If you’re thinking about breastfeeding, then you may well have questions during your pregnancy and in the run up to your baby’s birth.  We have the answers to some frequently asked questions from Medela‘s Lactation Expert, Sioned Hilton, who has been working with breastfeeding mums for more than 20 years.

Is it normal to be leaking milk when pregnant?

  • Some mothers will leak milk from as early as 16 weeks; using breast pads may assist you to manage this. The milk is colostrum which appears yellow and creamy. Rub a little of this milk into your nipples to keep them healthy and change pads frequently throughout the day.

My breasts are very sensitive and sore?

  • Breasts start to change from the moment of conception; this is to develop breast tissue in order for you to make milk for your baby as soon as he is born. It is common in the early trimester to find the nipples very sensitive and the breasts become fuller. It may be helpful to wear a good supporting bra, that is not underwired or with seams. A sleep bra may be used during the day if mums find that these are more comfortable. Hydrogel pads and nipple shells may relieve contact from clothing allowing air to circulate

Do I need to do anything to my breasts during pregnancy?

  •  Your breasts will change over the duration of your pregnancy In the early days you may find that they are more sensitive and fuller. Wearing a good supporting bra will support the breast changes. If you have inverted nipples there are  products available from 34 weeks gestation to assist nipple overtion. Some ladies will leak milk in the mid to third  trimester – wearing a bra pads will assist the management of this. Applying a  moisturiser during pregnancy will keep the skin supple and some products may reduce the intensity of stretch-marks due to pregnancy.

Can I still use my normal moisturiser?

  • During the antenatal period this is fine. Just before your due date it is advisable for you to stop applying moisturiser to the breast and nipples. There are tiny Montgomery glands that provide natural moisturiser to the nipple to keep them clean and healthy. They also secrete a unique breast smell that your baby will identify and will assist with latching on – a natural flight path for establishing breastfeeding.

Why are my breasts growing so early?

  • Your breasts have been changing from puberty. With your monthly menstruation cycle the breasts start to prepare for conception. With conception they continue to develop glandular tissue containing milk making cells and pathways right through to delivery of the baby following a 9 month pregnancy.

If I have a premature birth can I still breastfeed?

  • The breasts develop from the moment of conception in  preparation to breast feed. Milk starts to be produced from as early as 16 weeks gestation but many mothers are unaware of this. Mothers of babies who have even the earliest and smallest premature babies can express their milk. The health giving benefits of breastmilk is life saving for premature babies protecting them from life threatening infections, supporting brain and eye development, and is unique to the baby nutritional and immunological needs. Mothers of premature babies will be encouraged to express their milk often for a while until their baby is well enough and ready to start to feed at the breast.

Will the milk be ready as soon as I need it?

  • Throughout your pregnancy you have provided all the nutrition your baby needs for growth and development. Breastfeeding is essentially the fourth trimester of pregnancy. At birth your baby will be delivered and offered to you for skin to skin nursing. Your midwife will deliver your placenta. Removing the placenta after birth triggers the hormones for making milk but in the meantime your breasts will have small amounts of colostrum available to feed your baby instantly. At birth your baby’s tummy will only hold about 5-7mls of milk – this is why babies feed
    frequently in the early days. This milk is full of calories, antibodies and growth hormones to protect your baby to the outside world and supports your baby’s immature digestive system to absorb and digest milk and to expel the sticky tar meconium stool. Around day 2-3 more milk will be made and it will become more white and watery. Your baby will still be feeding frequently. Your breasts will be fuller and a little tender. Around day 3-5 your milk will have come in.

Do I need to change my diet in preparation for breastfeeding?

  •  A normal and healthy balanced diet is encouraged throughout your pregnancy. A balance of oily fish will support the transfer of fatty acids such as the omega 3, AAA, DHA essential for brain development. A healthy intake of calcium enriched foods supports mums bone density. Fruit and vegetables provide the vitamins and minerals. Carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread, cereals support mums digestion. Further dietary advice can be sought from your midwife.

Can I breastfeed if I have has breast surgery?

  • Breast enlargement / reduction are more common and ladies who consider surgery before pregnancy should seek a reputable cosmetic surgeon; and if possible delay surgery until after pregnancy as pregnancy can change breast size.Most breast enlargements involve placing the insert behind the breast tissue. This method supports breastfeeding. Ladies who have enlargement need to ensure they have a good supporting bra, and following delivery try different positions when feeding the baby and observe the breasts for fullness and engorgement.Ladies who have a breast reduction or seek to have one should discuss with their surgeon if they can keep the nipple attached during the surgery. Reduction involves removing breast tissue and fat. Milk production relies upon the nerves from the nipple through the spinal cord to the brain
    and back again for delivery of milk to the baby. Severing the nerves
    and detaching the nipple and blood supply will lead to reduced if limited
    nerve signals and breastfeeding may be difficult and supplementation
    may be required.