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Thoughts From an IBCLC for Mom in Her Third Trimester
You may feel there is much to prepare for as you countdown the days until your sweet baby’s arrival. The truth is your baby only really needs you. Don’t stress over the unfinished nursery, but do take some time to talk about what is most important to you during your birth experience. If your goal is to provide milk to your baby, this is a perfect time to learn how to maximize your chances of making breastfeeding successful.
Read the classic La Leche League manual, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. With its updated edition and easy-to-read sections, it is sure to be one you’ll page through often in your favorite nursing spot. Another way to get up to speed on all things nursing is by attending a support group to meet other breastfeeding mothers. Listening to stories of women will help you prepare for what’s ahead, and be armed with real information; the website www.Kellymom.com is an excellent resource, as is the La Leche League website, www.llli.org. As you scroll through these websites, remember, many moms go through their entire lactation without breast infection, low supply or sore nipples. Don’t let these topics induce fear. However, it is beneficial to become familiar with signs and symptoms of lactation problems early on.
Communicate Your Wishes
As you get educated about breastfeeding in general, you will start to get an idea as to what you want your experience to look like. It’s extremely important to communicate what you want. Want baby put right on your chest after delivery to start the benefits of skin-to-skin contact? Is it your desire to nurse exclusively? Want to avoid pacifiers? Want the team to perform as much of the infant’s exam without taking the baby away from your chest? Want the bath delayed so that you can have more time together? Hospitals are catching on and instituting practices that preserve the first hour after delivery as a period of opportunity for bonding and breastfeeding. Often, the newborn is alert and able to latch to the breast and nurse right after delivery. The transfer of milk is not as important as getting breastfeeding (or pumping) started in the delivery room. Even if you need a C-section, let your desire to hold the baby skin to skin and to breastfeed be known to your team.
Don’t Be Discouraged
In the first days, feeding may or may not be a priority for your newborn who needs to adjust to life outside the womb. It is OK if your baby wants to sleep. There may be a half a day or so when the baby starts crying, demanding more volume of milk, right before the milk comes in. This may cause you to feel stressed, but if this happens, try pumping to get a little extra milk to the baby. Your milk will probably come in (go from drops of colostrum to ounces of milk) on day 3, 4, or 5. A lot is going on hormonally; your pregnancy hormones are decreasing and your milk-making hormones are soaring. Contacting an IBCLC prior to delivery can help ease your anxiety and have someone ready to help you once the baby arrives.
Trust Your Instincts
You will quickly know your baby better than anyone. Mentally prepare to be sleepy because it is very normal for the newborn to wake often to nurse overnight. Your baby will have a tiny tummy and rapidly growing brain, and your milk is so easily digested and well absorbed that feedings are expected to be frequent. Unrestricted, frequent nursing is key to getting breastfeeding off to a great start. Even if you’ve never been a person who takes naps, put your feet up and close your eyes when the baby sleeps during the day. You’ll be surprised how frequently you drift off; rest enough to carry you through the demanding overnights.
And remember, not all nursing is for feeding. This is the part that is so hard for people who have not nursed to understand. The baby will want to nurse for lots of reasons: I missed you, mom. I love you, mom. I need comfort, mom. I’m a little hungry, mom. I feel a little uncomfortable, mom. I’m SO hungry. Not all of the reasons a baby nurses have to do with nutrition. Breastfeeding is a mother-baby relationship. Get ready to enjoy one of the most special elements of parenting!