Breasts, Nursing and Lovemaking

Kathleen Tackett's picture

QUESTION

Dear Lactation Consultant,
I am 6 weeks away from having my first child. I am a black woman age 26, and I am starting to develop some milk I guess, because my breasts are swelling a little now and leaking just a little, is that normal to start developing milk at this point in my pregnancy? How much milk should I be developing between now and my babies birth?

I feel funny to ask this question, but I need to know so her goes: My husband is a total breast man, and enjoys sucking my nipples during our private sexual times, I hate to tell him to stop, cause we both enjoy it, but will that be a problem with our new child?

Thanks for you help on my questions,
Nicki

ANSWER

Hi Nicki,
It is normal for your breasts to begin producing colostrum during pregnancy, and it is the first food available for babies immediately after birth before your milk actually "comes in." It contains lots of antibodies and helps protect the vulnerable newborn from infection by coating his intestines and protecting him from viruses and bacteria. It also has a laxative effect, which helps him excrete meconium (the black, tarry fetal stool he is born with) reducing the incidence of jaundice. It contains growth factors that help prepare his digestive system for absorbing and digesting milk. It is very easy for the newborn baby to digest, and is exactly what he needs to eat during the first days after birth. Colostrum is different from mature milk in other ways as well. It contains more salt and protein, and less sugar and fat then mature milk. It even looks different. It is ranges in appearance from clear and watery to thick, yellowish and sticky.

Some expectant mothers find that they leak lots of colostrum during pregnancy, while others are able to express only a drop or two. The amount of colostrum produced prenatally has no relationship to the amount of milk the mother will produce later on. Colostrum is very concentrated, and the volume produced is very small. Most mothers will have teaspoons rather than ounces. During the first 24 hours after birth, an average of 37 ml of colostrum is produced (an ounce contains 30 ml). Babies take in an average of 7-14 ml at each feeding. When the mother's milk comes in a few days after birth, it is called "transitional milk." This mixture of colostrum and mature milk is produced from 4-10 days after birth. As the volume of milk increases, the protein content decreases and the amount of sugar and fat increase. Transitional milk may look yellowish due to the colostrum content. After 10-14 days, mature milk is produced. It still contains lots of valuable antibodies and immune factors, but no more colostrum. That's one reason that early breastfeeding is so important. Even if a mother nurses her baby for only a short time after birth, she is giving her newborn a precious gift that won't be available to him later on.

As far as lovemaking is concerned, there is rarely any reason to limit your partners access to your breasts during pregnancy or after your baby arrives. Breast stimulation can stimulate the release of oxytocin, as can orgasms. Since oxytocin is the same hormone that causes uterine contractions during labor, mothers who are at risk of delivering prematurely may want to limit the amount of suckling that takes place during the last trimester. However, this is a very rare situation. It takes a LOT of stimulation to induce labor, and the amount that takes place during sexual activity is hardly ever enough to make you go into labor if your baby isn't ready to come. Some mothers will have their partner stimulate their breasts during labor to try to speed things up a little, but in my personal experience, the last thing I was thinking about during labor was sex!

Colostrum tastes different than breast milk. It doesn't have a bad taste, just not much taste at all. Mature milk is very sweet (it tastes kind of like melted ice cream), and many dads really like the taste. Babies don't mind sharing at all, and there should be plenty of milk to go around.

Hope this answers your question, and I wish you all the best.

-- Anne, IBCLC