You'll notice some changes in your breasts as your body gets ready for breastfeeding your baby.
Changes to breasts during pregnancy
Your pregnancy hormones cause normal breast tissue to change into milk-producing tissue. This change happens as early as the first trimester (week 1 to week 12).
Early on in the pregnancy, you may notice a tingling sensation in your breasts. Your breasts may feel tender and sore. This is due to increasing levels of the hormone progesterone.
As your pregnancy progresses, your nipples and the areola (the area around the nipples) may darken in colour.
The veins on the surface of your breasts may become more noticeable. You may also notice stretch marks on your breasts.
From about 16 weeks your breasts are ready to start producing milk. This is colostrum (first milk). It's yellow in colour and is sometimes called 'liquid gold'.
Your breasts may leak colostrum and you may be able to express small amounts. But there's no link between producing colostrum in pregnancy and your milk supply after the birth.
In the last few weeks of pregnancy, your nipples and your breasts become larger.
When to see your GP
You can sometimes get breast lumps during pregnancy. Most of the time, these are benign and caused by hormonal changes.
Breast cancer is uncommon in younger women and uncommon during pregnancy. But you should always get breast lumps checked by your GP.
If you have an existing lump that changes during pregnancy, get this checked too.
Always get new breast lumps or existing lumps that have changed checked by your GP
Blood from nipples
Sometimes blood-stained fluid may leak from your nipples. This may be normal - but it's very important to see your GP or breastfeeding specialist if you notice blood-stained nipple discharge.
Most of the time this happens due to increased blood flow and rapid development of milk producing glands. It can also be caused by trauma to the breast or nipples.
This is commonly known as 'rusty pipe syndrome' and usually disappears after a few feeds.
Preparing for breastfeeding
Your breasts get ready during pregnancy by making milk for your baby.
Becoming familiar with and handling your breasts during pregnancy is an important part of preparing to breastfeed your newborn.
Continue your breast self-examination during pregnancy. This will help you become more familiar with your breasts.
You can read practical tips for breastfeeding to help you build your confidence. These tips will help you to know what to expect when feeding your new baby.
You can also discuss all aspects of breastfeeding with your midwife, public health nurse, GP practice nurse or GP. If you have any concerns, they can refer you to an infant feeding specialist before the birth of your baby.
Connect with your local breastfeeding group
Some women find it helpful to join a breastfeeding support group during pregnancy. You can meet other new mothers and hear about their experiences.
A healthy diet and normal fluid intake is important when you're breastfeeding. You do not need to follow a specific diet.
As your breasts grow you should make sure your bra is well-fitting and not too tight. Let comfort be your guide.
To find a well-fitting bra, make sure:
- it is not too tight or loose
- it is not wired or padded
- the strap at the back does not cut in to your skin
- your breasts fill the fabric of the cup with no loose fabric - there should also be no bulging over the top, at the sides or underneath
- the shoulder straps stay in place without digging in to your skin
- the strap around the back and the front underband lies close to your body and is roughly at the same level
You can find good quality pregnancy and nursing bras in many shops. Ask the shop assistant to help you find the right fit. You can also buy maternity bras online.
If you usually go without a bra, there is no need to wear one during breastfeeding.