With pregnancy, you'll experience plenty of body changes. After your baby is born, you'll expect your body to be different, but that focus is usually on your tummy and hips, skin and hair. Postpartum breasts, breastfeeding or not, will linger with changes for a couple months after your baby is born. These changes need to be anticipated for optimal breast health.
1. Nipple changes: During pregnancy, you'll notice your nipples becoming larger and darker as you progress. Once baby comes, they will be at their darkest and largest. Fortunately, they will revert back to something closer to pre-pregnancy appearance after the first few months. You might also notice little bumps on the areola, but that's just part of the milk production! Those, too, will disappear as the hormones settle.
2. New bras: Buying nursing bras while pregnant might not be the best idea because your breasts can still change in size in your postpartum months. Once your milk comes in, they'll swell even more. If you're not breastfeeding, you still need to be very selective of the bras carrying the girls, anticipating size changes and engorgement. Stick with shelf bras inside cami tanks or stretchy bras without the wires for the first month or two. Let the girls do their thing! When you're ready to invest in bras, take these five tips with you.
3. Uneven breasts: Sometimes one side produces more milk than the other, or responds more to the hormones. This creates an unbalanced boob situation. No two boobs are exactly (naturally) the same, but some are more noticeably uneven, especially after having a baby. You might notice your right side is a more powerful source of milk than the left or vice versa. You can control this with light pumping or manual expression on the heavy side and putting baby on the other side more often to increase the demand, therefore supply. With the addition of active milk glands, the fatty and connective tissues might shift in either breast, and this can directly affect the way they will appear once breastfeeding is over.
4. Lumps: There's really no such thing as a "good lump," but there can be less serious lumps. When you're pregnant, your body naturally suppresses your immune system to help baby develop. Any type of lumps or masses you feel within the breast that you cannot attribute to a clogged duct or mastitis should be checked out immediately. Find out what to look for during a self-exam here.
5. Veiny appearance: The fuel or battery behind any active body part is blood. With milk production comes increased blood flow. The veins and vessels around the breast will dilate more and might appear close to the surface of the skin. This is totally normal and expected. Good news? They'll chill out once milk production settles or stops.
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6. Drips and drainage: Hopefully, you put some nursing pads on your registry! Even if you're not breastfeeding, you will likely experience some leaky breasts as they try to sort things out. The breasts are made up of soft tissue with a delicate structure of glands and connective tubes. You might experience what's called a "letdown," which is an involuntary expression of the milk. Without absorbent pads, that milk is going to go somewhere, like your shirt or sheets.
7. Engorgement: Your breasts get really excited about the new baby and your body's changes, so much so that they can become engorged. If you're going to experience engorgement, it will be within the first few weeks after delivery. If you skip a feeding or change your feeding routine, your boobs will respond with that uncomfortable level of fullness. The breasts will feel hard to the touch, but they should not feel hot.
8. Shrinking and sagging: Skin is elastic, which is great when you're pregnant and stretching out to accommodate your growing baby. But it doesn't really snap back to pre-pregnancy status. This is still true for the breasts. Once the inner parts of the breast shut down milk production, the breasts will shrink down in size or mildly change shape. Your breasts might appear deflated or saggy, especially if you weren't very large pre-pregnancy. You can strengthen the muscles underneath the breasts to help, but if you're going for a "perky boob" look, you might want to investigate some good bras or talk with a cosmetic surgeon.
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