When you’re going to have a baby, you expect your body to go through some pretty big changes. You know that your belly will grow bigger, your hair should look shinier, and your skin may even have that much talked-about “pregnancy glow.”
But that’s not all. You may be surprised to know that your breasts will go through many changes, too, even beyond after your little one arrives.
Many women find that their breasts feel sensitive very early in pregnancy. (For some women, this is the first hint that they're pregnant.) If your breasts tingle or feel tender to the touch, that’s normal. It’s a common side effect from all of the extra hormones running through your body. If you notice any lumps at any point, though, tell your doctor, so you can find out what it is.
The hormones in your system may change the way your breasts look while you’re pregnant. Many women find that the areola -- the area around the nipple -- gets darker during pregnancy. This is normal. The color may or may not lighten after you give birth.
You may notice new blue veins just beneath the surface of your breast skin. This, too, is normal. It happens because the body boosts its blood supply to your breasts when you’re pregnant.
Let your doctor know about other skin changes.
You’ll probably want to buy some new bras, because your breasts may go up a size or two while you’re pregnant. It might happen during the first trimester, as your body builds up fat stores, or later, as your body prepares for breastfeeding.
If you need new bras, try pregnancy or maternity bras, which offer soft comfort and support, often without wires. You can even wear them to sleep at night.
Your growing belly isn’t the only place where you may get stretch marks. They may appear on your breasts as they grow larger.
The growing may make your skin itch, too. Moisturizer or lotion may soothe the itching, but there’s no product that can make stretch marks disappear. They should fade, though, after your baby is born.
Toward the very end of pregnancy, some women begin to leak pale yellow liquid from their breasts. The liquid is called colostrum, and it’s what your breasts make to nourish your baby until they’re 2 or 3 days old. (That’s when your breast milk comes in.)
If you leak, breast pads can keep your shirt from getting wet. Tell your doctor if you have any other type of discharge from your nipples, in case it’s not normal.
When your newborn is a few days old, your breasts will start to make milk. When this happens, your breasts may swell with so much milk, it can feel painful. (This is called engorgement.)
Once your baby eats some milk, it eases the pain and swelling, until you make more milk. It may take your body a few days to figure out how much to make, based on how much your baby eats, before you get some relief from this cycle. To curb some of the pain of engorgement, put warm, wet washcloths or chilled cabbage leaves on your breasts.
It’s normal to feel a tingle in your breasts when you’re about to feed your baby. This is your body’s response to cues that it’s time for your baby to eat. A rush of milk fills your breasts, and the flow can make them tingle. Over time, the strong tingling feeling should feel much less intense.
Breastfeeding is natural, but it takes time for both Mom and Baby to figure things out. If your little one doesn’t latch on right, they may make your nipples sore when they eat.
You can soothe pain with nipple cream or rub breast milk over your nipples after your baby eats, then let it air-dry. If the pain doesn’t stop, ask your pediatrician for help with your technique. Or see a lactation consultant, who teaches moms and babies how to breastfeed correctly.
You may leak milk when your breasts are engorged or between feedings. Sometimes, when your baby latches onto one breast, your other one may leak milk. This is all normal, and it should happen less often the longer your nurse your baby. If you leak, you may want to wear breast pads daily, to prevent milk stains on your shirt.
Sometimes, a milk duct can get clogged, which can lead to an infection that doctors call mastitis. Signs include a fever, soreness, and red streaks on your breast. The area above the clogged duct may feel hot to the touch.
Call your doctor if you think you have mastitis. They can check to see what the problem is and whether you’ll need to take antibiotics to get better.