Many new mothers understand at least some of the benefits of breast-feeding and make the decision to breast-feed, but they often have a multitude of questions about how to make it successful.
One of the common questions expectant mothers ask lactation consultants is, “What can I do during pregnancy to prepare for breast-feeding and to increase my chances of being successful?” The following tips attempt to answer this question:
▪ Get educated. It can be helpful to attend a breast-feeding class. There also are websites that provide excellent breast-feeding information. Talking to family and friends who are experienced breast-feeders can be enlightening. Just remember that every new mother’s breast-feeding experience is different.
▪ Take care of yourself and get appropriate prenatal care so you can carry your infant to term. Eat a healthy diet, exercise as allowed by your physician, and see your obstetrician on a regular basis. Avoid smoking and harmful drugs.
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▪ Choose an obstetrician, a pediatrician, and a delivering hospital that have reputations as breast-feeding supporters. One of the best ways to do this is to ask around. Talk to friends and family members who have had positive breast-feeding experiences. Also, review provider websites where available.
▪ Be patient with your pregnancy, and try to avoid induction of labor unless medically indicated. Induction of labor can lead to prolonged labor and can increase a new mother’s risk of having a cesarean section. Both of these outcomes can make breast-feeding more difficult in the first few days.
▪ Be sure your routine medications are compatible with breast-feeding. Just because a medication is compatible with pregnancy doesn’t necessarily mean it is compatible with breast-feeding. Most medications are safe with breast-feeding, but some aren’t. If you are taking anything other than your prenatal vitamin, check with your physician or a local lactation consultant ahead of delivery to ensure that there are no surprises.
▪ Check with your medical insurance company to see whether they will cover the cost of a home breast pump. Sometimes these pumps can be obtained before delivery. If you can, get your pump ahead of delivery and bring it to the hospital when you deliver.
Try to relax and enjoy your pregnancy. Most women can be successful breast-feeding. The more you prepare ahead of time, the more smoothly it should go.
Katie Thompson, a registered nurse and an international board-certified lactation consultant, assists nursing moms while they are patients at Baptist Health Lexington and also works in the hospital’s Outpatient Breast-feeding Clinic.