1. Learn how to breastfeed before giving birth
Nothing can totally prepare you for the real-life experience, but it certainly helps to read up on breastfeeding before you begin. Not all breastfeeding positions will work for all mums and babies, so it’s nice to have a few options available off the top of your head.
2. Express your breast milk
Expressing is simply a way of taking milk from your breast without your baby suckling. Once you’ve expressed your milk, you can store it in the fridge to bottle feed your baby later.
There are a number of reasons why expressing your breast milk and storing it for later use is a good idea. Not everyone can be with their baby 24/7 and in some cases you will need to rely on family, friends, or a babysitter to take care of your little one. Sometimes new mums will experience engorged or swollen breasts and expressing milk will provide some relief. In other cases you’ll appreciate a bottle if you’re on the go.
There are three common methods for expressing breast milk; by hand, with a hand-held pump, or with an electric pump. Though it is not painful, many women prefer to use a pump, as it’s much easier. A useful tip is to put pressure on the milk ducts behind your nipple rather than squeezing the nipple itself. Breastfeeding mums are also able to hire expressing pumps if they don’t want to buy one.
Having your breast milk expressed and stored is great in emergencies and can save a lot of time for busy mums. It’s also handy if you’re in a place where you don’t feel comfortable breastfeeding.
3. Storing breast milk
After you’ve expressed your breast milk, the next step is storing it correctly. Breast milk storage isn’t overly complicated, but it does require some care and attention.
You should use sterilised, airtight containers or breast milk storage bags specifically designed for this purpose (though bear in mind that these can often tear or become contaminated more easily). If using a plastic container, ensure that it is BPA-free.
Follow the guide below for breast milk storage times and temperatures from the Plunket New Zealand
Always remember to label each container with the date it was expressed, so you can keep track of when it’s going to expire. If you send your baby to childcare, ensure it has their full name on the container.
4. Master breastfeeding in public
Breastfeeding in public can be a daunting experience for first time mums, and although it’s a natural process, it doesn’t always feel comfortable for everyone when they first get started.
Try practicing in the mirror if you’re anxious about nursing in public to find you and your baby’s best position. The key to mastering breastfeeding in public is to feel confident. Choose clothes that you will feel comfortable in and use an easy-access bra, and consider a spot that you can sit at ease with some support for your back. You may also want to consider looking for a place where you are less visible to the general public and in turn less likely to be disturbed.
Many women prefer to use a breastfeeding cover or blanket when breastfeeding in public, so consider this option if you think it would make you feel more comfortable. While there’s no harm in giving it a try, keep in mind that some breastfeeding covers may irritate your baby.
5. Consider breastfeeding-specific clothing
Breastfeeding clothes are a relatively recent addition to the market and take the humble maternity bra to the next level. Breastfeeding tops and breastfeeding dresses are growing in popularity due to the ease with which you can feed your baby in them.
6. Maintain a healthy breastfeeding diet
Your healthy diet shouldn’t fly out the window once pregnancy is over. While you can relax a little more and start eating some items that were previously off limits (hello, soft cheeses!), what you eat can affect your breast milk.
Check out our breastfeeding nutrition page for more information on what you can and can’t eat when breastfeeding.
7. Take a breastfeeding multivitamin
Sticking to a healthy diet at all times is almost impossible with a new baby at home. In addition to this, breastfeeding means you’ll need to meet increased nutritional requirements. Consider a breastfeeding multivitamin, such as Elevit Breastfeeding, which provides key nutrients, such as betacarotene, omega 3, B-group vitamins, folate and vitamins C and D, calcium, iron and zinc. Meeting nutrient requirements is not only beneficial to your own health, but also to your baby’s development.
8. Ensure you get enough rest
Being a new mum can be stressful and it’s easy to not get enough sleep in those first few months, it’s still important that you get sleep whenever and wherever you can, especially when breastfeeding, as you’re expending more energy than normal with feeds. Prioritise it and make time for it if necessary.
9. Make time to socialise with other breastfeeding mums
Breastfeeding can be pretty tricky for such a natural process, and it’s great to have a support network of likeminded people to turn to if you’re having problems. Try looking on parenting sites, Facebook, or Plunket, for parenting groups in your area.
Manage your breastfeeding routine with a checklist
Keep on top of your breastfeeding journey with a useful checklist we’ve created to guide you through the first few months. Read and print out the breastfeeding checklist to support this special time.