Can I start collecting colostrum before baby is born?


Hand expression is the most effective tool for emptying colostrum from the breast when baby is sleepy or not efficient at the breast in the first 3-5 days after delivery. When baby isn’t latching immediately after birth, many hospital lactation consultants will have the mom start  pumping. This is a great way to stimulate the breast, but many get discouraged from not seeing much colostrum come out with those first few pumps. 

Colostrum is a thick, nutrient dense first milk. It starts in a small amount and moves slow to help baby learn how to practice sucking, swallowing and breathing  without getting overwhelmed by a faster flow. Colostrum has been in the breast since 10-14 weeks gestation so it is ready for whenever baby is born, even if baby is born premature. 

You can actually start practicing hand expression while you’re still pregnant. It is a phenomenal skill to practice in case you need to hand express after baby is born. It will also give you the confidence that you have milk and do not need to wait for “milk to come in” To start, you’ll want to gently prime the breast. Using your fingers like combs or in gentle strokes, massage the breast from back to front. The colostrum is made at the back. These gentle strokes and massages encourages the milk to move from the back of the breast, down the breast ductal system to the nipple at the front. You can also gently shake the breast to help stimulate the movement of milk. After a less than a minute of massage you’re ready to express your milk. There are multiple ways to hand express, and I will show you several different ways. You’ll want to practice different techniques until you find what works for you and your body. Some people can hand express with either hand, and some will find they need to use their dominant hand. There is no one right or wrong way, it is what works for you and your body.  To start, take your hand in a C or U position. The breast is a circle, so either position is fine, and you’ll want to experiment with both until you find the sweet spot on your own breast that works for you to start seeing your colostrum come. You want your finger and thumb opposite of each other on the areola not too close to the nipple. You’ll bring your hand back into the breast and compress your fingers together, trying to make them meet behind the areola and nipple area. Compress and release. You may have to do this gentle compresss and release for a minute or two before you start to see the glistening drops of colostrum from the nipple. If you don’t see anything after a few compresses, go back to gentle massage. You can switch breasts often.  Be mindful to bring your fingers together  from equal points cross from each other on the circle of the areola. If you are asymmetrical, you won’t see any movement.  

Usually the first time you try, you may see only a drop or two from each side. You cannot run out of colostrum or have colostrum change to mature milk until your placenta is birthed. As long as you are a low risk pregnancy and not on bed or pelvic rest, it is considered safe to hand express. This should not hurt. If you feel any pain or discomfort, stop and find a local IBCLC lactation consultant to help you practice. If you have questions about antenatal hand expression, make sure to ask your IBCLC lactation consultant during your prenatal breastfeeding consultation. 


Breast pumps only use suction, so if you use some compressions on the breast with your hands to start moving the milk to fill the ducts, it might flow easier when pumping. Using the pump to stimulate your hormones and then ending with lots of hand expression will actually help you see milk move. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see any colostrum the first few times you pump after birth. Pumps are not as efficient as your hands or your baby once they’re awake and alert.

Freeze Dried Breast Milk

Freeze drying milk is not a new concept. Powdered milk, also called milk powder, dried milk, or dry milk, is a manufactured dairy product made by evaporating milk to dryness which can then later be reconstituted to the liquid form by adding water later. The first modern attempts at drying milk started as early as 1802 with specific processes for drying milk being created by 1837. Powdered milk is frequently used in the manufacturing of infant formula, confectionery such as chocolate and caramel candy, and in recipes for baked goods where adding liquid milk would make the final product too thin. During the 1960s, commercial infant formulas became popular, and by the mid-1970s they had all but replaced evaporated milk formulas as the "standard" for infant nutrition.

Typically when we think of breast milk storage, freezing in either a standard freezer or a deeper freezer have been the go-to for years. Milk that has been frozen correctly and stored in a deep freezer is optimal for about 6-9 months before the flavor begins to change. Newer guidelines are saying that frozen milk may still be good about a year in the freezer. But freeze-dried milk which can last from 3 to 20 years on the shelf! So the while the idea and concept of freeze dried breast milk isn’t new, it’s taking the market by storm with many new companies popping up in recent months. So let’s do a deep dive into the world of freeze dried breast milk, the pros and cons, and the expense. 


Sublimation is the fancy term for the freeze-drying process which basically means all the water has been removed from the breast milk and turns it into powder. Low temperatures are used for a long time in the drying process to ensure the nutrients in the milk are protected. Freeze drying is different than dehydrating, which uses very high heat and is relatively faster. With freeze drying, 'low and slow' is the name of the game to protect precious nutrients.

