Newborns Breastfeeding Breasts Pregnancy

A pregnant woman’s body undergoes a number of changes as it prepares to give birth to a baby. Most noticeably, a woman’s abdomen expands and bulges as her uterus grows to support the growing fetus. In addition, a pregnant woman’s breasts will often enlarge as they prepare to produce breast milk.

One of the first signs of pregnancy is sore breasts. As early as a few weeks after conception, a woman might notice her nipples are sore or that her breasts are swollen. Often, many women who don’t know they are pregnant will attribute these breast changes to upcoming menstruation.

In general, most pregnant women will experience breast tenderness approximately four to six weeks into their pregnancy. Expect this symptom to last throughout the first three months of pregnancy, the time period referred to as your first trimester. To help reduce breast tenderness, wear a well-fitting support bra.

As the pregnancy progresses, a woman can expect her breasts to grow. In fact, some women’s breasts will grow one or more cup sizes during pregnancy. This is especially true for the first pregnancy. During subsequent pregnancies, many women’s breasts will not experience such dramatic growth.

Breast growth occurs as the fat layer and the milk glands in the breast increase in preparation for breastfeeding.

Throughout the pregnancy, many women report the following breast changes:

  • Enlarged Nipples
  • Itching
  • Leakage
  • Prominent Veins
  • Small Bumps around the Areola
  • Stretch Marks.

After giving birth, a woman can expect to start producing colostrum. Colostrum nourishes the baby until breast milk comes in. Most pregnant women will begin producing breast milk around three days after giving birth.

Sometimes, women’s breasts will become engorged when their milk comes in. Breasts become engorged when the breasts overfill with milk, generally caused when the milk supply develops but the infant doesn’t have a regular breastfeeding routine.

Engorged breasts can be extremely painful. To prevent breast engorgement, breast feed your baby whenever he is hungry and empty your breasts with each feeding. If necessary, use a breast pump to drain your milk supply.

To reduce the pain and swelling associated with engorgement, take ibuprofen, apply ice packs and wear a supportive nursing bra.

In this section we’ll give you tips on caring for your breasts before, during and after your pregnancy. We’ll also offer tips on breastfeeding and weaning your baby.

Breast Care while Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding moms know that breast care changes after giving birth. The breasts undergo many changes during pregnancy and continue to change as a woman’s milk supply comes in and her baby begins nursing.

While you are breastfeeding, you’ll want to take care to keep your breasts and nipples clean. However, the way in which you clean your breasts while you are breastfeeding will be different from routine breast care.

Weaning Your Baby

Weaning refers to time the period during which your baby gradually transitions from breast milk to other foods. Weaning can be a stressful time for both mother and child. By weaning over a period of several weeks however, you can ensure success.

Resources

Healthwise, Inc. (updated July 11, 2005). Breast Engorgement – Topic Overview. Retrieved October 15, 2007, from the WebMD Web site: http://www.webmd.com/baby/tc/breast-engorgement-topic-overview.

Women’s Health Care Topics (2004-2007). Breast Changes During Pregnancy. Retrieved October 15, 2007, from the Women’s Health Care Topics Web site: http://www.womenshealthcaretopics.com/preg_breast_changes.htm.

University of Michigan Health System (n.d.). Breast Changes. Retrieved October 15, 2007, from the Smart Moms, Healthy Babies Web site: http://www.med.umich.edu/obgyn/smartmoms/pregnancy/discomforts/breastchange.htm.