Now, more than halfway through the pregnancy, you can see that your baby is looking more and more like a new-born. It is about 31 cm long, weighs around 650 grams, and has a huge need to move (there’s still plenty of space to splash around). Everything your baby needs when it comes to warmth, food and stimulation is right there in the uterus. It is reacting to more and more sensory impressions – feeling around, experiencing flavours, hearing and sound. The baby can learn to recognise voices it hears nearby, and will react to them during birth. Its eyes are mostly closed, but those little eyelids can blink. The air sacs in the lungs, called alveoli, are beginning to develop now. They make a substance called surfactant. Surfactant keeps the lung sacs expanded so that the lungs don’t collapse and stick together the first time the baby fills them with air. If the baby were born now, as one of the very few babies born this early, there is a chance for survival, even if extensive care in the neonatal unit would be required.
Let’s talk boobs! Maybe you’ve noticed that they feel little different recently, and you can see the blood vessels more clearly? That’s because the mammary glands have started to develop. It isn’t unusual – though it doesn’t happen to everyone – for the breasts to leak milk already at this stage. This raw milk is called colostrum. It is a yellow, somewhat sticky milk that forms during pregnancy and is incredibly nutritious, to give the baby as much nutrients as possible during the first meals. A few days after the baby arrives, it will become ordinary breast milk. If you’re bothered by leaking breasts, you can buy inserts for your bra to avoid having to walk around with two wet spots. They might leak more at night, because the breasts can be squeezed together from your sleeping position – so place a towel underneath you to avoid discomfort. Even if it’s annoying and you just want it to stop, don’t try to squeeze out the milk – that will just trigger milk production and there will only be more. If you don’t notice any major difference in your breasts, or if you think they’re so small that it would be impossible to feed a baby, you should know that size really makes no difference. Milk quantity isn’t affected by breast size or by whether they leak during pregnancy.
Is there a future sibling at home? If so, the risk of jealousy is real, especially if this is the first new sibling. The idea of having to share parents with someone else, someone they can’t even see, touch, or play with, isn’t exactly uplifting. Kids don’t necessarily know that our hearts get bigger and have infinite space for love! Don’t assume that your child is as excited for your new family member as you are. Instead, listen, validate and discuss all of their feelings with love and empathy – and explain that you can’t return the baby to the hospital, even if these are honest and creative suggestions on the part of the child. Jealousy is only natural, but it can help your journey forward to prepare the older sibling and get them involved already now: sing favourite songs to the belly and explain that the baby will recognise their older sibling’s voice once born. Make drawings, pat the belly and feel for kicks. If possible, bring the big brother or sister to an appointment to listen to the heartbeat. If you’re feeling really daring, you can let your child help choose the name. Once the baby has arrived, ask friends and family who visit to talk to the older sibling first, and to feel free to bring a little gift for the bigger sibling to celebrate. You could even have a few little wrapped gifts ready to take out if anyone forgets.