Preparing for Baby: How to Establish a Healthy Breastfeeding Relationship

A woman faces a deluge of decisions when she learns she’s expecting a baby, and deciding what and how to feed the baby is one of the biggies.

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’s debut. At Memorial Medical Center, our lactation consultants and Family Maternity Suites nurses 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

Educating yourself — about how to breastfeed, your body and its capabilities and the supplies you’ll need to purchase— before your baby arrives will help you feel 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 meet with a lactation consultant prior to delivery to address those concerns and develop a game plan for how to successfully overcome any possible challenges to breastfeeding so you feel confident when the baby arrives.

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 at by the hospital.

“Know your body and what challenges it might present,” 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 his or her mother for skin-to-skin contact if possible.

“It helps the baby transition 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 becoming 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, 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.

Moms also should ask that their babies “room in” with them so they can begin to learn their baby’s feeding cues and feed on demand. 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 comes in, must come out.)

Several resources exist for nursing mothers after they leave the hospital. Memorial’s lactation nurses are available by phone or in person by calling 788-4666. Joining a mom-baby support group is another great resource to network with other moms with babies of the same age.