Know Your Body
Watch for indicators that your body is getting ready to produce milk. The most common is breast tissue growth. Your breast should change and get larger before delivery. You may or may not leak colostrum in the last trimester, but you should have some breast size change during the pregnancy.
Check for flat or inverted nipples. This is not a simple, look in the mirror exam. You will need to put pressure with your thumb and index finger approximately 1" onto the areola (figure A) to see if your nipple protrudes or instead goes flat or hides when the areola is compressed (figure B).
Common mistakes that moms make can lead to sore nipples so it is wise to know how to hold and support the breasts during feeding. The C Hold is most commonly taught today, but many moms don't realize that the bottom half of the C is as important as the top. Not only make sure that the thumb is not impeding the baby's latch on the areola, but make sure that the fingers underneath are not in the way as well. It is very common for moms to have their fingers in the way so even when the baby wants to do a deep latch, they can only get so close due to the obstructive digits. The image below shows the correct hold when latching the baby.
If you are getting advice such as you need to toughen up your nipples before breastfeeding, you need to think twice. Much of the advice you get is anecdotal and not research based and some advice is simply just rooted in old wives tales. Make sure the sources you are listening too are indeed breastfeeding experts. (In the case of this blog, it is written by a retired international board certified lactation consultant with three children, two grandchildren and 23 years of experience in helping mothers meet their breastfeeding goals.) Back to the case in point, nipples do not need to be toughened. Rubbing nipples to prepare them for breastfeeding only breaks down natural keratin layer which makes you more prone to trauma. The remedy, a good latch.
The best way to prepare for breastfeeding is education so take a breastfeeding class at your local hospital, read a quality breastfeeding book not just a section of a book written for pregnancy. I highly recommend The Nursing Mother's Companion by Kathleen Huggins. If you are in a rural area and don't have access to classes, you can use youtube but make sure the instructor is qualified before you watch.
Know where to get help before you need it. Feel free to email me with questions, but finding out if there is a La Leche League group or a local lactation consultant that hosts a Latch Clinic is a great help. You may even have an IBCLC who does home visits in your area. This is information you want to have before you need it!
While you are preparing your home for your baby, make sure you have prepared with information, resources and education. A few supplies can go along way to make things easier as well. I recommend a nursing nightgown or nursing pajamas with integrated sleep bra that offers easy access but holds you nursing pads in place, a quality double electric breast pump with a closed system to prevent contamination and cotton breathable washable nursing pads. Bottles are not recommended until the baby learns to breastfeed well which is usually after 6-8 weeks so if you are pumping for storage, add some breast milk storage bags to your shopping list. And finally a nursing bra that fits multiple cup sizes like the Bravado BodySilk Nursing Bra or a less expensive alternative is the Amamante Caress & Contour Nursing Bra.