What to Do When the Ladies Have Left the Building

(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.

“It seems that every time I shave, I always miss a spot on the back of my leg. Just ignore that.”

“I am sooo white. I always think I should try those spray tans, but I don’t want to turn orange.”

“Ignore my breasts. I used to be a D cup, but since breastfeeding three kids I barely fill a B.”

Huh?
While many articles that I’ve read tell women that decreased breast size after nursing children is all an illusion conjured up by their sleep-deprived, addled, female brains, the truth is this – experiential evidence has proven that many women end their breastfeeding experience with smaller breasts than before pregnancy.

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!

Written by: Amy

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25 Comments

  • Kim

    While I do not have this issue (pregnancy and breastfeeding actually left me with breasts for the first time, albeit somewhat… hmm let's say not perky ones), I know many who do.
    I think your bigger point really struck home with me: learn to love the bodies we now have. And not only love them, but treat them and dress them appropriately.
    – kimatsprig

  • Janice (5 Minutes for Mom)

    Great post Amy! My breasts are smaller after breastfeeding. I was a full B before and now I am a barely B. IT is all about the bras now baby!

  • ResourcefulMommy

    Kim, I'm with you. The once compact assets now appear more there when packaged nicely in an appropriate garment, but yes…gravity is a nasty broad.

    Janice, thanks for commenting and happy bra shopping! šŸ™‚

    -Amy

  • Shannan

    Strangely, breastfeeding left me with bigger boobs and less cleavage. The droopy girls are evidently no longer speaking and are attempting to hide from each other under my arms, even in the best of bras. I've accepted the fact that I will never have another random man on the street ogle my chest and that's okay with me. They're mine, they fed my babies and they can do whatever they want until I decide whether or not they will ever come back out of retirement. Within reason, of course.

  • Cindy

    Since I'm in the 3rd trimester of my 4th pregnancy in 6 years, and breastfeed all my babies, I have NO idea what a normal size is for me anymore! I went from a perky and adorable 32B to a gigantic (for a 5' tall person) 42D, to right now a 38C. I've got my 42D nursing bras ready for when the baby comes, but I'm wondering if I'll need such a big size this time. It's been different with each child.

    I imagine all the shrinkitude (new word!) will come to me when I'm finished having kids. Since I'm all about natural family growth, who knows when that will be? Probably 10 years and 4 babies from now. I doubt these ladies are going to end up back in a B cup, no matter how much I wish for it. They may, however, be so floppy and stretched I feel lucky to get them *into* a cup. LOL

    I have a few friends who have lost a cup size after weaning, though, so I know it does happen. I blame over-exercise in at least one of the cases I'm aware of. Slender is good. Skinny like a 10 year-old boy is not.

  • Cindy

    Oh, yeah. I wanted to say that breastfeeding does, in fact, change your bewbs. Mostly for the worse. I don't want to scare anybody into feeding their babies anything but breastmilk, but moms have to put aside their vanity to nurse. It's just a fact. My mother never breastfed, (sorry for the following TMI) and her boobs are younger-looking than mine. BUT. It's not that bad. Just some stretchmarks and bigger nipples. It's worth it to give my kids the best I can.

    I know a lot of bf'ing advocates push the idea that your breasts go back to "normal" when you're finished, but I'm not in favor of lying to women to get them to do the right thing.

  • Erica

    Cindy, I am LOL @ anyone who says breasts go back to normal. Um, no. lol

    I was a 34 barely-A for years… got pregnant and boy did that change. By the time I was breast feeding my hungry boy I was a full 36 DD. He's 3 now and has been weaned for over two years. So, I'm pretty sure I've met the new-norm for me… 36 barely-B. Yes, larger than before, but I think it's due to all the stretching. Most of my size now is extra floppiness. haha

    But yes, so worth it to know I was able to give my son the nourishment he needed.

  • @Colorado_Mom

    I'm one that opted for the surgical route. 6 weeks ago I got what I call "my new babies". Love them! Sooo glad I did it!

