Here is a semi-condensed collection of everything I've been taught so far.
"Your breasts begin to gear up for feeding your baby as soon as you're pregnant. Having tingling nipples and tender, swollen breasts is one of the first signs of pregnancy. It's caused by hormones surging through your body.
The skin around your nipples (areolas) may also appear darker, and have tiny bumps. This is nature's visual way of directing your baby towards her feed.
The tiny bumps around your areolas produce an oily substance that cleanses, lubricates and protects your nipples from infection during breastfeeding. It smells like amniotic fluid, so your baby will instinctively move towards this familiar smell soon after birth.
By the time your baby is born, the glandular tissue in your breasts may have doubled in size. The timing of this change varies from woman to women. It can happen in mid- or late-pregnancy, or even after you've given birth.
Don't worry if your breasts don't seem to grow much in size. There's no link between the amount of breast growth and your ability to produce milk once your baby has arrived. When your milk comes in after your baby is born, your breasts will feel noticeably heavier and fuller."
Before I found out I was pregnant I remember looking in the mirror and thinking to myself 'blimey!' As I've said in a previous blog post (http://kookycannedlaughter.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/i-want-what-shes-got.html) I don't have big boobs, and I'm not saying I woke up one day looking like Jordan, it was a small change but it was enough of a size increase to be noticable to me. And I think that must have been the first little tell-tale sign. Not that I paid any attention to it.
"La la la, nothing's different, everythings juuuuust like normal" (this thinking went on for a while... even after the first positive test if you can believe it!)
When the truth did finally kick in and I started getting used to it, I quite liked the idea of this promised increase in boob-age (so did my fiance). But it never happened. I watched my pregnant friend's already generous cleavage become even more generous with every week that passed, and waited for mine to become... well generous would have been great, but even just fairly obliging would have done for me.
Surely though, after he was born... that's when it would happen! Well, no. Not for me.
See, you can't always read the online info or talk to the health professional and expect your experience to be the same. Yes, for many, maybe even most women, it'll be true. We're not all the same though. In my ante natal group we had seven women. Four of them now have the generous cleavage I was hoping for, and have gallons of milk to feed their chubby babies. One couldn't produce milk at all and is now bottle feeding. One, devastatingly, lost her baby at birth. And then there's me, and I don't really look any different despite breastfeeding from the word go.
I have no idea if the outward physical differences between my experience and what I was taught would happen have anything to do with the internal workings. I have certainly had a very different breastfeeding experience to the four big-boobed woman in my class (meaning, it has been a much more difficult experience for me than them), but it definately hasn't prevented me from breastfeeding my baby.
If you become pregnant you will be offered breastfeeding support left right and centre, and you'll probably think 'how hard can it be, you just put your boob in their mouth' and maybe you'll be right... or maybe, like me and so many women, it will be hard. If it is, you'll probably worry about it. I think it's important to find ways to calm those worries, whatever they are. There will be many things to worry about! The key seems to be to a. keep perspective (whatever it is, it's probably normal), b. focus on what you CAN do, and don't beat yourself up if nothing works, and c. ask for help.