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Updated: Feb 15

While most families meticulously plan for labor and delivery, set up the perfect nursery, and stock up on baby supplies, one vital aspect often gets overlooked - breastfeeding preparation during pregnancy. This omission can lead to unnecessary stress when caring for a newborn. I've seen too many families wind up in this situation, and my heart aches for them because some of their stress could have been avoided. In this post, I'll outline why I think learning about breastfeeding beforehand is essential.

  1. Simplifying your postpartum life will pay off in huge ways. Life in the early days is challenging. You're going to be recovering from childbirth, taking care of a newborn, operating on less sleep than usual, and spending a lot of time feeding your baby. Newborns nurse a minimum of 8 times per day (usually more). Imagine navigating the learning curve of breastfeeding on the fly. Simplify the early days by gaining knowledge beforehand - it's a small investment with significant returns.

  2. Positioning and latch techniques matter. Learning proper techniques in advance can spare you from nipple pain, optimize your milk supply and potentially increase the amount of milk your baby receives. Babies who are latched well get more milk!

  3. Be prepared to tackle concerns head-on. Understanding and preparing for common issues like sore nipples, plugged ducts, and mastitis can reduce your risk of encountering these problems and enable you to resolve them more efficiently if they do arise.

  4. You can't count on support in the hospital. Now, don't get me wrong! I love and respect bedside nurses and hospital-based lactation consultants. I was a mother-baby nurse for 6 years and a hospital lactation consultant for 9 years. Let me explain why you can't count on their support. Bedside nurses are supposed to help with breastfeeding when they can, but their availability is limited. They are also juggling multiple patients with various needs, and have to prioritize care. If they have an emergency situation to respond to, have to administer medications, or admit/discharge patients, breastfeeding gets moved to the bottom of the priority list. Hospital lactation consultants also have many patients to see and have to prioritize accordingly. I've worked in hospitals where we had 1 lactation consultant for 30 patients. I've also worked in a hospital with 10 lactation consultants for 72 patients. That's a better ratio, but we still didn't see every patient every day, and certainly couldn't be present for every feeding. It's not the fault of the nurses or lactation consultants, it's simply that the system isn't set up to provide feeding assistance at all times.

  5. You won't be in the right mindset to learn a ton of new information. After delivery, you may be very tired (understandably!). You should be focusing on rest, recovery and bonding with your baby. But aside from exhaustion, your brain actually changes during the postpartum stage. Hormone shifts cause physical changes in the brain that may make it easier to bond with, and care for the new baby, but also make it a little harder to recall information. You won't be in a physical or mental state to learn everything you need to know about breastfeeding.

In my years as a mother-baby nurse and a lactation consultant, I've witnessed firsthand the challenges that families face when unprepared. I'd love to see every family starting out with the knowledge they need to confidently feed their babies, and simplify their postpartum life. That's why I've developed a prenatal breastfeeding checklist, offering 4 actionable steps to prepare for breastfeeding during pregnancy. You can find it here. Additionally, I offer a comprehensive on-demand prenatal breastfeeding class that allows you to learn at your own pace. Access the class here.

Investing time in breastfeeding preparation before your baby arrives will undoubtedly prove invaluable during those early postpartum days. Equip yourself with the knowledge needed to confidently feed your baby and simplify the transition into parenthood.

Have you ever had questions about breastfeeding when illness strikes your household? Ever wondered if you can breastfeed when you are sick? What abo ut if your baby is sick and struggling to feed?

The good news: breastmilk is a powerhouse for supporting your baby’s immune system! Breastmilk contains large quantities of a specific type of antibody called IgA which coats the digestive tract and prevents viruses and bacteria from entering the bloodstream through the wall of the digestive system.

A nursing parent makes antibodies that are unique to the pathogens they encounter in their environment. This means that a breastfeeding baby receives antibodies that are specifically targeted to pathogens they have likely been exposed to. Breastmilk also contains the proteins lactoferrin and interleukin which help moderate inflammatory responses, and breastmilk even contains prebiotics and probiotics that support a healthy gut microbiome.

So can you breastfeed if you’re sick? In nearly all cases, yes! With MOST illnesses, including common colds, the flu, and COVID, it is recommended to continue breastfeeding. These viruses are not transmitted through breastmilk, but antibodies to the illness ARE! Your baby will have already been exposed to the illness by being around you (probably before you even knew you were sick) but through breastfeeding, the baby will receive some protection. I’ve even heard of families where everyone in the house got sick, except the baby, because they had additional protection from breastmilk.

💊 If you do become sick, remember to check that any medications you take are compatible with breastfeeding. Some decongestants, such as Sudafed, are known to suppress milk supply. The Infant Risk Center has some helpful resources for checking whether a medication is safe to take while breastfeeding:

  • The MommyMeds App: a searchable database of over-the-counter and prescription medications and their safety during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The app is available for a small annual fee.

  • Infant Risk Center Flyer listing breastfeeding compatibility of some frequently used medications.

What about when baby is sick?

Breastmilk is the best nutrition for baby when they are sick, providing essential nutrients and all those wonderful antibodies. A 2020 study even found that babies who were fed breastmilk had a reduction in the severity of RSV. See the study here. Unfortunately, nursing is often difficult when the baby is congested. Taking steps to reduce congestion can help.

I hope this information has been helpful! Stay healthy out there, friends!

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