Updated for 2017!
I wrote this post back when I first started my blog. While it's still relevant and my advice remains the same I updated it a tiny bit with what I have learned after three breastfed babies.
Preparing for baby
Before I was pregnant with my first baby I didn't know a thing about breastfeeding, and I had never seen anyone breastfeed in front of me. It was definitely a foreign concept to me. Once pregnant I knew I wanted to breastfeed but I knew nothing! Luckily I had an OB who pointed me in the right direction. Preparing to breastfeed while pregnant is an important step to ensure you get off to a good start.
My OB recommended I take a breastfeeding class and this was probably the most helpful preparation I did while pregnant. I do feel I may not have been successful without the class. I had a lot of challenges once my daughter was born and the class was a foundation that helped prepare me.
Lining up a support system ahead of time is extremely important. Since I took my breastfeeding class at my hospital, I was put in touch with their lactation consultants and breastfeeding facilities before I gave birth. I didn't realize it at the time but this probably made the difference in my breastfeeding success.
I recommend taking a class ahead of time as the number one item you can do to prepare to breastfeed
Find a good lactation consultant or at least find out if the place you are giving birth has them available. Attending a La Leche League meeting ahead of time may be beneficial as well. Read about breastfeeding and try to prepare yourself. Here is a list of good breastfeeding books.
A few early supplies
Once you have a support system in place there are some helpful breastfeeding products to get while you are still pregnant.
I recommend buying at least two nursing bras while still pregnant. Your breast size will change once your milk comes in so don't buy too many beforehand. I found it also changed about 8 weeks postpartum as my supply leveled. I ended up buying many more bras than I needed at various times due to my breast size changing. Waiting to see what you are dealing with is a good idea but get those two to start for the early days.
Other helpful items
Maternity pajamas that convert to nursing pajamas are awesome in the early, lounging around the house weeks but any comfortable ones that allow breastfeeding access will do.
The Boppy pillow was a lifesaver for me and is helpful to have from the beginning.
Some type of nipple cream and gel pads can help with early discomfort.
Nursing pads to contain leaks are helpful. Not everyone leaks, but it is probably worth buying a small amount of disposable or reusable pads just in case.
I bought a pump before my baby was born but it's not always necessary. If you need to pump immediately you can rent a hospital pump and then purchase your own later. If you are pretty sure you will be pumping then you should buy a pump or get one through insurance while still pregnant.
While your body does the majority of the work to get ready for breastfeeding these are just a few items you can pick up to get yourself ready. If you are anything like me then you will find other needs once you adjust to breastfeeding and can pick those up as you go along.
My number one recommendation will always be to prepare while pregnant by taking a breastfeeding class and lining up lactation support. Supplies can always be purchased later, but having support in the early days of breastfeeding is critical. Good luck and please let me know if you have any questions!