Many mothers may overlook the importance of preparing their bodies for the seismic changes brought on by birth. In the rush that usually accompanies readying the nursery, and procuring the latest and coolest pram, car seat, pumps and baby accoutrements money can buy, Mummies might forget that when it comes to birth and breastfeeding, it is their physical bodies that require the first and perhaps most important preparation of all.
Just as those anticipating a natural birth might be practising their Kegels in anticipation of the delivery, Mummies main breastfeeding equipment, a.k.a her breasts, need some attention too. So for those who are trying to make a successful go at breastfeeding, either for the first, second or even fifth time around, here are some things to note in the weeks leading up to the big day.
Give yourself a breast massage
Do this to clear your milk ducts and keep your boobies primed for breastfeeding. You might want to start at around one and half months before your due date. There isn’t really a right or wrong way to massage your breasts for lactation purposes but an easy time to do this is when you’re in the shower and soaping yourself. Just rub your breasts in a circular motion, from under the armpits outwards towards the nipple as if you’re doing a breast self-exam. Avoid nipple stimulation as this may cause early contractions.
Moisturise your nips
Apply an organic, natural moisturiser to the areola and nipple area. This will help to prevent possible cracking and dryness from taking place later on when you’re actively latching baby on.
Dealing with nipple inversion
Take a closer look at your nipples to see if they’re flat or inverted. If so, you might have a harder time latching baby on. To overcome this, you might be able to physically draw your nipple outwards with a nipple inverter, protractor or breast shells. After baby is born, you can start to pinch your nipples to elongate them before every latch.
Attend antenatal classes
If you’re a first-time Mum or if it has been awhile since your last breastfeeding experience, don’t underestimate the importance of lactation classes to understand how to get a good latch from your baby. When Baby is latched on correctly, nursing should be a breeze. But incorrect latching can wreak havoc on your nipples! Learning the correct way and being able to apply the theory will save you from a lot of pain and having to apply sore nipple ointment.
Have lactation help on hand
In spite of best laid plans, some of us might need more help than others. Everybody - and baby - is different, so know when and where to get help. Your postpartum Doula or the hospital’s lactation specialist are people whose numbers should be on your speed dial so that if anything goes wrong, you can get the right help quickly without having to Google your symptoms.
Buy the right flange size
If you intend to combine latching with pumping, it’s important to have the right-sized flange for expressing. Anything too small or too large, will be uncomfortable and may affect your breastmilk output. Just how do you know what flange fits you? One that draws only your nipple through the tunnel, not the areola. And one that has enough wiggle room, so your nipple doesn’t rub against the walls of the tunnel. For a more accurate fit, take a ruler and measure the diameter of your nipple and add about 4mm more to cater for nipple erection. Hegen offers a universal flange that fits a majority of nipples measuring 24mm – 27mm. For more tips, download our Flange Fit Guide here.
PHOTO: Burst/Sarah Pflug