Colostrum is the first nourishment your body produces for your newborn. Three to five days after the birth this changes to a high-protein transitional milk, and after about 10 days your breasts start producing mature milk. The transitional stage is your milk 'coming in' and your breast will feel swollen, hard and quite painful. Wearing a supportive bra, day and night, can help you feel more comfortable.
When your baby cries or sucks at your nipple it stimulates milk production. It can be tricky getting your baby to latch on properly - taking the nipple and areola into his mouth and drawing the nipple up towards the roof of his mouth - so ask your midwife or health visitor if you're struggling.
Engorgement, where your breasts swell and hurt, happens if your baby doesn't empty each breast. Try expressing after feeds or placing chilled Savoy cabbage leaves on your breasts for about 20 minutes every four hours or so to draw out excess fluid (yes, really!). If your baby is only taking the nipple in his mouth, it may become sore and cracked. Use an over-the-counter cream or rub them with breastmilk. A red swollen area on your breast, together with a temperature or flu-like symptoms could signal mastitis. You can carry on feeding your baby but see your GP immediately.
The weight gain that saw your B-cup rise to a D-cup during pregnancy can also mean the skin and tissues become stretched and lose elasticity. Your best defence is a supportive bra - you'll need a properly fitted nursing bra for breastfeeding. On average, you can expect to go up one or two cup sizes when pregnant, and feel the pinch from your pre-pregnancy bras by 20 weeks - that's when it's time to go shopping.
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Breasts are mostly thought of a sexual objects and it can be tricky to see them in their new role. Of course, the two aren't mutually exclusive, and lots of mums are comfortable with both functions. However, some women don't want their breasts to be touched or find the idea of their breasts leaking milk during sex off-putting. You will eventually reclaim your boobs as sex objecs, so it's fine to declare them off-limits for the time being.
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If you do decide to bottlefeed, your milk production will stop a few weeks after giving birth. Avoid expressing milk - your breasts may feel sore for a few days after the birth, so take painkillers. Wear a well-fitting bra and stock up on breast pads as you will leak milk for a while.
The Association of Breastfeeding Mothers www.abm.me.uk , National Childbirth Trust www.nct.org.uk , La Leche League www.laleche.org.uk ,The Breastfeeding Network www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk
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