You can't really prepare your breasts for breastfeeding, but you can prepare your head. Before your baby is born, learn as much about breastfeeding as possible. Start by taking a class at your hospital or birth center, or reading pamphlets from your physician. The more information you have about nursing before you begin, the more confident you'll feel about it once you start. Remember that confidence, comfort, and relaxation are three keys to successful breastfeeding. Simply put: the more confident and comfortable you are, the more relaxed you are, the easier it is for you to produce milk.
During the first few days nursing your newborn, you'll want to make sure he's establishing a solid latch, which is essential for successful breastfeeding. To make sure your baby latches on to your breast properly: Hold your breast with your free hand, with your thumb above and the rest of your fingers below your nipple and just behind the areola (your thumb and index finger should form a "C" around your nipple). Gently touch your baby's lips with your nipple. When she opens her mouth, center your nipple in her mouth and draw her closer to you. Hold your breast until you're sure she's latched on -- she should have your entire nipple and an inch of your areola in her mouth.
Since you'll spend several hours each day nursing your baby during the early months, you'll want to experiment until you find the position that works best for you. Here are a few of the most common:
- The Cradle Hold. Sit in a chair with armrests or stack several pillows under your arms. Rest your feet on a footstool or ottoman to take pressure off your lower back. Hold your baby on your lap so she's lying on her side, with her face and tummy facing you. Tuck her arm under your arm and gently move her so she's resting on your forearm. Your hand should support her back and bottom. Line her nose and mouth up with your nipple. Encourage your baby to latch on as described above.
- The Football Hold. This position works well if you had a Cesarean section. Sit in bed (or a comfortable armchair) and wedge a pillow behind your back; place another on your lap. Position your baby next to you on the side you are nursing from, cupping the back of her neck in the same hand. Position her legs so they are tucked between your arm and your side, toward the back of the bed. Encourage her to latch on as described above.
- Side-lying hold. This is an ideal position for nursing in bed, either during nighttime feedings, or if you've had a cesarean or episiotomy and sitting up is uncomfortable. Place one or two pillows under your head. Place your baby on her side so she faces you, cradle her in your arm, and position her so her mouth is directly in front of your nipple. Pull baby in close to you and follow the latch-on technique described above.