Here is the basics of a freeze-drying process:

  • Deep freezing: Milk is deep frozen in a chamber at temps below -40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Pressure dropping: Air inside the chamber is removed via a pump, which drops the pressure to create a vacuum. The low pressure turns the solid to gas. The vacuum pumps out the water particles.
  • Drying: Ice crystals inside the frozen breastmilk is vaporized by drying the milk with alternating warm and cold air (without thawing the breast milk) leaving behind a breastmilk powder
  • Packaging: The powder is sealed in special airtight bags or packages that protect against air, light, oxygen, and moisture. 
  • Since everyone’s breast milk is unique, the company will send you specific directions for reconstituting your milk for baby to drink. This is NOT like standard formula where 1 scoop gets 2oz of water. Each bag of powdered breast milk will need specific amounts of water unique to your milk. 
  • You should expect that however much milk you send will equal however much you receive back. If you send in 200oz of your breast milk, your powdered milk will make 200oz of breast milk when you’re ready to use it. 

Breast milk powder should be stored and prepared properly in order to prevent contamination with Cronobacter and other bacteria that can cause serious illness if safe handling guidelines are not followed.


  • To preserve milk for longer than it would last in the freezer, especially if it is going to expire soon
  • For the convenience factor
    • It’s easy to travel with or to ship to someone else
  • Can help with high lipase
    • While freeze-drying doesn’t reduce the amount of lipase in the milk, by removing the water it reduces the enzyme activity that breaks down breast milk which can make the taste and smell much milder. For some whose baby rejected pumped milk in bottles because of high lipase may have a higher chance of taking it freeze dried
  • For those who are doing elimination diets, this may preserve the milk longer for when your baby outgrows the allergy or intolerance so you can offer your milk later in your feeding journey
  • In cases where breast cancer has been identified and a mastectomy would be life saving, freeze drying milk can ensure future children conceived after mastectomy could still receive mother’s own milk
  • Can add some nutritional value to your older child’s meals by sprinkling it in purees or on solid foods, or even baking with it for the whole family
  • Could be an option for surrogates or donor milk
  • Saves space 


The big concern medical professionals have is that freeze-dried milk has not been widely studied. Yet. Most current health care providers will stick with AAP guidelines, CDC guidelines, FDA guidelines, and they have not released a formal statement on the safety and the efficacy of freeze-dried breast milk. But I would anticipate as it gains popularity and traction that eventually studies will be down on it. Without sufficient studies, it’s unclear if freeze-dried milk has the right protein, fat, carb ratio that infants need. We don’t know exactly how freeze-drying impacts the nutritional composition of breast milk. Some research suggests that breast milk's natural carbohydrate and protein content remains intact for up to six months after freeze-drying. But other studies report that freeze-drying may lower the amount of key antioxidants, like vitamin C, that are naturally present in breast milk. There really is a lack of evidence in terms of the nutritional safety of freeze-dried human milk at this current moment in time. Another concern is that freeze-dried milk does not undergo a pasteurization process which kills harmful bacteria. Pasteurization is avoided on purpose, in order to preserve the vital probiotics that are present in breast milk, and which would be destroyed with pasteurization. Just as bacteria can grow in freshly expressed milk if it is left at the right temperature for extended lengths of time, the same can happen with rehydrated breast milk powder. And there is room for error when making up bottles of freeze-dried milk. Each bag may require different amounts of water for rehydration, which means parents need to pay close attention to how they are preparing each bottle. Too much or too little water too often can lead to adverse effects in baby, like low sodium levels or not enough calories per feeding. 

Freeze drying breast milk is still a relatively new science when we are talking about using it for breast milk. Even though there are multiple new companies specializing in this, no matter what company you choose, it is going to be an investment. The cost to freeze dry your milk will vary based on the company you choose as well as the quantity of milk that you have.

Several companies will wait until they have your milk in hand before charging you. This way they know exactly how many ounces of milk there are! This is because we often aren’t accurate in our measurements of what we collect. The bag or the bottle lines can be inaccurate or we can tilt the bottle to see a different number than what’s actually there. Companies are very particular in measuring so that they can ensure proper ratios at the end too. They want to make sure they aren’t over or under charging you. Other companies may charge a flat rate or give you an estimate. Do your research but expect to pay several hundred dollars for your batch of milk!!

