Changes are going on right now in your body to prepare the breasts for feeding your newborn. Those changes begin early in pregnancy.
During pregnancy, your body secretes prolactin as well as other hormones, which prepare the breast for nourishing your baby. You may have noticed the areola of the nipple becoming darker. This darkening of the skin helps the newborn to more easily locate the nipple. As the baby begins his/her first journey toward the breast outside mother’s body, the darkened areola provides a “target” for the newborn to visualize as they attempt latch-on.
Although the breasts are fully capable of lactation from 16 weeks gestation, hormones made by your body inhibit full milk production until after the delivery of the placenta. You may notice colostrum leaking from your breasts beginning as early as 10 weeks gestation. The colostrum may appear clear or slightly yellow-tinged. This “first milk” will provide the newborn with specialized nutrients to meet their unique needs.
Many new mothers are concerned that their milk has not “come in” at the time of delivery and are worried that the baby may not be getting enough calories. At the time of delivery, the mother’s body is producing colostrum, which is perfectly made to nourish your newborn. Consider attending a local breastfeeding education class during the last trimester of your pregnancy. The information that you receive will ensure that you’re prepared for breastfeeding.
If you haven’t made your mind up yet about breastfeeding, the benefits to both you and your baby are extensive. Newborns that breastfeed have less ear infections, less respiratory infections, and less frequent gastrointestinal infections and upsets. Breastfed babies also have a lessened incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS. Breastfeeding also benefits the mother in many ways, decreasing the risk of developing cancer and diabetes later in life.
Your body is altered from the pre-pregnancy state to accommodate the growing fetus. The breasts are changing also to provide superior nourishment for your newborn.