There are so many changes that we experience during pregnancy - shifting priorities, new emotions, and physical changes.
As women, we’re no strangers to change. After all, during puberty our bodies changed a lot… heck each month our bodies change with our cycle. One noticeable change during puberty is breast development… but did you know that breasts aren’t actually fully developed until pregnancy? In fact, there are many changes that happen to the breasts during pregnancy.
It is no secret that breast tenderness is one of the early signs of pregnancy. This is because your breasts are literally beginning the process of developing more breast tissue…
So your breasts are essentially made up of glandular tissue and fat. During pregnancy, a healthy woman will create more breast tissue leading to growth in breast size.
During the early days, many women report these sensations of tenderness along with noticing “road map veins”. This is due to the increased blood flow in the body in early pregnancy, specifically to the breasts for growth.
Breast growth will happen at a different rate for everyone. It doesn’t really matter how much your breasts change, but rather it is important that you do notice some changes in your breasts. Sometimes women with hormonal disorders such as thyroid conditions, diabetes, or PCOS will experience little to no breast growth in pregnancy. While this may be their own normal, it is a red flag that breast milk production may be challenging, so it is ideal to consult prenatally with a lactation consultant to develop a plan for reaching your breastfeeding goals.
Beyond breast tenderness and growth, many women will begin to notice changes in the nipples.
The areola may appear to grow in size, the nipples may darken, and Montgomery’s glands may become more prominent.
What does all this mean and why does it happen?
Well, to breastfeed your baby of course!
When infants are born, they have very poor vision. They cannot easily distinguish details and are very near sighted (their depth of vision is about 20cm, approximately the same distance from the mother’s breast to her face).
When you’re nearly blind and hungry, wouldn’t it be helpful to have a giant target on your food source? That’s essentially what the nipple/areola darkening serves as: a giant target for baby to find his/her food.
Okay, that makes sense… but what are Montgomery’s glands?
Have you ever noticed little bumps around the base of your nipple? Those are Montgomerys glands. They secrete an “oil” that lubricates the nipple to improve breastfeeding ease, and has antibacterial properties! Furthermore, the secretions contain scents that lure your baby to the breast encouraging them to feed.
Our bodies are literally so amazing!
Beyond just visual changes and sensation changes, some mothers notice functional changes… I’m talking about “discharge”. Some women will experience no nipples discharge whatsoever, others may experience a thick crust forming over the nipple, and others yet might experience full out leaking of fluid. This, my lovely MamaBears, is colostrum! There are few studies done on prenatal colostrum and it is undetermined how “nutritious” it is or isn’t, but this is very similar to the “first milk” you will make after your baby is born.
Next month I will share more information about colostrum and prenatal expression with you, but for now, I want you to know one thing about colostrum in pregnancy: It’s normal to have it, it’s normal to not. This will not indicate anything about your breastfeeding experience once your baby arrives.
So moral of the story, if you just found out you’re pregnant, don’t be surprised if your breasts suddenly are larger, nipples darker, and leaking some mysterious fluids. You might even grow some hair around your nipples! And that’s totally normal!
If you haven’t already, check out the MamaBear Resource Library for a bunch of freebies for pregnant MamaBears! From birth affirmations to breastfeeding tips, there are tons of information nuggets available to you and I’m always adding more!
Jaimie Zaki is a military wife, mother, doula, birth photographer and IBCLC (lactation consultant). Jaimie is the owner of Little Bear Services LLC where she helps women birth and breastfeed with confidence. Jaimie offers online classes, private prenatal support, and postpartum breastfeeding support. Jaimie has been featured in publications such as VeryWellFamily, Healthline, TheBump, and more! Jaimie has personal experience with cesarean birth, a medicated VBAC in the hospital, and an unmediated home birth, in addition to personal experience breastfeeding through tongue tie and other common breastfeeding challenges. If you’re looking for someone to guide you through your pregnancy, birth planning, and breastfeeding, email Jaimie at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free 30 minute consultation to learn how she can help you tap into your inner Fierce MamaBear.