Ask Our Experts: How Do I Prepare to Breastfeed While Pregnant?

Cathy McCormick

NDC Possum Clinic Practitioner, Midwife and Lactation Consultant, Cathy McCormick from HolisticBaby offers her advice.

Q: I’m hapū and due to have my pēpi at the end of August. I keep hearing from friends how hard breastfeeding can be to start with and I’m scared I won’t be able to do it. Do you have any advice for starting out?


NDC Possum Clinic Practitioner, Midwife and Lactation Consultant, Cathy McCormick from HolisticBaby offers her advice.


When we are pregnant, most māmā find that others like to share their baby experiences like their breastfeeding journey. They want to make us feel empowered, but it can actually make us feel worried and anxious. Then our brains start to talk quite loudly, which can be unhelpful as it tries to start telling us stories when we haven’t had the experience yet.


A mother’s hormones know how to make milk and respond to her baby’s cues and our pēpi has biological reflexes to help them find the breast and latch on. This creates a physical, biochemical, hormonal, and psychosocial exchange designed for the transfer of breastmilk, as well as for building a lasting attachment bond between māmā and pēpi.


At the same time, learning to breastfeed your pēpi is a new skill, just like riding a bike or learning something new.


For most people learning something new can be challenging and most people need to practice before it gets easier.


To help us feel confident, there are plenty of ways we can prepare and ‘practice’ breastfeeding before our pēpi arrives:

  • After a warm shower practice hand expressing so you know your breasts and how they feel, you may even see colostrum the first milk ‘liquid gold’.
  • Learn about reverse pressure softening this can also be helpful when your breasts are full and your baby is struggling to latch.
  • Take a breastfeeding class. Most hospitals have them or you can talk to your midwife or see a lactation consultant before baby is born.
  • Talk to other māmā who are breastfeeding about what they did to make it easier.
  • Ask whānau in advance to help once baby arrives, so you can recover from the birth and focus on your pēpi.


Once baby arrives, I highly recommend doing lots of skin-to-skin in the first few days, weeks, and months especially if you feel anxious as this often helps you and pēpi relax.


It is also good to be aware of what might happen in the first few days / weeks so you can be prepared:

  • Some māmā and pepi will find breastfeeding more difficult – especially after some births.
  • Most mothers find their breasts and nipples sensitive in the first few weeks as baby learns to breastfeed and their milk is coming in.
  • Most babies do nights of cluster feeding which is important as it encourages your milk to come in but can feel overwhelming (and exhausting). When this happens it’s a good idea to ask for a bit of extra help from whānau.
  • After baby has breastfed, look at your nipples, they should look the same before baby fed. If they are misshapen, elongated, damaged skin or grazed ask for help early to get a deeper latch.
  • The best nipple cream is breastmilk as it contains lots of antibacterial properties and can help heal any grazes. It’s also free! Just hand express out some after a feed and rub on your nipples. You can also use coconut oil, lanolin creams and other natural nipple creams.
  • Knowing how to hand express can be helpful if your baby struggles to latch at birth, when your breasts are full, or your nipples are sore. Hand expressing in the early days will allow you to give baby milk on a teaspoon or in a small cup.
  • Knowing how to do ‘Reverse Pressure Softening’ can help if your breasts are full or baby is struggling to get a deep latch.
  • If your nipples become very sore and you need to make it more comfortable consider trying a nipple shield, this can be a temporary support while you are both learning to make feeding more comfortable, but consult with your Midwife or a Lactation Consultant to ensure you have the right size and technique.
  • If you have a painful nipple sometimes taking a break and pumping while it heals can be helpful. Then you can slowly go back to offering breastfeeding. Consult with your Midwife or a Lactation Consultant about how to do this and how to feed baby any expressed milk.


Lastly try to stay calm, relax and respond to your pēpi in a caring way. Taking time to care for yourself and your baby with relaxing cuddles, gentle walks, fresh air and kind words. Regardless of the journey and hurdles you are still having moments of talking, caring and responding to your baby, telling your baby they are loved. You are making memories, learning about each other, working as a team.


For further support, you can contact HolisticBaby they have lactation consultants and Mother Support Groups which help build community and support mums. They also offer home, clinic, Telehealth appointments and ZOOM appointments. You can also follow Cathy on Instagram @holisticbaby. and to find useful supportive information go to

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