By Cake Maternity
When you are pregnant and breastfeeding, your breasts will undergo the most dramatic changes in your life in terms of size, shape and anatomy. The breast care recommendations for each stage changes slightly, as does your bra and breast size. These changes are categorised into 5 different stages, as are the designs and recommendations for our bras for each corresponding change.
Stage 1: First Trimester
This is when your breasts change the most in your pregnancy. They are already gearing up for breastfeeding (nipple and areola changes) and getting ready to produce milk (internal development of ducts and alveoli). Some people know they are pregnant before they even have a positive test because they notice the sensitivity and plumpness of their breasts.
Because your breasts may be fluctuating and super sensitive, we recommend only wearing a seamless bra during this stage. Look for something that is double layered and has moulded cups. The moulding means your breasts will not be squished into a mono boob (a big no-no for breast health) and the double layer will offer you support with comfort through this time of sensitivity and growth.
Stage 2: 2nd and 3rd Trimester
Your breast size doesn’t increase that much during these trimesters, but because your rib cage will expand. As such you will find that you will need to increase the band size of your bra or opt for one that has 6 hook and eyes to last your pregnancy and beyond (when your rib cage contracts again after you’ve had your baby).
During these 2 trimesters, you can pretty much go back to your flexi-wired or cup sized bras if they are properly fitting and there is no pressure on your breasts or any encroachment of wires on your cups.
You may start to notice some leakage inside your bra from colostrum. If this is the case, you can start to wear breast pads for hygiene reasons now and to avoid irritation or infection. Your midwife may ask you to express a little during your appointments and check-ups. To do this for the first time, may be a bit daunting so follow these simple steps:
1. In or after a warm shower (or wash your hand and relax).
2. Press down firmly on the top of your breast and push the skin towards your nipple.
3. Work your way around the breast, pressing firmly the skin of your breast towards your nipple (you may start to see some droplets forming from your nipple).
4. After a few minutes, make a ‘C’ shape with your finger and thumb and gently squeeze on the outer edge of where your breast skin meets your areola.
5. Do this on a regular basis for a short amount of time is more stimulating for milk flow and production than attempting for a longer period of time sporadically.
After 37 weeks, you may want to collect your colostrum (in a syringe) and store it for your baby in the freezer as back up. Make sure you label each syringe with the date collected and always use the earlier date to feed your baby in sequence.
Stage 3: Birth – 6 Weeks Postpartum
This stage is the most that your breasts will change during breastfeeding as this is when your milk comes in. Your body and your baby will regulate this flow, and this should take about 6 – 8 weeks. Your breasts may be fully engorged, and your baby may not drink all that milk, therefore your body won’t make as much for the next feed. If your baby is wanting more, then your body will make more and this little balancing act (supply and demand) will continue for about 6 weeks.
For this reason we don’t recommend wearing a wire, or even a flexi-wire, during this stage as it can only be a matter of hours and you may have increased 2 cup sizes. If you’re not wearing a wire, then there’s no chance of it encroaching on your breast tissue which can potentially lead to unwanted pressure, and this is what can be responsible for incomplete drainage of the breast and can lead to blocked ducts and eventually mastitis.
During this stage, your baby can be feeding every 2 – 4 hours. It’s recommended that you wear a bra that has a good amount of stretch and support to be able to handle your fluctuation and support you when you’ve just had a feed and when you’re just about to feed. It’s no good wearing a bra that will only offer you support at either the start of a feed or at the end, because it will only be good for about 12 hours in the day. For this reason, our bras are designed to handle fluctuations so that you are supported for the full 24 hours in a day.
You may feel like you want to wear a sleep bra throughout the night. These are great for a number of reasons:
1. Your breasts are supported.
2. Easy access for baby to feed during the evening.
3. Can hold your breast pads in place to soak up any leaks throughout the night.
During this stage is also when you are likely to leak the most so it’s a good idea to wear breast pads and change every 3 hours or each feed for hygiene reasons, whether they are full or not. To be kind to the environment, we recommend washable breast pads.
Stage 4: 6+ Weeks Postpartum
From here on out, your breast size should be relatively the same until about 6 months or when your baby starts on some solids and therefore substituting feeds. Once your size has stabilised, you can wear any flexi-wired or cup sized bras as long as they have some stretch in the upper cup to still be able to handle your fluctuations.
Stage 5: 6 Months Postpartum
To give your breasts the best starting chance, it’s best to take care of them when these initial changes start to occur such as, just after conception. I know it’s hard to think of your breasts at this time as there will be so much going on (from this point on and until your kids are about 20 years old).
It’s more uncommon for your breasts not to change during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so it’s best to be prepared. There is no such thing as normal/standard changes. The changes that can occur will vary from person to person and can vary from pregnancy to pregnancy. When I had my first daughter my milk came in within a few hours. I increased up to a G cup and my right breast was the ‘milker’ (the one that my daughter favoured as the highest producing). Then for my second daughter, my milk didn’t come in for about a week because she was premature, and my left breast was the one she preferred.
If your breasts are supported but not squashed, clean and comfortable through every stage of pregnancy and breastfeeding – then you’re well on your way to doing the most you can for optimum breast health.
Katie is the proud mum of two beautiful girls and has been responsible for all the designs, style and fit at Cake Maternity for over a decade now.
Katie is a nursing bra specialist and a fit, pattern and grading technician. She is passionate about breastfeeding and the many benefits it offers to both mum, bub and the environment. She is determined to make the breastfeeding journey a comfortable, supportive and beautiful one for all mums, understanding that it doesn’t always come easy to everyone. That’s why she has made it her mission to empower women as they mindfully navigate the world of motherhood and help make breastfeeding easier, through experience-driven innovation.