Getting ready to breastfeed

It helps to know as much as possible about breastfeeding before your pēpi (baby) is born. Find out what you can do to prepare for breastfeeding.

Benefits of breast milk

Breast milk benefits your pēpi (baby) because:

  • it is all they need to eat and drink for the first 6 months
  • it means a healthier pēpi who gets fewer colds, tummy bugs, infections and allergies
  • it protects them from dying in their sleep
  • it helps you and your pēpi form a close bond which is necessary for emotional wellbeing throughout their life.

Breastfeeding also benefits you because:

  • it gives you a chance to rest while you are feeding your pēpi
  • it helps you to feel close to your pēpi
  • it saves you time and money
  • it may reduce your risk of some cancers and bone disease.

Breastfeeding NZ video

'Breastfeeding. Naturally. Chapter 1: Preparing for Birth' is a video on the health benefits of breastfeeding and how it helps protect form infections, and planning for breastfeeding.

Preparing for birth — YouTube (external link)

Planning for breastfeeding

Many pregnant people think about breastfeeding and wonder if they will be able to do it. Often they say they will do it if they can. Almost all people with breasts can breastfeed.

Ways you can prepare for breastfeeding include:

  • getting support from whānau and friends
  • watching others breastfeed
  • practising breastfeeding positions
  • going to pregnancy and parenting classes, or a breastfeeding class.

Have support people

You need support to breastfeed. Finding support people is important. Members of a whānau who have breastfed, or who will encourage you in your decision to breastfeed, can be very helpful and supportive.

Find out who in your whānau could be a good support person when you are establishing breastfeeding.

Watch others breastfeed

Watching others breastfeed can be very helpful. We tend to learn more by watching and asking questions.

The natural part of breastfeeding is making the milk. But, actually latching your pēpi on to the breast takes practice and time for you both to learn.

Practice breastfeeding

You could practice breastfeeding with a doll during pregnancy, or even a good-sized teddy bear or another soft toy. This can help you to feel more comfortable with handling your breasts and working out a position for baby while breastfeeding.

How to breastfeed — Ministry of Health (external link)

Antenatal milk expression (AME)

Consider hand expressing your colostrum (first milk) during the last few weeks of pregnancy and freezing it for your pēpi after birth. As well as having some extra milk ready for your pēpi, you will learn how to hand express which will come in handy during the first week or two after the birth.

You may be recommended to express colostrum during your third trimester if:

  • you have diabetes in pregnancy
  • you are having a planned caesarean birth
  • you have high blood pressure
  • you have had low milk supply with a previous pēpi
  • your pēpi is not growing well (either small or large for their gestational age).

Ask your midwife for an expressing kit and information about when to start, reasons to stop, and guidance on storing your expressed milk.

The Joy Series Video 3 — Antenatal hand expressing from 36 to 38 weeks — YouTube (external link)

Education and support classes

If there are breastfeeding or parenting education classes in your area, these can be very helpful.

Learning about pregnancy, birth and parenting — Ministry of Health (external link)

You could also join a breastfeeding support group such as La Leche League.

La Leche League (external link)