Your baby is working hard to have the best possible start in this world: it is building up fat reserves to sustain it through the first few days of life when your milk production is not fully up to speed. In this section, we explain how long it takes for the milk to start flowing and what else your baby is up to, as well as other interesting information now you are 32 weeks pregnant!
The size of the foetus is around 42 cm (crown - heel) and it weighs approx. 1700-1900 grams.
Your baby's development continues to progress in two particular areas of its body: the digestive system and the lungs. Other than that, development is all about the baby getting bigger, stronger and more rounded.
Your baby is now about as long as a large cucumber but already weighs as much as 4 cucumbers.
The subcutaneous fat serves as a reserve after the baby is born and also helps to regulate the baby's body temperature. This energy store is particularly important, as milk production takes a few days to get going. But remember your body has been making colostrum since around the 16th week of your pregnancy, which is more than enough to sustain baby in the first few days. The point at which the process of “lactogenesis” begins depends on each individual, and sometimes even on the birth process. Medication or a caesarean section are two examples of cases that may affect milk production.
What is lactogenesis?
Around 2-5 days after the birth (around day 3, on average), your breasts will become larger and warmer, indicating that milk production is getting started. This is also referred to as your milk "coming in". The process can sometimes be a little painful because your breasts can be very sensitive to pressure, they may also swell significantly and feel very warm.
No surprise then that this makes many women feel concerned and uncomfortable. Why then does this natural process feel more like an illness? The heat has nothing at all to do with a fever: your body is making sure that more blood is circulating in your breasts and that there is also a greater flow of lymph fluid – these are all important processes to enable the milk to flow.
To begin with, only a few millilitres of milk is produced – this is known as "colostrum". Whilst the quantity is moderate, the content is rich. Think of it as a vitamin shot or an oral vaccination for your baby. Colostrum is full of important nutritional substances, antibodies, vitamins and is very rich in protein and fat. It helps to develop the baby's immune system and give it plenty of energy.
Your newborn baby may be breastfed as often as it likes. Milk production is stimulated by regular sucking. After a few days, the quantity increases and continues to adapt to suit your baby’s requirements.
Perhaps you are one of those lucky mums-to-be who lives in a country where you can begin your maternity leave – this means that you stop working and devote yourself entirely to your pregnancy and preparing for the future with your baby.
The rules on this differ widely from one region to another. This is the point at which maternity leave begins in some countries, whereas in others, it may not begin until pregnancy week 34 and in some regions, there is no such thing as maternity leave. Find out from public authorities what rights – and obligations – you have as a pregnant woman. For example, financial support sometimes depends on providing evidence of certain examinations, employers need to be informed and you will need to submit a claim for maternity leave.
Sometimes, you can be getting on with formalities before the birth, such as completing forms and/or preparing documents. It is helpful not to have any formalities outstanding for completion after the birth. Acute "postnatal memory loss" can make tasks feel all the more difficult. If you find you are very forgetful anyway, it may be just because of poor sleep, which tends to plague many pregnant women in the last few weeks. Your bump often gets in the way, the skin feels tight and you may experience back pain. A side sleeper pillow or breastfeeding pillow between your legs can ease the discomfort.
You are now likely to be gaining weight at a rate of half a kilo per week. Now is the time when many women go up a bra size and wear loose clothing.
For most women, not only have the breasts enlarged, the areolae can also become a little darker. If that's not your idea of beauty, you can take comfort in the fact that most of this disappears all by itself once your baby is born!