Freeze-drying human milk may still be an appealing option depending on your circumstances. If you are adamant about freeze-drying your milk, make sure to use a legitimate company with lots of reviews. And DON’T try it at home yourself as you're risking contamination.



  • Basics of Breastfeeding Support for the NICU or PICU Dyad. IABLE- Institute for the Advancement of Breastfeeding and Lactation Education
  • Blackshaw, K., Wu, J., Valtchev, P., Lau, E., Banati, R. B., Dehghani, F., & Schindeler, A. (2021). The Effects of Thermal Pasteurisation, Freeze-Drying, and Gamma-Irradiation on the Antibacterial Properties of Donor Human Milk. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 10(9), 2077.
  • de Halleux, V., Pieltain, C., Senterre, T., Studzinski, F., Kessen, C., Rigo, V., & Rigo, J. (2019). Growth Benefits of Own Mother’s Milk in Preterm Infants Fed Daily Individualized Fortified Human Milk. Nutrients, 11(4), 772.
  • Ginglen JG, Butki N. Necrotizing Enterocolitis. [Updated 2022 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:
  • Jarzynka, S., Strom, K., Barbarska, O., Pawlikowska, E., Minkiewicz-Zochniak, A., Rosiak, E., Oledzka, G., & Wesolowska, A. (2021). Combination of High-Pressure Processing and Freeze-Drying as the Most Effective Techniques in Maintaining Biological Values and Microbiological Safety of Donor Milk. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(4), 2147.
  • Lima, H. K., Wagner-Gillespie, M., Perrin, M. T., & Fogleman, A. D. (2017, August 2). Bacteria and bioactivity in holder pasteurized and shelf-stable human milk products. OUP Academic.
  • Meredith-Dennis, L., Xu, G., Goonatilleke, E., Lebrilla, C. B., Underwood, M. A., & Smilowitz, J. T. (2018). Composition and Variation of Macronutrients, Immune Proteins, and Human Milk Oligosaccharides in Human Milk From Nonprofit and Commercial Milk Banks. Journal of human lactation : official journal of International Lactation Consultant Association, 34(1), 120–129.
  • Putting Evidence Into Practice: Freeze Dried Human Milk
  • Salcedo, J., Gormaz, M., López-Mendoza, M. C., Nogarotto, E., & Silvestre, D. (2015). Human milk bactericidal properties: effect of lyophilization and relation to maternal factors and milk components. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition, 60(4), 527–532.


How long is my breast pump good for?


Your pump motor has a warranty for the number of hours it will provide strong suction for pumping. Each company has a different motor warranty for how long their pump will suck. Most pumps have a 2 year warranty for regular use (3-4 pumps a day while working a 5 day a week job) and this would get you through pumping while breastfeeding that baby. Each manufacturer should have this information on their website or in the pamphlet that came with your pump. The Spectra, one of my favorite pumps and very commonly used, has a motor life of approx 1500 hours with general use. For most, they find this pump will provide good suction for about 3-4 years. For Exclusive Pumpers (EP), many find the pump will wear out around 700-800 hours of use. If you only occasionally pumped with your first baby, you may find the pump works great for your second baby. You may also then get a different pump, like a portable or wearable. But if you pumped a lot, consider getting a new pump for each new baby born.

How long did you use your pump for before it wore out?

Used pumps are considered electronic waste. Disposal options include recycling through the manufacturer, or contacting your local recycling center or electronic recycling site to see if they will accept it.

#spectrabreastpump #spectra #breastpump #breastpumping #pumpingmom #pumpingmilk #pumpingtips #pumpprincess #breastmilkstorage #breastmilksupply


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Drinking and Breastfeeding

Milk is made from your blood, so what you drink can impact your milk supply. 

💦 How much water should you be drinking? There are some ridiculous answers out there. If your breast milk production has decreased, helpful people may suggest that you chug tons of water. Your lack of water intake may contribute to but is not completely responsible for your supply drop. Drinking too much water can inadvertently harm your milk supply

💦 When you drink too much water, your body tries to restore the electrolyte balance in your body by dumping the excess water into your urine. This results in water being diverted away from your breasts, which in turn decreases your milk supply. Water dense foods can also be just as hydrating as plain water from the tap. 

💦 You will lose up to 30oz of water through your breast milk to your baby; so do try to drink 8-12 glasses of water a day

☕️ Coffee is safe to drink: 300-500mg of caffeine per day max

☕️ Younger babies (< 6 months), preterm and medically fragile babies process caffeine slower and they may be sensitive to it. 

