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How Will Pregnancy Affect My Breasts?

As you know, your breasts are designed to serve a basic and natural function – feeding your newborn child. Since most girls begin to develop breasts early in puberty, by the time you start having children you’ve had breasts for a number of years and may not have given their biological function much thought. Then, along comes pregnancy and the breasts you know may begin to change in surprising and unfamiliar ways.

How Will Pregnancy Affect My Breasts?Once you become pregnant your body starts producing hormones that begin to prepare your breasts for the job ahead. Your breasts’ fatty tissue is filled with a network of lobules and ducts that enable your body to produce and deliver milk to your baby. As these pregnancy hormones begin coursing through your body, these ducts and lobules increase in both size and number, causing an increase in breast tenderness and swelling. Your nipples may also increase in size and can darken or appear more veiny. Some women will develop small, pimple-like protrusions as well. These are Montgomery’s Tubercles, oil-producing glands that are believed to secrete an anti-bacterial lubricant that helps keep the skin around the nipples healthy for breastfeeding.

Talk with your AOA provider about taking a class to prepare for breastfeeding. A class can provide tips that help you avoid some common complaints with breastfeeding, such as sore and cracked nipples, engorgement, plugged ducts and infection. Taking a class can set your mind at ease and increase your confidence, by showing you how to position your baby and giving you insights on what to expect. Women who take breast-feeding classes are more likely to be successful. Classes can also be a good way to bond with other pregnant women and create a support group for after your baby is born.

In the final stages of pregnancy your breasts may begin to leak a thin, golden colored fluid called colostrum. This is the first milk you will produce and it is produced in teaspoons rather than ounces. It is high in proteins and antibodies that help build up your newborn’s immunity. Within a few weeks your body will transition to producing mature milk, which you will produce in the higher volume that your child will need.

When you’re breastfeeding, you may experience what’s known as “let down” – often accompanied by a tingling sensation. This is when your breasts are full and ready to express the milk. Triggered by sucking, some women also experience “let down” in a warm shower, or if they hear a baby crying. As you get your child on a schedule your breasts will adjust and produce the milk you need to feed your child. Many women will also express extra milk to refrigerate for use by the father or another caregiver.

As your baby begins to transition to solid food, you will begin nursing less and less. The extra ducts and lobules will begin to regress and your breasts will return to their normal size and your nipples will return to their normal color. Not every woman’s breasts will return to their pre-pregnancy perkiness, but the changes should be minimal.

If you are pregnant or planning for a pregnancy, talk with your AOA provider about how to keep your breasts healthy and how to best prepare for the job that your breasts were designed to do.

Learn more about changes to your breasts during pregnancy: