By Ali Weatherford

If you are pregnant, you may already have a lot of expectations or even a very solid plan for feeding your baby. I am a big fan of planning! When you’re clear about what you want, you can take steps to make that the most likely outcome. You can learn, gather supplies, practice, and set yourself up for success.

However, it’s also smart to plan for the unexpected. If your plan is to breastfeed your baby, you will probably be able to do that just fine or with just a little bit of education and support. But just like with everything else in life, things can happen to interfere with your plans. If this happens after you have your baby, it’s great to understand that there are other options so you can know what to do next.

First, Plan for Your Plan

If your plan is to exclusively breastfeed your baby, there are some things you can do to make it more likely to be an easy adjustment. For most people though, breastfeeding is not EASY. It’s something that takes some learning and practice. But you can do some things that will make it easier.

  1. Education: Take a breastfeeding class!
  2. Make a birth plan: Include on that birth plan that you intend to breastfeed exclusively, and that you want to do the next things on this list.
  3. Skin-to-skin: Immediate skin-to-skin means that your bare baby is placed on your bare skin immediately following birth. They will wipe the baby dry and clean while the baby is on you. That is the first step to successful breastfeeding.
  4. Postpone procedures: It’s very important to stay skin-to-skin with your baby for as long as possible. This might mean delaying some of the assessments and procedures planned for your baby like measurements, shots, eye ointment, etc. Those things can wait at least until after the first successful breastfeeding session, and keeping your baby with you and calm will make that go more smoothly.
  5. Watch for hunger cues: At some point within the first hour after birth, your baby will probably start to show signs of hunger. They have a set of instinctual movements and reflexes that kick into gear while they’re getting that skin-to-skin time. When you allow your baby to find and attach to the breast for their first feeding during this window, things tend to go most smoothly.
  6. Feed on demand: It’s best to let the baby decide when it’s time to eat when they are newborns. That might be VERY often!
  7. Continued skin-to-skin/closeness: Keeping your baby near you, and even better ON you, can definitely help breastfeeding happen more and better. The closer you are, the better you’ll be able to notice your baby’s early hunger cues such as restlessness, mouth movements, rooting, hands to mouth, or the nipple dive. When you notice these behaviors and feed your baby, you’ll likely have an easier time. The more you feed your baby early on, the quicker you will have a stable milk supply and get the hang of it so you can continue with more ease.

Then, Be Open to Modifications

You may realize at some point that you’ll need to find alternative ways to feed your baby. There are an infinite number of reasons. You may have to be separated from your baby for a little while right after birth. Your baby may have some trouble making a good latch. You may get very sore or even cracked nipples. Maybe your work situation changes suddenly and you have less maternity leave than you planned for. There are a lot of different things that can come up and you’ll need to find other ways to feed your baby. It might be a very temporary change of plan, or something more permanent.

You might…

  • need to hand express a little bit of milk for your baby in the first couple of days.
  • need to get donor milk for a little while in the hospital.
  • need to include some pumping into your daily routine for a little while, or as a part of your normal feeding schedule.
  • plan to feed your baby from both breasts, but then discover that you can only use one.
  • feed your baby using a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS)
  • give your baby breast milk using a syringe or tiny cup for a short time or for longer.
  • bottle feed with your breast milk
  • bottle feed with donor milk.
  • bottle feed using formula.
  • end up using a combination of direct breastfeeding and bottle feeding.
  • use your breast milk, donor milk, and/or formula in combination for a little while or for a lot longer.
  • end up pumping exclusively and bottle feed your baby that way.

These are some examples of alternatives that real people have turned to for feeding their babies. It’s not always as simple as either breastfeeding or bottle feeding with formula, although that’s what a lot of us can imagine before we have our first child.

It can be very empowering to discover a creative solution that works just right for your family. Be sure to stay open to possibilities and definitely see a lactation consultant! They are experts at finding creative solutions and should be very good at listening to your needs before making suggestions.

Our articles are not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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