☕️ If you consistently drank coffee during pregnancy you baby is already used to caffeine

☕️ It takes 15-20 minutes for coffee to hit your bloodstream and is usually completely gone by 4-7 hours. So if you’re concerned or having it for the first time after birth, either breastfeed baby first and then have your coffee or have it while breastfeeding

🍷 According to the CDC, moderate alcohol (up to 1 standard drink per day) is not known to be harmful to baby

🥂 Less than 2% of alcohol reaches breastmilk and typically peaks within 1/2-1 hour after consumption *however* factors such as food, weight & body fat need to be considered

🥂 Alcohol does not accumulate but leaves breastmilk as it leaves the bloodstream. There is no need to pump and dump when consuming limited amounts of alcohol

🥂 If you are feeling like you NEED to consume large amounts of alcohol regularly, speaking to a qualified professional is admirable and a very good option


Is it ok to have alcohol and breastfeed? The short answer is yes, in moderation. No, you don’t need to pump and dump for 1 standard drink. Yes, those alcohol testing milk strips are kinda dumb. 

Alcohol passes freely into breast milk and peaks around 30-60 minutes after consumption (60-90 minutes if you drink with food) so what you would breathalyze you would “breastalyze”. This does not mean your milk has an much alcohol as you consumed or as a straight up alcoholic beverage. It means you milk has the same amount of alcohol as your blood. For instance, if your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is 0.10 (or 0.10%, 1/10 of 1 percent) from drinking, you breast milk has 0.10% alcohol in it. In comparison, a typical beer has 4.5% alcohol, a glass of wine has 15% alcohol, and a shot of vodka has 40% alcohol. 

Let’s interpret that: if you breastfeed while you’re having your first drink, your baby will most likely be finished feeding before the alcohol hits your system. There’s no need to pump and dump your milk. Only time clears the alcohol from your system. If you’re breastfeeding a newborn, premature or medically compromised infant, you’ll want to be more cautious of the alcohol you consume and may want to consider waiting longer to breastfeed than an older baby. Such a small portion of alcohol gets into your milk, if you have an older baby and have only had one drink there’s really no need to wait to pump or feed. 

If you want to have an occasional drink, I will never judge you!!! Go for it!! If you need alcohol, large quantities or alcohol or are struggling with alcohol, please find a qualified counselor to work with ❤️ 🍻

Breast milk is made from your blood

The food you eat and the water you drink do not magically go directly to your breast milk. What you eat and drink goes first to your stomach to be broken down and then into your intestines to be absorbed and processed. Your digestive system breaks nutrients into parts small enough for your body to absorb and use for energy, growth, and cell repair. The muscles of the small intestine mix food with digestive juices from the pancreas, liver, and intestine. Special cells in the walls of the small intestine absorb water and the digested nutrients into your bloodstream. Your blood carries molecule-sized components such as simple sugars (carbohydrates), amino acids, white blood cells, enzymes, water, fat, and proteins throughout your body. As blood passes by the breasts, milk glands pull out these nutrients for milk production and pass some of them to your baby. Not all molecules are small enough to pass through into milk. (That’s why some medications are safe to take while breastfeeding and some are not. Molecules that are too big can’t get into the milk while really small molecules can.) 

Nuts, seeds, beans, and grains all have plant based proteins. Meat and dairy are animal based proteins. Both plant and animal proteins carried in your blood can make it into your milk. Sometimes these proteins can affect baby’s digestive system, causing symptoms like reflux, gas, colic, and blood or mucus in the poops from iritations to baby’s intestinal lining. Diary proteins are the most common cause of upset in the stomach, however research suggests that the proportion of exclusively breastfed infants who are actually allergic to something in their mother’s milk is very small. Fussiness and gas alone are not  enough to diagnose a cow milk protein allergy. 

In general, there are NO foods that need to be avoided because you’re breastfeeding. Every baby is different in the foods they are sensitive to. IF your baby always seems to have a reaction when you eat a certain food or a large amount of a certain type of food, cutting back on it or cutting it out temporarily may be helpful. 

Birth control and dropping milk supply

Any birth control with a hormone in it can drop your milk supply. Hormones in birth control pills prevent pregnancy by:

  • Stopping or reducing ovulation (the release of an egg from an ovary).
  • Thickening cervical mucus to keep sperm from entering the uterus.
  • Thinning the lining of the uterus so that a fertilized egg is less likely to attach. 

