Your body goes through a lot of changes when you are pregnant. By the time you are almost ready to give birth, your breasts may already have colostrum which is also known as your pre-milk which your baby needs in the first few days. Below are some things you can do to ensure you are ready for breastfeeding.
Prepare Your Nipples
The key to avoiding sore nipples is to learn how to hold your baby. If you are having a hard time making your nipples stand out, you may want to encourage it before your baby starts feeding. You may also want to clean your nipples regularly. No need to use soap because the little bumps on your areola clean and moisturises your nipple. But if you have very dry skin, using lanolin for your nipples is helpful.
Prepare Your Mind
Keep in mind that aside from your body, your mind also require preparation. Nursing is learned and you need to make sure you educate yourself about breastfeeding even before your baby is born. Check out Australian Breastfeeding Association or read good breastfeeding books. You might also want to meet your local breastfeeding specialists to learn more.
Prepare Your Wardrobe
You don’t really have to buy a new wardrobe. You can just use your regular outfit and pull your top up to nurse. Do invest in a good nursing bra and probably best to get fitted for one as more than likely your size will have changed. If you are like me you won’t want to show off your belly so I used to always put stretchy singlets under my top which I could then pull down, but my tummy was always covered. If you want to avoid leakage, go for bamboo breast pads and place them in your bra. Added to the fact that it’s cheap, compared to disposable breast pads, bamboo breast pads won’t irritate your breasts as they have antibacterial properties.
There may be a number of times that you might need to express and store your breast milk. The reasons could include:
- If your baby is premature or cannot suck well.
- If your baby is in the hospital and you can’t be there for each feed
- If you’re hospitalised and your baby can’t be with you for each feed.
- If you’re returning back to work, studying, or other commitments.
- If your breasts feel full and a bit uncomfortable.
As a mother, you should make it a point to store breastmilk in your freezer in case of emergencies. Keep in mind that babies who rely on breastmilk alone are less likely to get allergies or other infectious diseases.
Below are some tips to encourage your milk to flow while you are expressing.
- It’s important that you are relaxed when expressing your milk. Ensure that you are in a quiet, relaxing area, away from any distractions. You may want to breathe slowly and deeply and perhaps listen to soft music.
- Some mothers express easily after a warm shower.
- Massaging your breasts also helps. Start by stroking down towards your nipple and rolling your nipples between your fingers.
- Having someone who can support you can also help you express your milk better. Try to seek the help of one of your friends or relatives. You may also want to consult an ABA counsellor for more ideas on learning how to express.
How much to express?
This depends on the reason why you are expressing. If it’s just to reduce the engorgement of your breast, then just express enough until you feel comfortable again. If however, you have mastitis, then ensure that you feed your baby as often as possible to get rid of blocked ducts causing mastitis.
Storing your breastmilk
- Ensure that you store your breastmilk in a closed container
- For 6-8 hours it can be kept at room temperature, however if there is a fridge available best to keep it there.
- Milk can also be stored in the fridge for 3-5 days on 4ºC or lower.
- If your freezer compartment is in the fridge it can be kept in there for up to 2 weeks. If you have a freezer with a separate door, up to 3 months, and in a deep freezer 6 – 12 months. You need to make sure your freezer is at -18ºC or lower.
When you decide to use your breastmilk it is probably best to thaw it in the fridge.
Once this has been done you can either keep it in the fridge for up to 24 hours, or at room temperature for 4 hours or less. Never re-freeze breastmilk once you have thawed it out.