Like walking, breastfeeding is a skill. Both come naturally, but both require practice. Babies take baby steps before they run, and pregnant moms should take their breastfeeding "baby steps" before their hungry newborn arrives. Breastfeeding counselor Marie Zahorick has twelve tips to help you prepare.

Marie Zahorick

Bring in the pros
1. Start your preparation during pregnancy! Follow your caregiver's recommendations for a healthy baby. Most healthy babies will breastfeed eagerly within their first hour of life. If you can't breastfeed in the first hour, don't give up, your baby will learn!

2. Gain the recommended amount of weight. The fat you gain during pregnancy is Mother Nature's way of ensuring enough calories for your breastfeeding baby. Breastfeeding also burns several hundred calories a day.

3. Before your baby arrives, choose a supportive pediatrician. Ask if they follow the American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on breastfeeding that spells out the many benefits to moms and babies.

4. Before your baby comes, ask your doctor or lactation consultant (LC) to examine your breast and nipples. Some babies may have trouble latching on to your breast if your nipples are flat or inverted (folding inward). Your LC can then recommend specific nursing positions for your baby.

No more rough stuff
5. Avoid soap or antibacterial solutions on the nipples because they strip essential oils. Don't try to toughen up your nipples with rough washcloths or harsh treatment.

6. Moisturize your nipples and breasts if you have dry skin. Studies show moisturized nipples are less likely to crack. Modified ultra pure lanolin will also heal any sore spots.

7. Go without a bra for a few hours a day to accustom your nipples to air and slight friction.

8. Buy two or three good quality nursing bras during the last weeks of pregnancy. Cotton is cooler and can help prevent soggy nipples. Avoid underwire bras; they press on the milk ducts and can make your breasts very sore.

With a little help from your friends (and family)
9. Get information on breastfeeding. Take a breastfeeding class with other pregnant moms. Read current breastfeeding books. Educate yourself and your family on the benefits of breastfeeding (there are hundreds!).

10. Develop a support network of positive people. Explain to your family how important it is to breastfeed your new baby and how you need their help. Call a La Leche League Leader, a volunteer who is trained to help other moms breastfeed. Go to a support meeting where you can meet pregnant moms like you.

Strike a pose
11. Understand that your baby's position at the breast is crucial and can help you avoid soreness. If you've never seen a baby breastfeeding, watch a video or go to a support meeting for breastfeeding moms. You and your baby should be belly-to-belly, with his ear, shoulder and hip all forming a straight line. His nose should be almost touching your breast, and his mouth should be extremely wide open with his lips flanged outward, not rolled inward.

12. Get plenty of supportive pillows before your baby arrives so you can bring your baby up to your breast. Your back and shoulders will get sore if you hunch over. Support your back and arms with pillows. Use a pillow to protect a c-section incision in case your baby kicks you.

Ready, Set, Go!
Take your breastfeeding baby steps before your baby comes. When the nurse places your hungry newborn in your arms, you will be off to a running start!PregnancyAndBaby.com

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