We can all agree that pregnancy produces some pretty miraculous changes both inside and out. While some are more visible than others, many of these changes serve purposes that are less obvious than meets the eye. As card-carrying breastmilk enthusiasts, let’s explore how breasts change in preparation for body feeding your babe:
- Darkening: If you’ve ever seen the cult-classic “Juno,” you know that one of the tactics her bestie uses to confirm pregnancy is based on changes to nipple pigmentation. Anatomically speaking, both the nipple and the areola (the circular tissue surround the nipples) will experience increased pigmentation as a result of heightening hormone levels - particularly estrogen and progesterone. Amazingly, the darker color serves as a visual guide for newborns (whose limited eyesight can see high contrast images particularly well) to find the breast and latch on more easily after birth!
- Montgomery Glands: These small raised bumps on the areolas become more pronounced during pregnancy. These glands secrete an oily substance that helps keep the nipple and areola moisturized, preventing dryness and cracking. Perhaps most amazing is the fact that this fluid also smells like amniotic fluid, a familiar scent that beckons baby to the breast after birth.
- Leaking : Speaking of bodily fluids, as your due date approaches, you might notice a sticky, yellowish fluid called colostrum leaking from your nipples. Colostrum is the first milk your baby will receive and is rich in nutrients and antibodies, providing essential nourishment in the early days of life. Your body starts producing colostrum around 16 weeks gestation, but don’t worry if you don’t leak beforehand - leaking is not an indicator of milk supply.
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