All About You
What will happen after baby is born? Plan for support—perhaps hire a doula, or enlist a friend or family member to help you and your partner cook, clean, and tend to your recovery in the initial few days. Begin stocking the freezer with food and catch up on your sleep. You're going to need it!
As your baby-to-be keeps growing, you may find even your maternity clothes fit tightly. Clothes aren't the only things getting tighter—your body's internal organs are running out of room, too. You'll have to take more breaths since your lungs have less space. Plan on smaller, more frequent meals too, since your stomach doesn't have room to expand. Remember, only a few more weeks to go! You may notice a tightening of your abdomen at times, especially if you've been on your feet all day. These false contractions, called Braxton Hicks, are normal.
Breast milk provides your baby with the perfect food. Not only is breast milk filled with all your baby's nutritional needs such as disease-fighting antibodies, but it also comes at the ideal temperature and there's no measuring required. But just because breast milk is best for your baby, doesn't mean you or your baby will know how to nurse at first.
"Women should understand that breastfeeding is work," says Dr. Joanne Motino Bailey, PhD, and a certified nurse midwife. "Just because the body is made to [breastfeed] doesn't mean it doesn't involve some practice."
Babies and nursing: Babies love to suck. This sucking reflex is so strong that even if your baby's not hungry, you'll notice her smacking her lips. Before long you'll learn when your baby is sucking for practice and when she's ready to eat.
It will take you a few days to get into a feeding rhythm with your baby. Expect to feed him every two to three hours since your baby digests breast milk easily.
Preparing your body for nursing: Before your baby arrives, talk to your healthcare provider about your desire to nurse. Your provider can examine your breasts to make sure you're ready. Some women have flat or inverted nipples that can be difficult for the baby to suck, but with some guidance, your provider can help you overcome these problems.
Your body readies itself for nursing by increasing the amount of breast tissue throughout your pregnancy. This tissue houses the milk production factory your body becomes to feed your baby. You'll notice your breasts leaking, especially in the last few weeks. This clear to whitish fluid, called colostrum, or foremilk, is packed with antibodies and will provide your baby with nourishment for the first few days of his life until your milk comes in.
Getting Started: Most hospitals have a lactation consultant on staff who can guide you through nursing. If you hope to breastfeed, a lactation consultant can help you get on track so you and Baby nurse soon after birth. Breastfeeding doesn't always go according to plan, though. Some women experience troubles (such as engorgement, infection, or nipple irritation) and some just can't seem to get it to work. Know that if you do have troubles nursing, it isn't your fault and you're not alone.
During nursing, your nipple and areola (the pigmented circle around the nipple) should be inside your baby's mouth. If your baby only sucks on the end of your nipple, your nipple will quickly become sore and nursing will be painful. At first getting this much of your breast into your newborn's mouth may seem awkward, but with practice both you and your baby will become pros.
There are several ways to hold your infant while she's feeding, including the classic cradle hold where her head rests at the crook of your elbow for support and her body is turned toward you. Your lactation consultant can explain several other positions until you find what's most comfortable to you.
Dr. Bailey suggests expectant women take a breastfeeding class before delivery day. If you have any questions about nursing, ask your healthcare provider or call your hospital's lactation consultant.