As some of you may know, I recently gave birth to a gorgeous baby boy called Jasper, and my husband and I are absolutely thrilled with him. He's now coming up to 16 weeks old, where does the time go!
I would like to share my highs and lows with you when it comes to breasts throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding, because I never realised how much of a rollercoaster ride it would be for me. Having trained to fit maternity and nursing bras at a young age, I thought I knew quite a lot when it came to bras, bra sizes and how your breasts can change, but it's completely different when it's happening to you and your body.
Breast changes in Pregnancy
I was very lucky with my pregnancy, with no morning sickness or complications all the way through up until the birth. I noticed my breasts starting to change around 16 weeks, where they got fuller and slightly more sensitive. I thought it was slightly too soon to wear soft cup bras yet, so I re-measured my bra size and got 2 new bras to wear until I was ready to wear non-wired bras.
It wasn’t until I was around 23 - 24 weeks that I decided to get some maternity non-wired bras, one of them was the Cosabella Never Say Never Bralette, as my breasts started to get fuller and more sensitive. I was able to wear these right up until the birth as I had no underwires digging in and they were flexible with the sizing.
At 36 - 37 weeks, I looked at getting a couple of nursing bras for after the birth. My bra size was very difficult to gauge at this time, because I knew that my size would change after the birth. One thing I learnt whilst working at a boutique lingerie shop, was that when you fit for a nursing bra, you should fit the hook and eye on the loosest fit, so when you loose the weight after the birth, you can tighten the back up. I got myself the Royce Blossom Nursing Bra in a 32E/F/FF to wear whilst breastfeeding, as well as one or two other bras to swap between.
How much do breasts grow during pregnancy?
My breasts didn’t start changing till I was at least 16 weeks pregnant, but this won’t be the same for everyone. I was originally a 30F and by the end of my pregnancy I measured around 32F/FF, so I had gone up a back size and cup size.
Nipples changes in pregnancy
I didn't notice a huge difference in my nipples when I was pregnant, although they did eventually go a slightly darker shade and did become more predominant by the end of pregnancy, as this was in preparation for the milk supply and breastfeeding.
When does milk start leaking during pregnancy?
It's natural for your breasts to start producing milk called colostrum, weeks or even months before your due date. This is in preparation for feeding your baby when they arrive. Some women may not leak at all until after the birth, like me, where as others may start earlier.
When does milk production start in pregnancy?
Milk production can start between 16 - 22 weeks of pregnancy even though some of us may not realise it because there is no leaking. And this was certainly the case for me. My breasts started to feel more sensitive and heavier at this time due to the milk coming in, so I changed over to soft cup bras to make it more comfortable for myself.
How to determine nursing bra size in pregnancy?
This is not an easy thing to do, as your bra size will change quite dramatically after the birth, well, it did for me anyway. My top tips when fitting for a nursing bra would be to ensure the underband is on the loosest hook and eye, so after the birth, when you loose the weight around the back, you can tighten the bra up. The other tip would be to make sure there is a bit of spare room in the cups to accomodate your breasts when they fluctuate in size. When you are breastfeeding, your milk supply will increase and decrease and this will help make you feel more comfortable and supported.
Some women thoroughly enjoy breastfeeding and it's a great way to bond with your little one, but I didn't have a great breastfeeding experience from the start and I know a lot of women can relate to this. I breastfed Jasper for 2 weeks before I decided that it was too much for myself and him.
After the birth, we stayed in hospital with Jasper for two days to establish breastfeeding and ensure he was happy and healthy before going home. Unfortunately, from the word 'go' Jasper had problems latching on to my breasts to feed. I had to have the midwives check every feed to ensure he was getting colostrum, and I also had to hand express colostrum into a syringe to help Jasper get the amount he needed. After a fair few failed breastfeeding attempts we started getting the hang of it, with one breastfeeding position working better than others.
After discharging ourselves from the hospital, we were happy with the way things were going with regard to the positions and the latch, and I was sure we would get the hang of it when we got home. Well this wasn't quite case, unfortunately, with Jasper wanting a feed a feed every two hours and not latching, it got very distressing for both me and him. My breasts started to hurt and my nipples started to crack and bleed. We didn't have the best start to breastfeeding, let's put it like that!
It wasn't until the 4 week check from the health visitor did we find out that Jasper was tongue tied and this affected his latch and ability to breastfeed. I felt slightly relived knowing that there was a reason behind our breastfeeding issues, but annoyed that if we wanted Jasper's tongue tie snipped, that we would have to go privately, instead of through the NHS. By this time, we had already started supplementing Jasper with formula to help him get the amount of milk he needed. Eventually instead of breastfeeding, I decided to express milk through a breast pump, so we could make sure that Jasper was getting the nutrition he needed.
The next couple of weeks I gave breastfeeding another try in between bottle feeding, but soon decided that my breastfeeding journey was over and that I was happy to combination feed Jasper with expressed milk and formula. Now 3 months on and Jasper is extremely happy and growing up so fast!
My breastfeeding journey had many ups and downs, and for something that is supposed to come naturally to mums, it is extremely hard work and needs a lot of perseverance. I salute women who breastfeed for long periods of time, but for me, it wasn't meant to be.
Does breastfeeding ruin your breasts?
If breastfeeding isn't done correctly and there are problems with latching, it can start to get painful for your nipples and breasts. Unfortunately, this is something that happened to me. I wasn't told until much later on, that Jasper has tongue-tie and that it's much harder for him to latch and get milk easily. After two weeks of breastfeeding, my nipples became cracked, sore and bleeding to the point that I wanted to give up. This is when we started to substitute formula in Jasper's routine, so I could let my breasts heal.
Your breasts will eventually heal and settle down after breastfeeding, but it can take a little while. Breastfeeding will not ruin your breasts, but they will naturally change shape and size with breastfeeding and expressing.
How to get breasts back after breastfeeding?
This is something that I have yet to encounter! Even though I gave up breastfeeding over 2 months ago, I've still been expressing milk up until now, so my breast have not settled back yet. Some women go back to the bra size they originally were before pregnancy, where as other women will of increased in the back or cup size. There is nothing that can be done to get your breasts back to the shape and size they were. This is just a part of nature!
Do nipples go back to normal after breastfeeding?
Jasper is now 3 months old and my nipples have not gone back to normal just yet. Nipples are extremely sensitive and after breastfeeding it will take a fair bit of time for them to go back to normal. It's natural for them to change shape and size after breastfeeding and expressing.
Does breastfeeding make your breast bigger or smaller?
Because of the amount of milk, your breasts are producing, it's likely they will get bigger instead of smaller. But your breasts will fluctuate in size as they produce milk and when they are empty after a breastfeed, so it's best to wear a soft cup bra instead of an underwired bra to ensure nothing digs into you.
Breast size after breastfeeding
It's good to leave your breasts to settle down for about 6 weeks after breastfeeding, before you measure your bra size and get some new bras. You may find that your normal bras before pregnancy are fitting you just fine, which is great news. However, you may find you have changed size or shape slightly, so it's worth investing in a few new bras. I have found that I've lost a bit of fullness from the top of my breasts after breastfeeding and expressing, which is quite common. So although I am wearing a 30F/32E still, some of the bras are a little loose at the top.
I hope this has helped you to understand a bit more about breast changes throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding, but remember we will all have slightly different experiences with our breasts. If you need anymore help with bra fitting whilst pregnant or breastfeeding, you can look at Knicker Locker's Maternity and Nursing Bra Guide for lots more information.