Preparing for Breastfeeding During Pregnancy

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Congratulations you have a new baby on the way and your body is amazingly providing all the nutrition your baby needs, moving from an embryo to a foetus, until birth when you meet for the first time. So, how can you prepare for breastfeeding during pregnancy? Our in-house Lactation Consultant, Sioned Hilton offers some advice…

During your pregnancy your breasts adapt to support the next phase of nutrition for your baby. As we all know, human infants and many other mammals are born without the flight and fight reflexes and are totally dependent on their mothers for their first years after birth. They are unable to fend for themselves, their brains are underdeveloped in order to pass through the human pelvic girdle, their immune system is continuing to develop and they lack the motor and verbal skills to survive independently.

For many, many years a new-born mum totally believed that she would have to breastfeed her infant for him to survive and they would carry their babies close to keep them safe and  warm. Its only in the last 250 years that with changes in lifestyles, scientific advancement and improved understanding of nutrition that this has changed. Mums have become  disempowered to believe that their body has the capabilities of providing all the nutrition a human baby needs for the first 6 months and beyond.

I hear so often conversations between mums, health professionals and partners… “I would like to breastfeed if I can” When was it decided that breastfeeding is a mechanism of succeed or  fail?

In order to succeed, I believe that we must empower women to have belief in their breast capabilities to provide milk for their baby.  All pregnant women have hope and a belief that they  will carry a baby to term, that their bodies will be able to support the pregnancy to achieve this. Although we know that some mums face preterm births and underlying complications do  influence this but 90% of all pregnant women deliver around full term.

That’s 90% of the population who are well and healthy and have experienced the breast changes during pregnancy, enabling them to produce and multiply the milk making cells –  lactocytes/alveoli. At birth with the delivery of the placenta, the drop in pregnancy hormones – progesterone and oestrogen kick start and activate the milk making hormones oxytocin and  prolactin, supporting the making of colostrum, and breast milk coming to volume around days 3-5 after delivery.

Many mums experience some breast changes during pregnancy, some early on and other late into the third trimester. Prof Peter Hartman in UWA studied a group of women from pre conception to after stopping breastfeeding and measured women’s breast changes over a period of time. In the study it was noted that women increased in volume of glandular tissue.  Some women were very late in having breast changes and Dr Danielle Prime identified that a small proportion of women had little breast changes until after the activation of the milk hormones after birth. It’s really amazing!

So how to prepare for breastfeeding, here are some top tips:

  • Talk with your partner and family about your wishes and what you want and expect from them
  • Be realistic – it does take practice and you may experience some difficulties in the early days and weeks after birth
  • Talk with your midwife – draw on your previous experience, if this is your second baby and see where you could have got help to work out the challenges
  • Find a local breastfeeding group so that you can call in before baby is born to meet other mums and have the opportunity to chat to the breastfeeding specialists
  • No matter what the delivery method, you will activate your milk making hormones
  • Ask for help and support, no question is silly!
  • Expect to feed every 1-3 hours for at least a few weeks – the more you feed the more practice you get
  • Even if you have had breast surgery, with a reduction or lumpectomy you will have some glandular tissue that can produce milk and support your baby. Just bear in mind that you may need some additional support
  • If you have piercings or enlargement –  you can breastfeed
  • If you are not sure you want to breastfeed but want your baby to have your milk, you can exclusively pump and bottle feed – discuss this with your midwife. You can start within an hour of birth on a double breast pump, such as the Symphony Hospital Grade Breast Pump or Freestyle Double Electric Breast Pump.