Bringing Home Baby: Preparing for Breastfeeding

Preparing for a newborn requires a lot of planning, and if you decide to breastfeed, you will want to learn all you can before and after.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be breastfed exclusively for the first six months of their lives. In addition to being free, breast milk benefits babies by immediately providing antibodies to help boost their immune systems and has been proven to help prevent diabetes, obesity and allergies.

For the 75 percent of women who decide to try to breastfeed their babies, preparation for a successful nursing relationship begins before the baby is born. The lactation consultants at Memorial Health System hospitals are reliable resources for nursing mothers — both before and after delivery.

If you are an expectant mother who plans to breastfeed, our nurses suggest the following:

Before Delivery

Educate yourself — about how to breastfeed, your body and its capabilities—before your baby arrives. You will feel more prepared to successfully breastfeed. If you have any hesitancies about breastfeeding, are concerned about anatomical issues such as inverted nipples or have had breast surgery in the past, you can call a lactation consultant prior to delivery to address those concerns.

Hospitals also offer classes that both the mother and a support person (the father, a grandmother, birth coach, etc.) can attend to learn the basics of breastfeeding and ask questions. Memorial’s lactation nurses offer free breastfeeding classes about 16 times per year, and breastfeeding is addressed in several other free expectant parent courses offered by the hospital. These classes are currently being offered in a virtual format to ensure the safety of our class participants and instructors.

“Know your body and what breastfeeding is about,” said Marlene Rahe, a registered nurse and lactation consultant for Memorial. “Anybody who’s informed has a better chance of making the right decisions to establish a healthy breastfeeding relationship.”

Finally, Rahe suggests you communicate your desire to breastfeed with your support network, who can serve as your cheerleaders when the baby arrives.

“Breastfeeding is most successful with a positive support system,” she said.

After Delivery

Once the baby is born, Rahe suggests the baby immediately be placed on the mother for skin-to-skin contact if possible.

“It helps the baby transition to life outside the womb, because it keeps the baby in contact with Mom and her familiar warmth and smell,” Rahe said, noting that this encourages breastfeeding. While skin-to-skin contact is the standard in most delivery rooms, women should talk with their physician beforehand about having the baby placed on them after delivery.

Moms are encouraged to nurse their baby within an hour after birth. Because it’s common for family members to want to see the baby soon after delivery, even virtually during COVID-19 due to visitor restrictions [link to visitor restrictions], Rahe suggests parents communicate with their nursing team that they’d like some “protected” family time so that the baby’s first breastfeeding session can occur in a quiet environment.

Use the lactation consultants and nursing staff to ask questions before you go home about proper latching, holding techniques and how to know if the baby is eating enough. Tip: Your biggest clue that a baby is eating well? What goes in must come out, so watch for the right amount of poops and pees per 24 hours!

Need help?

Several resources exist for nursing mothers after they leave the hospital. Contact a lactation nurse at one of our hospitals:

  • Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital at 217-605-5233
  • Decatur Memorial Hospital at 217-876-3400
  • Memorial Medical Center at 217-788-3378
  • Passavant Area Hospital at 217-479-5541

Related Articles

Bringing Home Baby: Baby Basics
Preparing for Baby: How to Establish a Healthy Breastfeeding Relationship
A Partners Role in Supporting Breastfeeding