth can fill your free time, for sure.
In the months leading up to the birth of our first child, the stack of books about all things pregnancy and birth on my nightstand was a veritable rotating tower featuring all the books at the library as well as those acquired via Amazon Prime.
While I'm thankful for all that learning, I now know that switching gears to learn a bit more about the breastfeeding journey I was about to embark upon would have been time well spent.
To that end, I've put together a little checklist for pregnancy that can help you prepare a bit more for breastfeeding, no matter your goal.
Take a Breastfeeding Class
While this seems pretty straightforward, a solid breastfeeding class should provide you the evidence-based information you need to make decisions about feeding your little one. I always recommend that the breastfeeding parent-to-be attend a class with a partner or support person so that everyone is on the same page with expectations for what feeding a baby looks like in the early days and weeks postpartum.
Visit a Support Group
Yes, I am suggesting you attend a support group meeting before you even have a baby. This may help you in several ways. Practically speaking, it can be really tough to get out the door with a new baby and the thought of going somewhere new with people you've never met may be truly overwhelming. By attending a breastfeeding support meeting (or more) before baby, you'll be familiar with the location, people, and atmosphere such that it may be easier for you to attend the group newly postpartum. Breastfeeding groups are also a great way to find community with other parents in the same stage, which can make the early parenting days less isolating.
Make a Postpartum Plan
Feeding a baby with breast milk - whether pumped or from the breast - is a full-time job in the early days. A postpartum plan allows you and your partner to put together the puzzle pieces of support that will be essential for you to focus on this wonderful but often times exhausting aspect of caring for your baby.
Find a Doula
Having nonjudgmental, compassionate support throughout your experience of labor, birth, and postpartum can make a difference in how you find your footing with babe. And, your doula will bring breastfeeding knowledge as well as contacts and resources if any challenge you experience are outside the doula's scope of practice. (If you aren't local to me, Doula Match is a great resource.)
Learn about Baby Behavior
The question "is this normal?" will likely occur frequently in the first days, weeks, and months with baby. In addition to taking a breastfeeding class, a workshop that covers developmentally normal infant sleep may take much of the guesswork out of those first days. Truly, having developmentally appropriate expectations for your child at any age will save you so much stress and help you find strategies and solutions that work for your family.
In addition to the breastfeeding support groups mentioned above, searching out supportive communities before baby arrives can make finding support and friendship in this parenting journey that much simpler. For example, Hike it Baby is a great community to get moving with your little one and enjoy time in the outdoors.
Know your Resources
Compiling a list of resources including postpartum doulas, support groups, breastfeeding counselors, lactation consultants, and perinatal mental health professionals is a good task for those long third-trimester days when pregnancy seems to stretch on forever. You may not need to contact all or even any of these professionals, but having their contact info or recommendations from friends already in place can help you say "yes" to the support you need when you need it.
Like anything else in pregnancy, birth, parenting, and well, life, your breastfeeding journey may have unexpected challenges. In fact, you may make feeding choices different from those you initially planned on.
Know that you deserve respect, encouragement, and love no matter what.
Looking for a breastfeeding class? Nested Mama offers group classes as well as private webinars to help you get the information you need in a way that works for you.
Johanna received a Ph.D. in English in 2014. Now a postpartum doula and educator of childbirth, breastfeeding, and infant sleep, she blogs about pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and parenting.