Breast changes during pregnancy

How will my breasts change in pregnancy? And, other questions you just have to ask about breastfeeding!  

We are often asked about the changes to expect in pregnancy, and so we decided to dedicate today’s blog post to answer some of the commonly asked questions.

Hands in shape of a heart on a pregnant tummy

Why and how do my breasts change in size and appearance?

Women’s breasts have always fluctuated in size and areola pigmentation in association with their menstrual cycle, however when a baby is conceived often the breasts appear fuller and tender,  the nipples become hypersensitive and for many newly pregnant mums this may be one of the first symptoms of pregnancy even before the pregnancy test. Even to the extent that having a light garment touching can be agony. Wearing a cool hydrogel pad next to the skin may soothe the hypersensitivity and help with that early breast changes which does get better.

As the pregnancy progresses the changes in the breast tissue vary from woman to woman, some have a surge in size from as early as 18 weeks of gestation whilst others women surge occurs later in the third trimester, but by the time baby is term the breasts are ready to start the role for feeding.

Occasionally women notice that the breasts become more ‘see through’ veins and capillaries stand out and this is because your breasts are working hard in making milk cells and ducts for feeding.

Some women experience a sudden growth in size resulting in stretch marks. What is important is to get a well-supported maternity bra that supports the weight of the breast, dispersing any stress on the spine evenly through the straps, whilst also reducing nipple stimulation and tenderness with minimal seams and pressure points. You could massage oils to minimise the stretch marking.  It is advisable to explore changing to a non-underwire bra during your pregnancy. You may need to consider several fittings during your pregnancy to meet your breast changes.

Many mums find that their areola pigmentation darkens as the pregnancy progresses and this helps your newborn baby to find the nipple due to their limited ability to focus and identify shape.


Is it normal to leak breastmilk before baby is born?

For some women the breasts may leak a little colostrum from as early as 18 weeks of pregnancy and this is normal. If it’s more chat to your midwife at your next appointment.

Tips:- wear a bra that doesn’t stimulate the nipple with seams such as the Bravado  seamless cotton bra. Wear bra pads and change them throughout the day so that your skin is dry and keep your nipples healthy.


Can I prepare my breast/ nipples and breast for feeding before baby is born?

Not really, the preparation is wearing the right bra so that the weight of the breast is evenly distributed as your ligaments are soft with the pregnancy hormones.

Get lots of advice and find out where the areas in your local areas support breastfeeding mummies.

You may find a local breastfeeding group running drop in café’s so visit them before baby is born so it’s a familiar face and ask for tips and advice.

If you have inverted nipples then you can tease the nipple out in the last trimester with nipple formers but wait until after baby is born to use a pump.


I have inverted nipples can I breastfeed?

Yes you can but you may need additional support. You may find that with nipple stimulation – your nipple will protrude enough so that baby can latch on. Hand expressing a little before you latch baby on can assist with this or using a manual breastpump, and you could use a nipple shield to support a latch.

You can also try Medela nipple formers placed in your maternity bra from 34 weeks gestation to help stretch the cooper ligaments to assist with the nipple to protrude.  You wear these also after birth before feeds.


I’ve heard about Antenatal colostrum collection what is this ?

On the advice of your midwife or specialist diabetic nurse you may be encouraged to express a little colostrum before baby is born from 35 weeks gestation 2-3 times a day by hand expressing. This means that if your baby has difficulties after birth to maintain their blood sugars you have a little milk available to give in addition to breastfeeds. This needs to be talked through with your midwife and labour ward as the milk has to be carefully handled and maintained to ensure that it is safe to use.


Does Breastfeeding give you ‘Saggy Boobs’

No, the changes in your body from the pregnancy hormones ‘progesterone’ relaxes the smooth muscles and ligaments giving that increased stretch. Without this fab hormone women’s pelvis’ wouldn’t allow baby’s head to move down the birth canal but it affects all the muscles and ligaments and this is why it is important to lift and maintain a good position and posture  when moving etc.  if you smoke or previously have then you natural elasticity is compromised so a combination of pregnancy and life style choices affect all pregnant women breast shape.


Can all women breastfeed?

It is very rare for a woman not to be able to produce breastmilk for her baby. When this occurs it is often a medical condition around hormone regulation during puberty. The triggers for milk coming in is the process of birth with the delivery of the placenta and then breastfeeding frequently with baby actively sucking and swallowing of milk. Feeding shouldn’t hurt but may be a little tender in the early days as the nipples adapt to feeding.


 Top buys for getting ready to breast feed

  • A good supporting bra – you may need regular bra fitting & review.
  • Hydrogel pads in the early weeks if your nipples are ultra sensitive.
  • Bra pads if there is milk leakage.