Lactation, the process in which your breasts produce milk to feed your baby, begins while you are still pregnant. Lactation causes a variety of changes in your breasts, some that are unpleasant and embarrassing. Fortunately, it is possible to minimize its effects and make lactation more comfortable to handle.
Lactating begins as early as three or four months into your pregnancy. You typically begin noticing signs of it during the third trimester of pregnancy when it causes your breasts to leak a fluid that is yellowish, golden, clear or creamy in color. Although your breasts can discharge fluid at anytime, it is more evident when your breasts are sexually stimulated or massaged. In addition to discharge, lactating sometimes causes your breasts to become tender and enlarge or swell.
Lactation, which is triggered by the hormonal fluctuations in your body during pregnancy, is your body’s way of preparing for your baby’s birth. Your milk production system begins to work while you are still pregnant and produces colostrum, the pre-milk that is full of antibodies, nutrients and easily digestible fluid. Colostrum is what your baby drinks during the first few days after birth before your milk supply fully comes in.
How to Handle
Although there is no way to stop lactation from occurring while pregnant, there are ways to make it more comfortable to deal with. Purchase nursing pads at a drugstore. These pads fit discretely into your bra and absorb any fluid before it appears on or stains your clothing. Alternatively, fold up a cotton handkerchief or cut a square out of a cloth diaper and conceal the fabric inside of your bra to contain any moisture.
Not all women leak colostrum during pregnancy--this doesn’t mean that you are not lactating. If you want to check, carefully squeeze your areola to see if any drops of fluid come out. Don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t. The What to Expect website notes that a woman who does not exhibit obvious signs of lactation is still able to produce a healthy and abundant milk supply when her baby is born.