(photo credit: Raphael Goetter)
Warning: this post is going to be about boobs, ta-tas, hooters, knockers, the life-nourishing, majestic appendages we call breasts. There will be no parenting strategies here today, but if you are a parent, chances are that this post will apply to you or someone in your life. If you are my dad, brother, or any in-law, you should probably stop reading now.
Recently I had a conversation with a new friend, a conversation I have had more times than I can begin to count. We sat near a pool and made the usual, giggly excuses women make to each other when they’re about to appear in public wearing a bathing suit.
That’s right. I’m not talking about decreased breast size when comparing a woman’s body during pregnancy or nursing to her body after her hormone levels return to normal post-weaning. In fact, every “expert” who uses this as an excuse for change in breast size should take a seat and reconsider their expert status. Do they really believe we’re comparing our little padded bras of post-baby motherhood to those giant, over-elasticized slings we called nursing bras and wondering what went wrong? Come on! I’m talking about the women who at twenty-five are wearing a D cup with a cup that overfloweth and at thirty after nursing two children are wearing a B cup with extra padding and room to carry tissues and loose change.
After much research I did eventually find several physicians willing to lay out the facts regarding what happens inside the milk lockers during the nursing process. When the milk ducts grow and swell to provide white gold to our little ones, the current breast tissue is pushed to the side. The breast tissue that was displaced does not always return once the ducts have resumed their pre-pregnancy size. For some women, this causes the sensation of having flatter breasts because there literally is less tissue mass than there was previously. For others, breasts may become misshapen and even asymmetrical. Coupled with the fact that the breast tissue often becomes stretched during nursing, many women are left with smaller, flatter breasts with loose skin.
Now that we know the myth of smaller breasts post-nursing is not a myth after all, what can we do? I cannot emphasize enough how strongly I feel that women should not take changes in their breasts into account when choosing whether or not to nurse their children. While I support women who make informed decisions that are best for them, I absolutely believe that whenever possible, it is best to breastfeed. Now, what to do when you’re done…
1. Find the right bra for you – Everyone who has ever watched Oprah knows that very few women wear the right size bra. If your breasts have not returned to their pre-pregnancy glory days, do not return to your pre-pregnancy bras. Consider having a professional fit you for the right size, and then purchase the size that you need, not the size that you like.
2. Find more than the right bra for you – I’m not suggesting that you go out and grab a cone-shaped bra that qualifies you to go on tour with Madonna, but come on, Momma. Treat yourself to a little lift, a little umph, a little ooh-la-la. You’ve earned it!
3. Dress for your size – If in your past life you wore a DD but you’re now taking the A train, it’s time to rethink your tops and blouses. Don’t lose the ladies in extra fabric! Try to find shirts that fit your body properly and show off those fabulous curves, no matter how big or small.
4. Give it time – After my son was delivered by emergency c-section, I assumed my body would be a mess of scars and sagging skin for the rest of my life. In fact, my scar shrunk considerably over time, and while a steady diet of ice cream helped to fill in those sags, much of my body simply returned to normal over time. If you recently stopped breastfeeding, chances are that the ladies are still figuring things out. Give it at least a year before wondering what to do next.
5. Exercise – Remember Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, and those ridiculous I-must-increase-my-bust exercises? Well stop laughing and start moving. While exercises are not going to replace the lost fatty tissue in your breasts, you can give them a lift by working your pectorals. There are simple exercises you can do at home, such as push-ups and bench pressing soup cans!
6. Watch the scale – Remember that ice cream diet I spoke of? Guess what. Much of the tissue in your breasts is fatty tissue, so if you have gone overboard in your attempts to lose “baby weight,” you may have inadvertently made your breast size decrease. Be sure to maintain a healthy diet and watch that you aren’t underweight. The ladies will thank you.
7. Consult a doctor – If you’ve given it time and tried everything else but are still at a loss over your loss, you may consider speaking with a doctor. I know more than one mom who went from a B cup to a no cup after nursing many children and opted for implants. My body has never been one of my best assets, so changes in it tend to not impact my life greatly. For this reason, I cannot judge the things that others choose for themselves. I’ve never had to walk a mile in their bra. If you decide to speak with a doctor, be sure to ask about a breast lift, which may help with sagging skin and misshapen breasts without the need for the more drastic implant surgery.
Disclosure: I am not a physician, a lactation consultant, or a bra expert. I’m just a mom with a rack and a lot of friends singing the same sad song. I hope this post helps!