End of pregnancy and birth can be tough, hard work. And as many been-there parents will share, the hard work only continues from that point forward. While the postpartum time is not difficult for everyone, most parents describe feeling unaware of and unprepared for the many challenges that take place in the first few weeks and months. In the mixed bag of challenges that include healing, emotional and mental health, and infant care, breastfeeding is one that comes up frequently. Heading into the third trimester and throughout the end of your pregnancy, it's important to prepare yourself with adequate information and support.
Gather as much preliminary information about breastfeeding as possible.
Most of the in-depth information you'll need about breastfeeding will happen as you need it, but it does help to have a primer on some of the most basic and important information. Learn things like the basic mechanics of breastfeeding, how to recognize early hunger cues in your infant, feeding on demand, and perhaps most importantly, common challenges and "roadblocks" in breastfeeding. Taking a separate breastfeeding class will likely help you learn this information best. If you are unable to take a class, pick up one or two recommended breastfeeding books like The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, or Breastfeeding Made Simple. Read through the book, making notes and dog-earing where you think you'll need to come back later for reference.
Set up a wide network of breastfeeding support before birth.
You wouldn't invite guests to a party during the event. Instead, you plan in advance, send out invites, and determine a head count. Similarly, you'll set yourself up for a better postpartum period -- including breastfeeding -- if you plan in advance for your support team. Think of the answers to the following questions and write them down!
- Who do you know who has breastfed?
- Who is available for in-person help?
- Who is your local lactation consultant?
- Who is available for after-hours calls?
- Who is a good local postpartum doula?
- Which pediatrician is a true advocate for breastfeeding?
Now, send out the invitations. Make a call, send out a text or email, and let these people know you are due to have a baby soon and are forming your breastfeeing support team. Are they available to help out when needed? In what ways?
Go easy on yourself.
Postpartum is the aftermath of a major physiological event -- your body requires healing and recovery, even though many do not view birth as an event that requires recovery. No matter how well you feel, it's important to give your body much needed downtime. The more you are able to recognize this special state your body and life is in, and honor your needs to be nurtured, the better off you and your baby will be in the long run. Without help and support from others (see above), it's very difficult to achieve this kind of care and recuperation. This kind of extensive care is not always possible -- due to lack of support or partner, the need to return to work early, or other young children in the house -- but even small steps can make a difference.