In week 38 of pregnancy you’ll notice your baby gains weight and your bump will be feeling heavier. This may be uncomfortable for now but you’re just two weeks away from reaching full-term pregnancy.
Your baby’s development
This week your baby is the size of a… small watermelon.
Movement will become less and less due to constricting space, however it doesn’t disappear completely. By this time you should know your baby’s rhythms and movements. If you sense anything is wrong, even if it’s just an instinct, get checked out by your doctor or midwife.
In the 38th week your baby will be getting stronger by the day.
As with previous weeks, your baby continues to lay down fat, but his growth in length will slow to a stop.
· Lungs will be maturing further.
· Brain and nerve functions continue developing.
Your physical pregnancy changes
Your ankles and feet are probably permanently swollen now – not that you can see them! This is due to your body retaining large amounts of water and having naturally higher blood pressure. Just remember that it will all return to normal after the birth.
There’s a good chance your cervix will begin to dilate at some point this week, which will cause the loss of the mucus plug that has been protecting from infection to fall away. You may notice this as ‘a show’ of pinkish or bloody discharge. Although this is physical proof that your body is preparing itself for labour, it doesn’t mean that it is imminent, so don’t get too excited just yet.
Your breasts are probably releasing than before and you may have to start wearing breast pads to stop any of your clothes being stained. As annoying as it is, it’s a good sign that you’re another step closer to motherhood!
If you really want to breastfeed your baby it’s worth putting in some groundwork before the birth to help you feel confident when your baby arrives.
Before baby arrives
While breastfeeding is a natural way of feeding your baby, it’s a skill like any other that needs practice from you and your baby, so don’t worry if you find it a little difficult at first. There’s lots of help and advice available for breastfeeding mums and after plenty of practice you’ll find yours and your baby’s confidence will grow. To help you along, you might like to do the following before the birth:
· Ask your caregiver (midwife, doula, GP or obstetrician) to check your breasts for flat or inverted nipples to rule out any issues before you begin. They’ll be able to advise on techniques to draw the nipple out including using breast shells or a pump.
· Most antenatal classes will have at least one class dedicated to breastfeeding, but if you want to know more, the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) offers breastfeeding advice and classes.
· Talk to other mums who’ve breastfed about their experiences. Hearing that they overcame stumbling blocks can be reassuring.
· There are lots of breastfeeding books and DVDs available, but you might find it more helpful to ask a good friend who’s nursing if you can watch as she feeds and ask her for tips.
· Practice holding a friend’s newborn and moving baby about while supporting her head and shoulders, so you feel more confident when it comes to positioning your own baby for a feed.
· In the later stages of pregnancy, get professionally fitted for a nursing bra and practice unfastening it with one hand and refastening it.
· Stock up on breast pads, nipple cream, easy access breastfeeding clothes and think about buying or hiring a pump.
Breastmilk – what to expect
When will my milk ‘come in’? is a really common question among new mums and many will tell you their milk took a long time to ‘come in’. But in fact, your milk is already ‘in’ before you give birth and appears first as colostrum – a thick and extremely nutritional, yellowish liquid high in the fats and proteins your baby needs. Mums will commonly refer to the surge in volume and change in composition as their milk ‘coming in’.
On average, women feel their milk ‘come in’ two to five days after birth and possibly longer if you’ve had a difficult delivery. At this time, your breasts may feel fuller, firmer and heavier. Be prepared that those first few days can feel like a waiting game and also a time when you may feel inexplicably teary.
After colostrum, your breastmilk becomes thinner and bluish-white in colour. You will also begin to feel your breasts’ ‘let-down’ reflex, which is the milk moving towards your nipples. You’ll often feel this reaction when your baby cries or suckles your nipple. Two to three weeks after the birth your breasts will start to feel slightly smaller and softer, as if they have ‘settled down’.
Breastfeeding in the first few days after birth
In the first few days after your baby is born, you will experience a whole range of emotions from extreme excitement to immense nerves. The first few days can be difficult if your baby is hungry and you’re waiting for your milk to come in. Here are some tips to help you cope in the early days.
· In the beginning, get your midwife to watch you feed so if you run into trouble she can correct it straight away.
· Don’t be afraid to experiment with different breastfeeding holds to find what suits you and your newborn – remember that this is all new to your baby too.
· If you need help at home, the ABA has a breastfeeding helpline with trained counsellors as well as local support groups. They can also help you find a lactation consultant if you need one.
· Seek out family and friends who have successfully breastfed. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions either, they’ll love sharing their knowledge with you!
Building up a supply of breastmilk
Many mums worry that they are not producing enough milk for their babies. But according to the ABA breastfeeding works on a supply and demand basis so the more milk your baby has, the more milk your body will produce. Therefore most mums who have established breastfeeding can make more than enough milk for their babies.
Breastmilk also has the right amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and vitamins for your baby to grow and develop and contains antibodies to help your baby’s immune system.
How much milk does my baby need?
Many new mums want to know how often to breastfeed their baby, but as every mum and baby is different there are a range of breastfeeding behaviours that are considered normal.
