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You may have noticed something besides your belly growing during pregnancy: your breasts. In fact, it’s not uncommon for, ahem, the girls, to grow up to two cup sizes, especially if this is your first pregnancy. This new growth is a good sign that your breasts are getting ready, all by themselves, to provide milk for your baby after delivery. But, as an expectant mom, is there anything else you can do now to help get your breasts ready for nursing? Well, yes and no.
Here, your top five breast questions get expert answers.
A: Yes—but not until close to delivery. “I usually recommend waiting until the last month of pregnancy to use breast shells— plastic dome-shaped devices with a central opening that are worn over the nipples to help draw them out,” says pediatrician and breastfeeding expert Marianne Neifert, M.D., aka Dr. Mom, author of Great Expectations: The Essential Guide to Breastfeeding (Sterling). “Breast shells aren’t recommended earlier in pregnancy because stimulating the nipples can cause uterine contractions and possibly trigger preterm labor.” If you do opt to use breast shells, be sure to work with a lactation consultant.
Using a breast pump after your baby is born is also highly effective. “Pumping just before latching on the baby can help your nipples protrude and start your milk flowing,” she adds. Also, even if you have inverted or flat nipples now, they will become more erect as your baby draws them out while breastfeeding, Neifert explains.
A: Nope. Not only is it unnecessary, but, as mentioned above, doing so may trigger pre-term labor. Plus, as Neifert notes: “Nipple skin is not callus-forming tissue, so you can’t really toughen nipples; you might even damage the sensitive skin and make breastfeeding uncomfortable.” If you want to feel like you’re doing something to prepare, use ultra-pure medical grade lanolin on your nipples to keep the skin supple.