Preparing for breastfeeding

Preparing for breastfeeding may not seem like a top priority as you experience the excitement of pregnancy and look forward with possibly mixed feelings to the birth of your baby. Many mothers have lots of other issues and challenges during pregnancy, and breastfeeding seems to be a long way off. Most of us today live in societies where becoming pregnant, giving birth and the first months of a baby’s life are closely connected with medical care and supervision. The first question any future mother and father may contemplate is whether or not to breastfeed. The World Heath Organization is quite clear on its website that “exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to six months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”

The WHO also states that virtually all women can breastfeed, providing they can count on the support of their family, the health care system and society as a whole [1]. Another argument that parents may consider is recent research in The Lancet of April 2015. This study [2] assessed the long-term consequences of breastfeeding on human intelligence and future income levels. It concluded that babies who had been breastfed for 12 months or more (according to WHO guidelines) had higher IQ scores, more years of education and higher monthly incomes than babies who were breastfed for less than a month. Other studies have confirmed the positive impact breastfeeding has on the environment, mothers’ health, family income, and society as a whole.

These arguments provide the theory for any mother or father to consider at the beginning of their breastfeeding preparations. There are, of course, more practical aspects to nursing that mothers can be aware of before the birth. Today we know that it is no longer necessary to prepare nipples for breastfeeding by using alcohol or soap to disinfect the breast or avoid sore nipples. A correct position and the latch-on are key to avoiding sore nipples. So for many prospective parents learning about correct positioning options and chatting with and observing other breastfeeding mothers (with their consent of course) are a vital part of preparing to breastfeed.

Occasionally mothers may have flat or inverted nipples – something a health care provider can easily assess and check out. La Leche League also offers practical tips for such situations. Attending a LLL meeting before your birth is a very helpful way to hear from other mothers about their breastfeeding experiences and fathers are welcome too. Having accurate information in advance helps to avoid common problems and concerns or questions you may have will happily be answered by the LLL Leader of the group.

It also worth considering buying a nursing bra, as it offers easy access for breastfeeding mothers when they need to feed their baby. It is important to buy the bra in the late stages of pregnancy and to be advised by a qualified fitter, as the bra will need extra room in the cup and ribs. Special nursing tops can be helpful but are not vital, as a top can easily be lifted to feed and shawls or jackets can let a mother nurse unobtrusively.

Do check out LLL meetings and groups near you, as they offer the opportunity to meet other mothers and hear from them. The LLL Leader present can answer any questions or concerns you may have. Meetings are open to everyone and free of charge; just turn up and you can be sure of a warm welcome. For dates/locations of the meetings check out the LLL website.

By Elizabeth Kölük

Elizabeth trained as a La Leche League advisor in Turkey and started the first group in Istanbul. On her return to Zurich, she successfully breastfed her twins, and currently helps with the Kilchberg LLL Group.  

Illustration by Bvisual.

Beth (“BVisual”) graduated from university after studying visual communication, specialising in illustration. She’s has been working as a freelance creative and undertaken projects such as the V&A Illustration Awards in London. Beth has projects involving portraits and editorial illustrations under her artist’s name BVisual.



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