By Joanne Stone, Keith Eddleman, Mary Duenwald

If you plan on breast-feeding, you may want to take steps to toughen the skin around your nipples, which can help prevent them from cracking and becoming painful and sore when you’re breast-feeding.

You can try very gently rubbing or massaging your nipples between your fingers, exposing them to air, rubbing them gently with a washcloth, or wearing a nursing bra with the flaps down so that your nipples rub against your clothes. Creams and oils work against toughening, so don’t use them on your nipples.

Some women worry that they don’t have the right type of breasts for breast-feeding, but no breast type is right or wrong. Breasts both large and small can produce adequate milk. Some women with retracted or inverted nipples can make breast-feeding easier by massaging their nipples so that they protrude more. Some maternity or baby stores sell special breast shells that use suction to help the nipples come out.

Many women notice from early on in pregnancy that their breasts occasionally secrete a yellowish discharge. This discharge is colostrum, and it’s what the newborn baby sucks out and swallows in the first few days of life before actual milk comes in.

Colostrum has a higher protein and lower fat content than milk; most importantly, it contains antibodies from your immune system that help protect your baby against certain infections until her own immune system matures and can take over.

Don’t worry if you don’t produce any visible colostrum during pregnancy; not producing colostrum in no way means that you won’t produce adequate milk. Each woman is different; some leak from the breasts during pregnancy, and some don’t. Even if it isn’t obvious, your baby will still get colostrum the first few times she breast-feeds.