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How should I prepare for breastfeeding?
Learn as much as you can about breastfeeding even before your baby's born. Talk to other nursing moms, read books to familiarize yourself, call your local La Leche League International chapter, and consider taking a breastfeeding class (offered by most hospitals) some time in your last trimester. The more you know about how to get started and the benefits of nursing, the more likely you are to succeed at it.
Whether you think about it or not, your pregnant body is preparing itself for breastfeeding. That's one reason your breasts get so much bigger during pregnancy — your milk ducts and milk-producing cells are developing, and more blood goes to your breasts than before. (Learn more about how your breasts produce milk.) But breast size has nothing to do with your ability to nurse successfully: For example, it's not true that smaller-breasted women make less breast milk.
Do I need to toughen my nipples?
"No," says Kathleen Huggins, author of The Nursing Mother's Companion. The hormonal changes pregnancy brings to your breasts are sufficient preparation for most women. Don't rub or scrub your nipples — this will only hurt you and make breastfeeding difficult. Teaching your baby the right way to latch on to your breast from the beginning is the most effective way to prevent soreness.
What products should I buy?
These products aren't required, by any means, but they can make breastfeeding more comfortable and convenient:
Nursing bras: These bras are comfortable and provide the extra support your larger-than-usual breasts need. They come with flaps that you can easily undo at feeding time.
It's best to wait until the last couple of weeks of pregnancy to shop for nursing bras, when your breasts will be closest to their postpartum size. That said, once your milk comes in your breasts will be bigger. They may even grow another size or two! So keep that in mind when buying nursing bras, and when shopping in person look for a salesperson who's knowledgeable about fitting.
(You can wait until after you give birth to make this purchase, but in the early days after delivery you probably won't have the time or energy to go bra shopping.)
Nursing tops and camisoles: These tops have convenient flaps that allow you to breastfeed easily and discreetly. Some of the camisoles are very supportive and can function as a bra and top in one.
Nursing pillows: Specially designed to support your baby while you're nursing, these can help you avoid straining your shoulders or neck during feeding sessions. They're more convenient — and better at keeping your baby in position — than regular pillows.
Breast pads: It's normal for your breasts to leak while you're nursing, and another baby's cry or the sight of an infant can bring on a gush of milk when you least expect it. Disposable breast pads (or reusable, washable ones) will keep you and your shirts nice and dry.
A breast pump: Even if you're not planning to pump regularly, a breast pump can be a useful tool — to help relieve engorgement, for example. Find out more about buying a breast pump.
Other breastfeeding accessories: Lanolin ointment (available in many drugstores) can help relieve sore nipples. And hot/cold gel packs, which fit inside your bra, can soothe swollen or sore breasts.