Breasts Changes And Care During Pregnancy And Nursing

Breasts Changes During Pregnancy And Nursing And How You Can Be Proactive

    In this post I will cover the changes you can expect during pregnancy, nursing and beyond; and suggest tips on how to take care of your boobs during that time.

    Most women ask what will their breast size be after pregnancy and nursing? The answer is: this differs from woman to woman. There is no rule about how much your breasts will grow during pregnancy and whether they will get back to their current size or not. I am saying this based on talks with friends and reading tons of forum discussions about this topic. Some women end up with their pre-pregnancy size, some with bigger breasts and some with smaller. You can ask your mom how it was for her, but there is no warranty that your boob-genes are inherited from your mom's side of your family.

Breast Changes During Pregnancy

     Your boobs will probably grow during pregnancy, though it is impossible to predict whether it will be one size or several. In my case it was around 5 sizes (approximately, since my pre-pregnancy bras were so terribly fitted that I can only guess what my real size was -- probably a 28B). It is possible that your breasts will grow in leaps and jumps, and that the process will not be entirely comfortable.
      Also the nipples might change -- grow in size, darken in colour. They might look like huge bull's eyes -- don't worry, that usually changes back after weaning.

Taking care of your breasts during pregnancy

     Most of damage happens to breasts during pregnancy, not nursing! This is really important to remember. Doing a couple of things for your breasts now might spare you tons of tears later on.

Wear correctly fitting bras:
   The most important thing you can do is always wear correctly-fitting bras, keeping up with your growing cup sizes. This might sound expensive, but it's still way cheaper than a breast augumentation -- and so worth it in terms of both looks and comfort. (If you want to be thrifty, you can turn them into nursing bras when the baby comes, or re-sell them -- or even buy nursing bras in the first place).

Wear good bras:
   I have covered in detail about which bras are best, but I'll write again the most important points: do not wear they typical stretchy maternity bras, they will not support you at all. The cups should not be made of stretchy material! The band needs to be snug. It is possible that at the end of the pregnancy you will need a bigger band because your ribs will open up a bit, but I usually recommend band extenders at this point (especially because the ribs go back to previous width a week or two after giving birth).

Wear a bra at night:
    You will probably need all the support you can get, especially if you are rapidly gaining cup sizes. If you are comfortable doing so, wear a bra even while sleeping.

How to avoid stretchmarks:
    Stretchmarks -- of course you wanted to know about this. I got a lot, and my skin itched like crazy before they appeared. To minimise the risk of getting stretchmarks you need to wear supportive bras, and you should moisturise your breasts twice a day (I wasn't dilligent enough and I regret it now). Look for products that increase the skin's elasticity -- not anything that is firming. An oil mix of wheatgerm oil, almond oil and jojoba oil with a capsule of vit E in works well. Gently massage the product into your skin, so that it gets relaxed and very gently stretched (do your belly, thighs and butt while you are about it, that's where stretchmarks appear pretty often). Also, zinc makes the skin more elastic by helping with collagen production, so you might want to eat foods rich in zinc ( or ask your doc whether you can eat supplements).

Prepare your nipples
    This was a great tip from my midwife -- toughen up your nips in advance and you'll have it easier while nursing. Brush them with a natural body brush every day -- start gently and get a bit harder gradually.

Breast Changes During Nursing:

   There is a myth that nursing damages boobs -- in reality most of the damage happens during pregnancy, that is when the boobs grow. If you are trying to decide whether to nurse or not, try to nurse your baby for at least a week -- that way it gets a lot of antibodies from you that gives it a running start in life.
      Nursing does make the boobs smaller (usually), though there is no telling whether they will return to their pre-pregnancy size, or smaller, or bigger. Also, the nipples might start to stick-out a bit (or more than a bit). Inverted nipples might become extroverted. Some women who nursed for two years or so found that it was too much of a strain for their boobs, which looked very "empty" afterwards.

