With breastfeeding nothing is more important than getting off to a good start. A rough start can be overcome, but as a sleep deprived postpartum mom you want to avoid it if at all possible.
What exactly is a good start? I would define a good start as appropriate weight gain by baby, not
supplementing with formula, and a good latch which means no pain for
1) It is helpful to know if you have protruding, flat, or inverted nipples. Prior to breastfeeding, nipples are perceived as only sexual and so women often have no idea which type of nipple they have. By the way, inverted nipples are not inverted all the time, they go in instead of out when compressed for breastfeeding. Check out Anne Smith's directions and photos if you want to check whether you have flat or inverted nipples. Wearing breast shells for a few hours a day during the last trimester can really help if you have inverted nipples.
2) Watch someone else latch a newborn (30 days old or less)
3) Get educated. Know what's normal for breastfeeding newborns. If you know that it is
normal for breastfeeding newborns to lose 10% of their weight the first
week, it is not as scary. Knowing that babies digest breastmilk in two hours and that they should be hungry an hour and half after you started the last feeding will make the whole process easier. So what should you know?
Normal weight loss/gain
Signs of Hunger
Newborn reflexes and how they can affect latch
4) Write your birth plan. This does not have to be elaborate. Actually I think that the more simply they are the more the nurses are able to accommodate them. But consider putting in it what your plans are for feedings, rooming in, supplementing with formula, and pacifiers. If you have inverted nipples it would be a good idea to request that a breast pump be available immediately after birth.
5) Find your cheerleader. If things are great and easy, your husband may be the only cheerleader you need. But having a friend, mother, mother-in-law, or sister who has done this before may be what keeps you going if things get a little rough. And remember, you are not the only one learning how to do this. Baby is too.
1) Get baby to breast within 30 minutes of birth if at all possible. Why? So they don't "forget" how to do the birth crawl.
2) It is not supposed to hurt. If it does, get a lactation consultant to help with latch. If your nipple looks like a new tube of lipstick after baby comes off the breast, latch isn't good enough. With enough feedings this will turn to a cracked or bruised nipple.
3) Room in (so you don't miss early signs of hunger)
4) Keep a log of wet and poopy diapers and time at the breast until baby is back to birth weight.
5) Drink enough water and be sure to feed yourself. Sleep whenever you can.