Expecting? You’ve probably already got a pretty good idea of exactly how you want your birth to go – maybe you’ve even written a formal plan and have discussed it at length with your healthcare OB. But have you thought about a breastfeeding plan?
Most moms-to-be are well prepared for labor and birth, but when it comes to breastfeeding, many find themselves with questions and uncertainty. It doesn’t have to be that way, and with a breastfeeding plan, you’ll be ready for anything your run into.
Here’s how to create your plan:
Lack of knowledge is a major reason many moms find themselves overwhelmed when they begin breastfeeding. And it makes sense – just think about how many blogs and books you read through before developing your birth plan, and how many friends you talked to about their experience.
Take this same approach to researching breastfeeding. Find out what a good latch looks like, how often baby should feed, what other moms experienced, what’s normal and what’s cause to see a doctor, and what resources – like lactation consultants and mom groups – are available in your area.
Set your personal breastfeeding goals.
Ask yourself what you want out of your breastfeeding journey. Consider a few important questions:
- Do you want to exclusively nurse? Or are you planning to pump and bottle feed?
- How long do you want to breastfeed?
- Who can you lean on for support?
- Do you want to continue breastfeeding when you go back to work?
From here, you can start setting goals. Maybe you want to exclusively nurse at first, then begin pumping before you head back to work. Maybe you want to donate breast milk or build a stash that will last beyond weaning, so you know you’ll need a good breast pump.
Whatever your goals, make sure they make sense for you and your situation. Make them reasonable and manageable – especially if you plan to go back to work. Achieving your goals helps you and your baby define your own personal view of breastfeeding “success.”
Create your plan (and write it down!)
Break your breastfeeding plan into two parts: what you want to happen at the hospital, and what you want to happen at home.
For the hospital breastfeeding plan, you may want to detail what you wish to happen following the birth of your baby:
- Request skin-to-skin time as soon as possible with your baby, whether you give birth via C-section or vaginally. This is an important step in initiating breastfeeding and is best if it happens within an hour of birth.
- Ask for help from the hospital’s lactation consultant right away. These professionals can help you get started with breastfeeding correctly by showing you a good latch, how to recognize your baby’s hunger cues, and more.
- Request that your baby rooms in with you. Most hospitals practice this already, but if you’re in a hospital where your little one is whisked away to the nursery, be sure you ask that they stay with you in your room so you can breastfeed on demand and get plenty of skin-to-skin time in.
- Request the use of a hospital-grade breast pump if your baby is unable to feed directly at the breast for any reason. Make it clear you want to avoid supplementing unless it’s medically necessary.
- You can find breastfeeding plan templates online, or you can create your own.
Once you’re home, create another plan you can follow. This plan might be more logistical, but is just as important as your hospital breastfeeding plan:
- Make sure you have nursing supplies ready to go. Think nursing bras, breast pads, a nursing pillow or comfy chair, a breastfeeding or pumping app like MyMedela to keep track of your sessions, lanolin for any soreness, plus plenty of healthy snacks and a nice big water bottle.
- If you plan to pump, familiarize yourself with your breast pump before you give birth. Learn how to take it apart and clean it, what the controls mean.
- Set up a breastfeeding station. Put all your breastfeeding necessities in this area (or in a portable tote) so that you never sit down and find you’ve forgotten something. You might want to include bottled water, lanolin, burp cloths, snacks, a phone charger, and more.
Come up with a back-to-work plan.
A few weeks before you go back to work, you can start incorporating pump sessions into your daily schedule. Not only will this help you get in the habit of pumping, but it can help you start to build a stash of breast milk to leave with your baby’s sitter or daycare. It’s also a good idea to pack a pumping bag with all of the essentials you need to pump at work.
Find out more tips for continuing to breastfeed at work here, including how to talk with your employer, how to educate your caregiver, and more.
Did you have a breastfeeding plan? Share in the comments below.