Many expectant moms are curious how to prepare for breastfeeding. The truth is, your body is doing most of the work without you having to even think about it. It is wise to take a breastfeeding class, read up on breastfeeding and buy a few supplies like nursing bras, but other than that, your body knows what to do. Just like many of the other miraculous things that are happening during the sacred nine months, your body prepares for breastfeeding during pregnancy naturally. Today we’re going to explain what is happening as your body prepares for breastfeeding during pregnancy.
Pregnancy alters your body in many ways and most of it is due to an increase of hormones in both type and quantity. Early in pregnancy you’ll probably notice that your breasts are larger and more tender than usual. As your pregnancy continues, breast sensitivity usually lets up but may rear its uncomfortable head closer to the end of your pregnancy. This is by design because your body is prepping for on-demand feeding. Whenever your nipples are stimulated, your body will release oxytocin that will supply milk to you baby.
By the end of your first trimester, hormones including estrogen, progesterone, prolactin and human growth hormone are swirling around like a windstorm. Among other life-sustaining roles they play for your baby’s growth and development, they are also helping as your body prepares for breastfeeding during pregnancy. Hormones are responsible for creating milk ducts and replacing the fatty tissue in your breasts with cells that produce milk glands. This sometimes releases adhesions that cause inverted or flat nipples as normal breast tissue loosens and becomes more elastic.
Your body is able to produce breast milk by the end of the second trimester although you may not be able to express it (unless your baby is born prematurely) due to high levels of progesterone during pregnancy. As you round the corner to the end of your third trimester, you may be able to squeeze your nipple and express colostrum, the seedy milk-like substance that your baby will consume for the first few days of life.
Throughout your pregnancy you may notice that your nipples and the area around your nipples, the areola, are becoming larger and darker. This change in color will help your baby find your nipple to breastfeed when her newborn eyes are not able to focus clearly or see very far. Yes, your nipples have become a target and your baby will get very good at hitting the bull’s-eye.
Also, you may notice bumps around your areola. These are called Montgomery glands. Towards the end of pregnancy you may notice an oily substance coming from the bumps. This is to soften your skin in preparation for breastfeeding.
As soon as you feel discomfort in your bras either due to sensitivity or larger breasts, purchase nursing bras. This way you’ll have the support and fit you need for the rest of your pregnancy and as you start breastfeeding. Comfort and accessibility for ease of breastfeeding are vital so select styles that are stretchy and flexible for daytime and nighttime nursing. Sleep and leisure nursing bras or nursing camis often work well for new moms.
You already know your body is an extraordinary vessel. The fact that it is growing and sustaining a new life is nothing short of amazing. But when your baby arrives you will soon realize that the entire experience gets even more awesome as you begin your breastfeeding journey. Your body prepares for breastfeeding during pregnancy to allow you a fulfilling, healthy and nurturing relationship with your baby from the moment she is born. Enjoy every precious moment!