The Pill (estrogen and progestin) tricks your body to think is pregnant so it won’t ovulate. Estrogen based pills will drastically drop milk supply, just like pregnancy does, and should be avoided while breastfeeding unless your weaning. Hormonal IUDs (Mirena, etc), arm implants (Nexplanon, etc), and the mini pill (progestin only) are often recommended as the best form of BC while breastfeeding because most research says that they don’t impact milk supply. Many who use these methods don’t experience any supply drop. For some, though, any hormone based BC will drop milk supply, some times drastically. Every body is sensitive to different levels of hormones. If you have an IUD or arm implant placed and notice a drop in supply, the only way to increase supply again is to remove them. Increased pumping or herbal supplements will usually not be enough to increase supply again because you’re working against hormones. If you’re considering a hormonal based IUD and aren’t sure if your supply will drop, consider taking a few rounds of the mini pill (progestin only) which is the same hormone in the IUD and implant. If your supply drops, you only have to stop taking the pill and your supply will rebound much quicker. 

Deep breathing and breastfeeding

Put your oxygen mask on first. When there is an emergency on a plane, we are instructed to put our mask on first before helping others. This is also critical when caring for our babies. You’ve just gone through one of the most traumatic experiences your body could physical do: give birth to another human being. You’re healing a dinner plate sized wound on your uterus while sweating like a pig and not sleeping for more than a few hours at a time. There are so many physical, social, and emotional changes happening to you all at once it can be easy to just ignore all of them to focus your energy into your new tiny human.

Deep breathing is one of the easiest, most convenient tools to reduce stress, anxiety, and pain. And who doesn’t have all of those after the trauma of giving birth and dealing with all of the physical, social and emotional changes of bringing a tiny human into their life? Laying on your back, feet up against the wall and focusing on intentional breaths is one of the simplest ways to reset and promote balance in your body again 

Deep breathing:

❤️ Decreases stress, increases calm. Stress and anxiety makes your brain release cortisol, the “stress hormone”, which decreases oxytocin, your milk let down hormone. Deep breathing slows your heart rate, allowing more oxygen to enter the blood stream which relaxes your brain and lowers cortisol. This results in higher oxytocin and thus more milk

🧨Relieves pain through endorphin release which can help while you’re healing your lady bits (or those cracked nips)

💎Detoxifies the body by stimulating the lymphatic system. Carbon monoxide is released by breathing. 70% of the toxins in your body are cleared just by breathing

🚗Increases energy. More oxygen= better body functions and that improves stamina. Who doesn’t need that for 2am feedings?

🩺Lowers blood pressure. Relaxed muscles allows blood vessels to dialate, which improves circulation and lowers blood pressure

💊Fully oxygenated blood carries and absorbs nutrients and vitamins more efficiently, improving your immune system against viruses and bacteria. This also helps improve digestion! 

🤸‍♀️Supports good posture. When you breathe in, your lungs expand which pulls your diaphragm down and straightens your spine. You definitely need to lengthen your spine and release that neck tension from being hunched over while latching your baby

The risks of not addressing maternal mental health include:

✏️Poor infant growth, language and cognitive development 

✏️Poor gross and fine motor development

✏️Less efficient breastfeeding or weaning from breastfeeding earlier than desired

✏️Poor infant sleep and increased maternal stress. 

When considering antidepressant use during lactation, while most medications are considered safe for mom and baby, there is no “zero risk” option. However, the benefits of using a medication to help decrease depression and anxiety usually outweigh the risks acostares with taking a medication. If a mother has been on a certain med prior to breastfeeding and it worked well for her, it would be reasonable to resume that medication while breastfeeding. Sertraline (Zoloft) is a first-line drug for breastfeeding, due to documented low levels of exposure in breastfeeding babies and the very low number of adverse events described in case reports. Prozac is generally considered safe to take while breastfeeding; however, research shows that the average amount of the drug in breastmilk is higher than with other SSRIs. 

