A pregnant person sitting on the floor with belly exposed while meditating.   She is wearing a white shirt and grey sweatpants.

How To Practice Breastfeeding Before Baby Is Born

When I was pregnant for the first time, I heard a lot of stories about breastfeeding from those who had been there, done that. These experiences were varied, to say the least, ranging from traumatizing to empowering.  I wondered what made some folks uber successful while others were left teetering on the verge of postpartum mood disorders. On such a vast spectrum, where would I fall?

[I’m going to put this note right up front. Over the following years I learned success had very little to do with the individual person breastfeeding’s physical abilities. Successful breastfeeding is all about the support available in the community, having factual expectations, and the baby’s ability to latch. There are VERY few conditions that innately leave a person unable to produce milk, and they should always be investigated by a medical professional. Issues lie with society, not individuals. So one more time for the folks in the past… if breastfeeding doesn’t go well it is NOT the fault of the person doing the feeding. EVER.]

I wish someone had told me I can practice before the baby is born. So I’m telling you! Here is a guide to practicing breastfeeding while pregnant. Do you have to do it exactly this way? Never! My hope is that you’ll feel inspired and find just one thing that works for you.

Practice Breastfeeding Meditation

Yes!  You can put what you learned in that breastfeeding basics class to early use.  There may be a gap in time between that breastfeeding class and the birth of the baby.  Plus each day in your third trimester feels like a week. So adding visualization into a regular meditation will help keep the information fresh while helping you apply what you learned early. Here’s how: 

  • Start your meditation by focusing on your breath traveling in and out of your body
  • Imagine you and your baby cozy in bed 
  • Go through the latch process you learned in class step by step 
  • Return focus to holding baby in bed, as if breastfeeding has finished
  • Return focus to your breath and end the meditation

Your first time through, might feel a little frustrating with a lot of unknowns and a whole lot of questions like how will it feel to hold your baby? What position will I feel comfortable in? What if the feelings that come up when I hold the baby aren’t love, but fear and confusion? All are ok and all are normal. The certainty will come with repeating the practice over time.  For now, just focus on noticing those thoughts and moving past them. And guess what… these things might also happen when you’re holding your real life baby! Noticing these thoughts and letting them go is a valuable skill you can work on ahead of birth.

The second challenge is remembering all the steps.  Soooo many steps! The first time through, notice what you remember and what you don’t. You can record yourself reciting the steps (cue your best yoga teacher voice) with a pause to allow you to act it out in your visualization. You can also have a sheet with a reminder of each step to peek at. Eventually, each step will become second nature. Again, something you can master now instead of after the baby comes.

Set Up Baby Feeding Areas In Your Home

Sure, someday you might be able to cook dinner while latching your kiddo and folding laundry with your feet.  Totally normal super mom stuff right? (Thanks internet for the inferiority complex). But we all start from step one. And step one involves one or two places in your home where you go to breastfeed.  So go sit there.  For 20 min.  Are you comfortable?  What are the things you need? Are you bored?  You’ll be doing this 8 hrs a day… boredom happens! Think about the things you’ll want in your breastfeeding zones in your home, like water, snacks, pillows and entertainment.

Simulate Latching In Your Baby Feeding Areas

Put it all together now! 

First thing you’ll need is a fake baby. Where does one find a fake baby? Around the house, of course. You can use a large doll, a stuffy, or a lumbar pillow that is approximately baby size. This alone will work just fine, but bonus points if you can figure out how to add some weight. You’ll want approximately 5-10 pounds to get an idea. Maybe cuddle in a 10 lb dumbbell with your fake baby or try a sandbag.

Now that you have your fake baby, practice in each of your feeding spots. Prop yourself with pillows, and try putting your fake baby in position to latch, thinking about where baby would lay comfortably and properly aligned. We love pillows for nursing that double as a pregnancy pillow, but try using what you have around the house first.To truly see where to put your fake baby and what prop you’ll need is to let your breast naturally hang and align from there. Of course, this may change once after birth, but you’ll start to get a general feel. Now that you have fake baby in the right spot, check in and notice your own body.  Are you comfortable, leaning back with relaxed shoulders?  If not, reposition yourself.

Helpful Hint: Plant your feet flat on stool  like this, rather than hanging off a chair or couch.  This takes some of the pressure out of the core to stay upright.

You’re in position, fake baby is comfortable, and you’re comfortable. Mission accomplished, right?  Well not quite.  There are two sides to a coin and two boobs on most bodies, so practice flipping that fake baby over to the other side. Each side is unique, and so positioning your fake baby might change a little. The other breast may hang higer or lower, or perhaps the nipple faces a slightly different direction. Everybody’s different!

And last but not least, try multiple positions. Since you’ll feed 10-12 times a day, variety is key to avoiding aches and pains from the repetition. For newborns, we love cross-cradle and side lying positions.  But our absolute favorite is laid back.  In this position, just lean all the way back and and let baby naturally latch while lying belly to belly. This is by far the most comfortable way to breastfeed, and may also be the most productive for baby, too.

Does Prenatal Practice Make Perfect?

With a little bit of practice you’ll be an expert and have no problems breastfeeding, and everything will feel natural and lovely and flowers will bloom right? Wrong! I wish… but wrong. Breastfeeding takes two people. And trust, right now your baby is practicing in utero by sucking their thumb and swallowing.  But a thumb is not a breast just the same as a pillow is not a baby.  You’ll need time to figure it out together.  You’ll both make mistakes and probably get mad at each other and that's ok. It takes about 6 weeks for breastfeeding to start feeling easier. Considering you’re feeding 10-12 times a day, that's around 450 repetitions before you both settle in. And that's barring any issues like oral restrictions or etc… so seek help early and often.  But practice will get some of your clumsiness out of the way early.  


Your real baby is practicing as we speak, and you should too!

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