How to Prepare Your Breasts for Breastfeeding

prepare breasts for breastfeeding

Every single mother and mother-to-be knows that breastfeeding is the best thing she can do for her baby. After years of formula propaganda, everybody has finally realized that we should promote breastfeeding instead as the only healthy and natural option. OK, I’m not saying that you won’t see formula posters at your pediatrician’s office or in baby shops but at least these posters now say that formula is the next best thing to breastfeeding.

So, marketing efforts shifted to the breastfeeding industry (yes, I’m saying ‘industry’ and I’ll explain why I use the term in a minute). You now get ads for all sorts of breastfeeding products:

  • nursing cushions
  • expressing pumps (manual and electric)
  • all kinds of gels and pads to make your nipples hurt less
  • lactation teas and juices
  • all sorts of nursing clothes, from bras to winter jackets (OK, perhaps not winter jackets)
  • artificial nipples
  • etc., etc., etc.

Notice that I’m not using any affiliate links in the list above because I’m not here to SELL to you. Gosh, that would make me one of them from the ‘breastfeeding marketing industry’!

But here’s one thing. With all that abundance of breastfeeding products, posters, and advice from your midwife or pediatrician, nobody actually tells you how to prepare your breasts for breastfeeding. They all will talk about the importance of your baby latching correctly, show you gross pictures of the correct baby’s tongue position when feeding, tell you what colour the baby’s poop is supposed to be, but they won’t tell you what you need to do while you’re still pregnant so that your baby gets a good supply of milk from day one, you won’t get mastitis, and your nipples won’t hurt that much.

Something I Learned in a Balkan Village

When my first child was born, I didn’t know anything about breastfeeding. Oh, I read all kinds of articles online, studied the brochure my midwife provided, and bothered everyone at the hospital, asking them to show and tell me how to breastfeed my little boy. But somehow all the advice I got was vague and too theoretical. In the end, I had cracked bleeding nipples that hurt like hell, milk not really coming out of my breasts (which resulted in an inflammation) and a hungry baby. Everything got sorted out in the end, though.

A couple of weeks after my baby was born my husband an I went to a Serbian village to visit his mother. She asked me how nursing was going and I told her the truth – not so well. She then asked me if I prepared my breasts before the baby was born and I said no because nobody told me to do that. That’s how our talk about cows started. Yes, cows.

You see, people in Balkan villages still have cows and milk them the traditional way – with their hands. Here’s what my mother-in-law told me.

Did you know that a cow’s pregnancy also lasts nine months? So the whole process is very similar to ours. When the cow is about 7.5-8 months along the way, colostrum starts coming out of her udder. Sounds familiar? You know, that clear or yellowish liquid coming out of your breasts when you’re pregnant and that embarrassed you once or twice by messing up your T-shirt in public? Now, did you do anything about that pre-milk? Probably nothing more than wipe yourself clean. And that was a mistake.

When people in Serbian villages notice colostrum coming out of the cow’s udder (or when the cow is 8 months pregnant), they start milking it. Every day, they would wash the udder with warm water and gently squeeze out the yellowish pre-milk. It doesn’t matter if only a few drops come out because that’s enough. Doing this ensures that the udder stays soft, milk production is stimulated, and inflammation is avoided from the start (Serbian summers are hot, so if the milk gets “stuck” in the udder, inflammation is guaranteed). Plus, when the calf is born, it has a good supply of milk and grows faster.

OK, any offended readers at this point because I sort of compare them to milk cows? Well, don’t be. Because really, the process is very similar for us, mothers. So, let’s move on to the actual tips that will help you breastfeed your baby when he or she is born.

Breast Preparation Tips for Successful Breastfeeding

First of all, remember what my dear departed mother-in-law said – you need to prepare your breasts ahead of time. When colostrum starts coming out and your breasts begin to feel like they’re filling up, express the milk. For me, expressing during morning shower works great (my second baby is due in less than a month as of writing this post). Yes, expressing may feel a bit painful at first because your breasts aren’t used to it and your nipples are sensitive, but you’ll live.

Now, here’s something else a lot of new expecting mothers don’t know (I didn’t know!). When you’re breastfeeding, your nipples are supposed to look like small showerheads. That’s right, the milk should be coming out in thin streams from all over the nipple. If that’s not how your nipples look, then some channels are blocked and milk is not coming out the way it should be. Expressing when you’re still pregnant will help you to open all the channels and thus make things much easier for your baby when he or she is born.

To start expressing, you don’t need a breast pump (although a manual pump will come in handy in the future. I bought mine on AliExpress for a bit under $8 and it still works, 3.5 years after I started using it). At this point in time, simply use your hands. Here’s how:

  1. Cup your left breast with your left hand from underneath so that your thumb is pointing at your armpit and your fingers are holding the breast from the bottom
  2. Squeeze and slowly move your thump towards the nipple in a stroking movement
  3. Milk should start coming out
  4. Repeat until the pre-milk nearly stops coming out and your breast feels less full
  5. Repeat for your right breast

Remember to do this every day while showering and it will pay off.

Another thing you should do is prepare your already sensitive nipples. Your baby will bite them, literally, and most likely that will give you at least minor discomfort. Instead of waiting for that to happen and rushing to buy disgusting silicone nipples, use a rough towel to rub your nipples after shower. Yes, it will feel extremely uncomfortable at first. Just don’t overdo it and your nipples will get prepared for your baby.

The rest of the tips? Well, you’ll get plenty when your baby is born and you’ll figure out a lot on your own. Just remember that you should never have rock-solid full breasts. It’s better to express and put the milk in the fridge (or freeze it) than wait for the baby to wake up. Keeping your breasts full sends a signal to your body that there is too much milk and the supply needs to be reduced. You wouldn’t want that, not until your baby is almost one year old.

Do you have any breastfeeding tips? Share them in your comments!

P.S. This post contains one affiliate link to the product I’ve actually used and will keep using. All opinions are my own and 100% genuine.

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Katie @ Teacher and the Tots
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Katie @ Teacher and the Tots

Some awesome tips here! Seriously, I’ve had two babies now and no one ever told me about expressing during pregnancy but it makes so much sense! Will definitely be doing this if we have a third. Thanks for this great info!

Kim
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Interesting read. Breastfeeding is quite a challenge, and I vividly recall the pain in the beginning until my nipples toughened up. I had no idea what to expect and didn’t realize there was much prep I could do. Now after a year, I am dealing with the opposite problem trying to shut down the milk factory!

Tricia
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You have quite a lot of useful information! I didn’t know anything about breastfeeding when I had my first. I almost gave up but a lactation nurse came by and helped me.

Mellie Sue
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Great info! I had the hardest time breastfeeding and pumping for my son. I wasn’t prepared for any of it.

Lenee
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Ugh I could not express to save my life!!!