All About Baby

Your baby is filling out this week. She’s adding fat to insulate her body for the day she leaves her cozy home. You can probably distinguish between feet and hands, head and bottom when your baby-to-be moves inside you. She takes practice breaths but won’t breathe air until delivery.

Your baby’s growth has begun to slow down now, but she will still gain approximately four pounds between now and birth. If she were born now, she would be able to breathe, but might tire easily and need assistance. Her little eyes are sensitive to light.

All About You

You’re making a turn towards the homeward stretch! Time to start considering some big decisions. In addition to the breast or bottle question, what will you do about circumcision? In some religions and cultures, circumcision, cutting a baby boy’s foreskin, is a matter of custom and belief. In others, boy babies are never circumcised. For many people without clear cultural guidelines, circumcision is a difficult, but important choice to make.

It is also a good time to start working with your birth support partner or healthcare team to plan your birth. As part of your preparations, it’s not too early to begin perineal massage to help prevent an episiotomy or tearing during delivery. You may not be able to reach by yourself — have your partner assist you.

As your baby-to-be grows bigger, you may find your pregnancy pains increasing. By the end of the day your back aches and your feet become swollen. Frequent potty breaks are probably becoming a nuisance as your wiggly baby presses down on your bladder.

Ready for Breastfeeding?

Increased breast size is one of the first signs of pregnancy. Even before your bump makes an appearance, pregnancy hormones send messages to your breast tissue to get ready to feed your baby come delivery day. If this is your first baby, or you’ve had trouble nursing in the past, breastfeeding may seem foreign. You may still be unsure whether or not you want to breastfeed. Here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare to nurse your newborn.

When milk comes in: From the first days of pregnancy your breast tissue is building and readying to feed your baby. Between your fifth and sixth month of pregnancy you might notice clear to yellowish liquid occasionally coming from your nipples. This beginner milk, called colostrum, is made up of antibodies, the perfect diet for a newborn. After your baby’s birth, your breasts will produce colostrum for three to five days until your milk comes in. Your breasts will most likely feel fuller and heavier as breast milk replaces colostrum.

Why breastfeeding is good for your baby: Breast milk is the perfect food for your baby — a carefully concocted mix of fats, proteins, and antibodies that help your child grow. The makeup of breast milk changes over time to meet your baby’s growth needs and also changes during individual feedings. When your baby begins nursing, she first receives foremilk — a more watery, but still high-fat mix — which is replaced with regular milk in the middle of the feeding and then thinner milk as the feeding comes to an end.

Babies easily digest breast milk, which is why you should expect to feed your baby every two hours for the first few weeks. Her body breaks down the nutrients from your breast milk quickly and she’s ready for more.

Why breastfeeding is good for you: When you breastfeed, your body releases a hormone called oxytocin, which signals your uterus to contract, explains Dr. William Camann, MD, director of obstetric anesthesia at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and coauthor of Easy Labor: Every Woman’s Guide to Choosing Less Pain and More Joy During Childbirth. These contractions pull at your uterus, bringing it back into pre-pregnancy position (these contractions may be painful at first). Along with pulling your belly back into place, breastfeeding requires calories. Your body will use up fat stores to produce breast milk, meaning nursing should help you lose pounds and return to your pre-pregnancy weight.

Breastfeeding can also help you grow closer to your baby. During feedings you can stare into his eyes and memorize his features while he in turn looks at yours. Nursing gives you an excuse to slow down and spend a few quiet moments together.

Convenience comes with nursing as well. You won’t need to measure the right amount of milk into bottles or mess with heating up your baby’s breakfast. Breast milk comes at the perfect temperature, ready to eat, and is free.

Breast evaluations by your physician: “There are two reasons a doctor will examine a woman’s breasts during pregnancy,” says Dr. Camann. “First, to check for any abnormal growth. It’s not common, but some women have been diagnosed with breast cancer during pregnancy.” And second, your healthcare provider will be looking for any anatomical issues that may make breastfeeding tougher, for instance if you have flat or inverted nipples.

How to Get Started

You may want to attend breastfeeding classes before your baby’s birth. For some mother-child pairs, nursing comes naturally, but there are often difficulties for mother or baby. Learning more about how to nurse before your baby’s birth will go a long way toward making nursing a success. In class you’ll learn different ways to hold your baby for feedings and how your baby should be placed on the breast. This knowledge will help you feel more comfortable nursing from the start. Call your hospital’s lactation consultant if you have any questions or concerns. The La Leche League is also a great resource for information and support.

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Q & A

Got questions about Week 29? Other women have asked…

Q: I’m pregnant and I feel sick and dizzy. What’s going on?

The large blood vessel that runs behind the uterus, called the vena cava, is responsible for carrying the blood from the lower part of your body back to your heart. It can also be the cause of your feelings of nausea and dizziness. Read more about dizziness during pregnancy.

Q: Is forgetfulness a common pregnancy symptom?

Forgetfulness is a common perception during pregnancy. I have heard it called ‘pregnancy brain’ or ‘placenta brain.’ Studies on cognition, though, show that brain function during pregnancy is not different than when not pregnant. Read more about pregnancy brain.

Q: Does the mask of pregnancy ever go away?

Melasma does tend to fade over time, but may reappear with sun exposure, especially if you use estrogen-containing contraceptives. If you have another baby, melasma is likely to recur. Sunscreen may not be totally effective, so we tell pregnant women that in addition to using a good sunscreen, other products should be used. Read more about face products to use during pregnancy.

Your Partner

Nursing: Not As Easy As You’d Think!

Breastfeeding is one of the healthiest things parents can do for their baby. It is not only good for your little one’s growth and development, but is equally beneficial for your partner. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends mothers breastfeed at least through Baby’s first year and preferably for up to two years (while giving complementary foods after six months).

However, nursing can be very difficult for some families. Many people think breastfeeding should just happen naturally, so when a new mother has trouble, she may blame herself and feel depressed and guilty. But the truth is that nursing is a skill both babies and mothers need to learn together. And this is where dads can help!

Help your partner nurse by making sure she has enough to drink during the day and especially during or just after she nurses. If she has trouble nursing, you can help her seek out a lactation consultant (a professional who can facilitate the breastfeeding process; many make home visits) by calling her OB office, the hospital where she delivered, or your newborn’s pediatrician. But the most important thing you can do is to remind her that she is not at fault if trouble arises. Many women struggle with breastfeeding, and some are never able to successfully nurse. Listen to her and offer her lots of love and support throughout the experience.

Whether nursing goes smoothly or not, talk with your partner about pumping milk once breastfeeding is well established so you can do one or two feedings a day (or at night!). One of the most important ways fathers bond with their babies is by meeting their core needs. By feeding Baby, you’re showing her that you’re not just a supporting role, but a primary caretaker. This can make a real difference as you begin building a strong relationship with your child.