You might be pregnant!
But seriously - tender breasts are often one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. Sensitive and tender breasts (like so sensitive you can feel every thread and fibre in your shirt) can start as early as around 4 - 6 weeks.
As your pregnancy develops there is a wide range of changes that your breasts undergo to prepare for creating milk and feeding your baby (good news! any 'advice' you have been given about preparing your breasts for breastfeeding is now debunked! Clearly your body is doing a fine job of that all by itself thank you very much).
You will most likely notice some changes in size, heaviness and appearance of your breasts. your nipple shape may change, and your areolas will likely darken in appearance. You may notice veins more visible as the blood supply increases in this area and some women begin to notice colostrum (the first milk) leaking, particularly towards the end of pregnancy (don't worry, you can't run out, it's not a limited supply, you will just make more when your baby is here).
Right now, however, your biggest concern is how you're going to make it through the day when the most casual brush past is leaving you reeling.
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Give it time. I know, terrible, impractical advice. But the chances are this will ease up a bit, if not mostly improve by about 12 weeks or so, having some perspective might be really helpful for you.
2. Wear a very comfortable, cotton, firmly fitting bra. consider padding. avoiding underwire. This way your breasts are tucked away nicely, possibly behind a wall of foam, ensuring no chance encounters to ruin your day.
3. Tell everyone. ok, not everyone. but do tell anyone who might usually have permission to touch your breasts. Generally partners and nursing babies. Mum's who tandem feed - power to you- you may find yourself wanting to decrease the number of feeds during this time, or have limitations for how long breastfeeding lasts. Ultimately as a duo, you will both decide what is right for you. chatting to other mums who have tandem fed might give you some good tricks and pointers.
4. Warm compresses. Sometimes odd spasms and soreness can be soothed by wet/ warm/ hot cloths places as a compress against your breast. If this works for you, fantastic!
Hopefully, with a little time and a few minor adjustments, things will improve, and reassuringly, knowing that your body, even at this early stage, is not just doing a great job of growing this baby, but is already thinking ahead to how it's going to sustain her long after she has left your womb.
Jennifer Hazi is a mother, midwife, childbirth educator and doula educator in Sydney, Australia.
She is really passionate about women having voices and choices in maternity care and absolutely loves working alongside women and their loved ones during this time.
She teaches childbirth and parenting education online and in person, works clinically as a midwife and provides physical and educational support to families with new babies up to 3 months old.
Jen also speaks and writes regularly about childbearing, motherhood and transitioning to parenthood.