According to the ABA, “Recent research involving Australian infants aged between one and six months old, shows that the average number of breastfeeding sessions per day is eight, with a range of four to 13 feeds recorded. In just under half, (44.5 per cent) of these feeding sessions, the baby fed from only one breast, and most of the rest (53 per cent) were feeds where the baby took milk from both breasts. A few (2.3 per cent) were cluster feeds where the baby fed again from the first breast after the second.”
Other findings include:
· The average time between breastfeeding sessions was three hours two minutes, with a range of 40 minutes to 10 hours 58 minutes.
· Most babies (64 per cent) fed at night, having one-three feeds between 10pm and 4am. This did not change with the age of the baby.
How do I know my baby is latching on properly?
Getting your baby to latch on is a bit of an art and will take time for both of you to get used to. These tips will help you to know if she’s latched on properly.
· If you’re in any pain while your baby is feeding this is a good sign that she isn’t latched on properly. Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. Gently put your finger between her mouth and your breast to break the seal and try again.
· Do your best to make sure your baby’s mouth is as wide open as possible as she comes towards the breast
· Make sure her tongue, bottom lip and chin touch your breast first
· If you can, try and get her bottom lip as far from the base of your nipple as possible
· If she starts feeding straight away this is a good sign that things are working
· If she takes a few sucks and then goes to sleep she may not be latched on properly
· If she is wriggling or fussing this is often also a sign that she’s not comfortable
What is a dream feed?
Many new mums talk about the ‘dream feed’, which is highly recommended by Save Our Sleep author Tizzie Hall. ‘The reason I recommend the dream feed, is to try to avoid you having to get up more than once in the night. When your baby is about eight weeks old, I recommend the dream feed at 10.30 at night,’ says Tizzie.
The idea behind the dream feed is to gently pick your baby up, while he’s asleep, place the bottle or breast on his lower lip and allow him to drink, all the while taking care not to wake him. When he’s finished, sit him upright to allow wind to escape. Most babies are so relaxed at this time of night that they don’t gulp in too much air.
Your health and fitness during pregnancy
If possible, avoid coming into contact with anyone who is sick. You never know when you will go into labour, and you’ll want to be as healthy as possible.
Don’t panic. In these final stages, many women spend their spare time worrying about everything, from what labour will be like to what sort of mum they’ll make. Talk your worries through with your partner or a good friend who’s already a mum to try to set your mind at rest.
Your week 38 pregnancy checklist
·especially staples such as washing detergent, loo rolls and heavy or bulky items.
·Wash your baby’s first week’s worth of clothes so you’re ready to go when you need to.
·Keep an eye
·Avoid people with illnesses.
·it’s good to be informed!
·Start thinking of recipes to cook and freeze for when baby arrives.
If you are truly in labour, one or more things will happen. So, you think you’re about to give birth! Find out if it’s time to grab your hospital bag – or simply a bout of bad indigestion.
First signs of labour
“My belly hurts and I don’t think it’s Braxton Hicks”
It’s probably labour if … your contractions are getting longer, stronger and happening at shorter intervals.
“I’ve got a sore back and it won’t go away”
It’s probably labour if … the pain is persistent. It could come with a crampy feeling like a period pain.
“I’ve just passed something unusual from my vagina”
It’s probably labour if … it’s a ‘show’ (a brownish or blood-stained mucous plug that sits at the top of your cervix) though be warned: full-blown labour can happen soon after, or days later.
“I’m standing in a puddle and no, I haven’t wet myself”
It’s probably labour if … you’re at the end of your pregnancy. There’s a good chance this is your water’s breaking. It could be a trickle or a gush but the majority of women do know if it’s a wee or their amniotic sack breaking.
When do I call the midwife?
It’s time to make the call if…
· Your waters have broken – at any time during the pregnancy
· Your contractions are about five minutes apart or you no longer feel comfortable staying at home
· You’ve had a show
· Your vision has changed
· Your abdomen (not just your belly) is painful
Or if you’re…
· Running a fever
· Suffering a severe headache
· Experiencing vaginal bleeding
· At all worried about anything
I am in labour – what do I do next?
Keep your fluid intake up. The next few hours in labour could be tough and it’s easy to get dehydrated.
· Take some snacks in case you feel hungry during labour or need an energy boost. Be aware that foods high in fat might be heavy on your stomach and make you feel sick. Carbohydrates are good as they’re easy to digest and a slow release of energy. Foods to try include; bread, cereal or pasta, bananas, yoghurt and plan biscuits.
· Alternate between walking and resting. Activity gives you something to take your mind off the contractions and helps baby get into position. Don’t feel the need to start cleaning the windows though as one mum we know did!
· Knowing you’ve got everything you need for the delivery room covered will make you feel in control and more able to relax.
· Have a bath or shower. Warm water can help take the edge off contractions.
· Try to get rest. You’ll need all your energy to deliver your baby safely so if you can, while the contractions aren’t too strong, get some sleep.
· Run through your birth plan. Make sure your partner’s up to speed. Warn him that you may change your mind halfway through the birth but that it’s fine (in fact it’s an unwritten rule that you get special dispensation to do or say anything during labour!).
· Keep your lip balm handy. Your lips can chap easily when you’re doing your labour breathing.