Nurse carefully
    Generally, try to teach your baby to not tug or pull at the breasts. It may look cute and harmless, but it is seriously not funny when a much older and stronger baby is trying to turn around and look at dad while still keeping mom's nipple in his mouth. Especially if he already has teeth. Obviously it helps to nurse in a quiet space, but there are some babies which just think that breasts are another thing to play with. Every time the baby does something like that (or bites you), insert your pinkie finger in the corner of it's mouth to break the suction and remove your boob. Allow the baby to latch on again if it wants to. You can start this after 6 weeks, when the baby is aware enough of the world around.

Taking care of your breasts during nursing

      Boobs at the beginning of nursing  are very swollen and sore. Now, for some women nursing comes really easily, for others it can be really hard (like for me). If you are having a hard time, you might want to contact an experienced midwife, or La Leche League. Read up on how to soothe swollen breasts (massage, cream cheese, cold cabbage leaves) as well as the fever and mood swings that appear during the onset of milk. Nipple shields and lanolin do wonders if you have sore nipples. And, most importantly -- remember even if the beginning is confusing and not easy, it's all downhil from here.

Choose your nursing bras wisely:
    Again, well-fitting bras are a must. Most typical nursing bras are terrible -- they support nothing and are way too stretchy. Here is a list of brands that make good nursing bras. Again, I really recommend splurging here and saving for other stuff. For example a baby really does not need brand new clothes -- and besides second-hand stuff has the advantage of having the toxins washed out (this is also why you should wash new baby stuff several times before you put in on the baby -- baby skin is extremely thin and sensitive!)

Stretch marks
    If you haven't got any so far, you still need to be careful during the first weeks of nursing. If you already got them, now is the time to get rid of them. If they are still red, they are fresh and easier to get rid off that when they have turned silver. Now, massaging and brushing of the skin is much more important than the product you use. A lot of women report thicker and heavier products to be more effective -- this is because such a product forces them to massage longer than a product that sinks in instantly.
     Be very careful about what you apply on the breasts since a lot of stuff might go into the milk! Also, avoid the nipples and just to be on the safe side wash your nipples before nursing. If you can't find a stretchmark product that is safe for the baby, you can use the same oil mixture that I recommended earlier, or shea butter. Anyway, massage thoroughly, twice a day. You can also brush the skin -- gently with a delicate brush, and void the nipples.

Avoiding asymmetry
     If your baby decides it prefers one boob to another, it can lead to light to severe asymmetry after months of nursing! The more used boob will end up bigger in the end. Watch out for early signs of this, and deal with it before it becomes a fixed habit for your baby (this piece of advice can actually be applied to everything about kids). The problem can lie in the way you are holding the baby -- try to put a pillow under it so that it is more comfortable (the "moon-shaped" pillows with styropore in them are the best thing ever!) Or, the baby might have a "stiff neck" and find it hard to turn its head one way due to lying in the womb in a weird position. Try putting interesting toys on the "difficult" side of the baby, to encourage it to turn its head that way. Also, here is an easy trick -- give the least preferred boob to your baby first -- chances are it will be too hungry to notice. Finally, experiment with nursing positions -- you can trick the baby with the "football hold".
   Obviously if you already have an asymmetry, you can use nursing to even this out. Try to make the baby nurse out of the smaller boob more than out of the bigger boob, or if you can't manage that, pump a little out of the smaller boob after nursing.

Loosing weight sensibly
     Rapid weight loss is not good for the boobs: recommend loosing not more than a kilo a week -- that way the skin has time to shrink back. Also, eating healthy (lots of fruit and veggies) while loosing weight is important -- skin elasticity very much depends on how much minerals and vitamins you are getting.

Breast Changes After Weaning:

   (Or after pregnancy, in case of choosing not to nurse). You didn't think it's over yet, did you? It takes at least 9 months and up to 2 years for the body to completely recover after having a baby. Bones will shift around, hormone levels will change, muscles will get stronger. And boobs change too. Most "pep up" a bit after nursing. The areolas usually shrink a bit and return to their old colour. Stretch marks fade and become less visible.

What you can do:
    After weaning you can get a proper strechmark cream. Remember that it takes 1-2 years to lighten scars, so don't give up. Persistance is key here! Of course, you should also watch out for changes in breast size and buy different sized bras if necessary.

More: here is a great round-up of maternity bloggers and posts.

   That's all from me. I'd love it if other experienced mommies chimed in with their experiences and tip!

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