When taking any medication, you want to monitor for side effects both in you and the baby. Most common side effects when taking antidepressants are:

🥛 Changes in milk supply

🛌 Sedation/sleepiness in baby

Poor feeding or weight gain in baby

Antidepressants can work well to help you feel balanced again. Work closely with an IBCLC while starting antidepressants to help continue and feel supported in your breastfeeding journey

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

If you’re still breastfeeding and become pregnant, your mature breastmilk will transition back to colostrum around the end of the first trimester in preparation for whenever the new baby is born. By 4 months gestation, the placenta is large enough to suppress most milk production. Your body will prioritize your fetus over your nursling in terms of milk and produce the appropriate milk for the more vulnerable child. Colostrum is a high protein, laxative milk to help newborns poop out meconium. It is saltier in taste and thicker in consistency. Many older babies don’t care if it tastes different, but some will and may wean themselves. The supply is not likely to be able to support an infant 10 months old and younger. But if the older infant (11+ months) or toddler is eating solids and drinking other liquids, those babies may not care if they are getting milk or “dry nursing” until the next baby comes. Some choose to supplement younger babies with donor milk or may transition to formula until the new baby arrives and then continue to tandem feed with their own breastmilk again. 

Pregnancy hormones can make breasts and nipples more sensitive and uncomfortable. And these sensations often will make one want to wean or experience a nursing aversion. Toddlers may still aggressively want to nurse and it’s ok to put boundaries on your nursing. 

The typical things recommended to increase supply (additional feeding/pumping, herbs and supplements, etc.) are not appropriate and are ineffective since the placenta will continue to increase in size. Hormones supported by the placenta are what impact milk production and there’s not much you can do to combat the hormone shift as it’s needed to support the pregnancy. 

What can I eat to make breast milk?

Prolactin is hormone responsible for making breast milk. We know that when you’re breastfeeding, you need about 300-500 extra calories to supoort making nutrition for your baby. You’re still eating for two!! There are foods with phytoestrogens which help boost and support your natural prolactin levels.

There are several main classes of phytoestrogens. Lignans are part of plant cell walls and found in fiber-rich foods like berries, seeds (flaxseeds), grains, nuts, and fruits. Two other phytoestrogen classes are isoflavones and coumestans. Isoflavones are present in berries, grains, and nuts, but are most abundant in soybeans and other legumes. Coumestans are found in legumes like split peas, lima and pinto beans. Eating these will naturally increase prolactin which in turn helps support making milk
🌾We all know oats are the go-to for increasing supply. They are rich in plant estrogens and beta-glucan. But other grains like brown rice, barley, and quinoa work as well!
🧄Garlic! It will definitely flavor you milk, but research shows babies love the flavor and often suck more in response and it’s been shown to increase milk supply
🌱Fennel: Raw or cooked, fennel seeds can be added to a recipe, or drunk as a tea. There are also many lactation specific supplements that include fennel in pill form for a more concentrated dose
🥬Dark Leafy greens like spinach, kale, collard greens, and broccoli. And yes, you can eat broccoli while breastfeeding. 🥦
🌻Seeds: Sesame seeds, flax seeds, and chia seeds are all super boosters of making milk and can be added to baked goods and smoothies very easily
🍓Berries: Get a phytoestrogen boost with fruits like strawberries, cranberries, and raspberries.
🌰Nuts: Almonds are high in linoleic acid and known to be the most lactogenic nut. Packed with healthy fats and antioxidants, Vitamin E and omega-3, walnuts, cashews, and pistachios are all good choices. Snack on raw or roasted nuts, add them to cookies, smoothies, and salads.

Breast changes

Breasts are made of a network of ducts, covered by a layer of fatty tissue. During pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone enlarge the milk ducts and multiply the glandular tissue that produces milk. After birth, estrogen and progesterone drop and prolactin and oxytocin rise. Prolactin makes milk production and oxytocin releases it into the ducts. Extra blood and fluid fill the breast just after birth to supoort your body adding hormone receptors in the breast to make milk. The blood and fluid surrounds the ducts and this extra pressure is what makes your breasts feel full between feeding. This blood and fluid reabsorb around 6-8 weeks once supply is established and you won’t feel that full/soft feeling except when you go a really long time between feeding or pumping. Breasts go back to prepregnancy size when supply regulates around 11-14 weeks but continue to make milk. When you wean from breastfeeding, it can take several months for prolactin levels to return to baseline (which is why you may still see milk for months after weaning). Once you stop breastfeeding, the milk making structures actually self-destruct – a process that involves massive cellular suicide, and the removal of the debris. Around 6 months after weaning, the milk-producing tissue is replaced with fatty tissue. If you return to your pre-pregnancy weight, your breasts most likely will return to the same size. They may not be as “perky” because the skin is a bit more stretched and the connective and fatty tissues in the breasts often shifts during pregnancy and breastfeeding. While they may look smaller after weaning most of us can expect that our breasts will return to a similar size as they were pre-pregnancy. They’re just a little more lived in and well loved.