  • Shannon

    Mine look like someone let the air out of a balloon. At one point I was wearing a large C/Small D, but now I'm wearing a B. I don't mind that. I just wish they would stop trying to make friends with my belly button and move bak up where they are supposed to be.

    Surgery has always been an option for me. My youngest child is my last. Now it's just waiting until we have the money.I don't want implants BTW just a nice little lift.

  • Amy

    Ah, to have once had boobs at all…

    I began with no boobs, barely had a B cup while pregnant with my third, and was left with less than nothing afterward.

    I'm all about the padding, baby!

    Loved this Amy!

  • Jessica R.

    I now demand a refund on the WHOLE experience. Not only did I never make enough milk, but my tatahs went from a nice DD to a DDD when I suck in my gut and hold my breath and pretend I'm not spilling out all over the place because I just can't bring myself to buy an F cup.
    So unfair! I'll share with anyone who wants them!

  • Amber@ClassicHousewife

    I can't believe anyone tries to argue that things will go "back to normal." NORMAL?? I've always joked about transplanting some of my post-baby "fat around the middle" to my post-baby "where'd it go?" empty bra. And p.s. I have no idea what size or shape of bra I am really supposed to be wearing. I hate bra shopping, it feels like I'm playing bra roulette.
    Thanks for writing this, thanks for the LIFT. šŸ˜‰

  • Kristie

    There definitely is no normal once you have had kids when it comes to the ladies! I know some that have gotten smaller, some bigger, but most definitely most are pointing in the wrong direction!

  • Crystal @ The Thrifty Mama

    Yep, this happened to me. I weaned my two year old right before her second birthday, which was this past March. The ladies are 1 cup smaller than they were before I ever got preggo with my first, and they are decidedly flat.

    Hopefully after I give them a year they will figure things out. šŸ™‚ Great tips on the exercise and healthy eating!

  • Janine (@twincident)

    I can't get past the fact that you wrote a post with the term "milk lockers' in it! You really are resourceful cause I've never heard of that one! LOL

  • Cheryl Lage

    As a tandem twin nursing mommy (a la the state fair) I went from a 36B to a 40D while nursing…and heand to heaven if I looked in the mirror I could almost see them inflate on schedule.

    Now, 8 years later, I'm an odd 32 D (according to the lady at Nordstroms) and my nipples point in different directions…and scene.
    šŸ™‚

    Fun post! šŸ˜‰

  • Krista

    Ha, well, I nursed my son for 16 months and a year later I was still one whole cup size larger than before. I'm now nursing son #2 and we'll see what happens as I grew another cup size while pregnant… basically originally I started at a 36C and I'm now a 38DD. Oy!
    But unfortunately I'm sure they will never be as perky as they were… I have to wear a bra to bed now so they don't end up in my armpits!
    When I'm all done nursing I have considered possibly getting a lift just for comfort mostly! Probably won't happen due to the money though…

  • BestforBabes

    Love the message to accept and love your body and your tatas! Great tips on how to treat the ladies, too.

    In doing your research, did you see this study http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21599854/ that suggests that it is pregnancy, not breastfeeding, that causes breasts to sag? I don't know if there is a study on cup size, but I do know that it is a common myth that breastfeeding causes sagging. Most qualified, excellent breastfeeding specialists or educated advocates would never tell a mom that their boobs will "go back to being the way they were". Any well-meaning but ill-educated advocates who stretch the truth (pun intended) to try to motivate moms to breastfeed should change their tactics! Setting up unrealistic expectations doesn't help anyone. We usually tell moms that once you're pregant, nothing goes back to being the same again! šŸ™‚
    Thanks Amy for the enjoyable and hilarious post on our favorite topic, boobs!

  • Nikki

    You had me at I-must-increase-my bust! I love this post! Sincerely! I was one of those who didn't have much before I had kids… hubby will now tell you that I have plenty. You should really do a post from the guy's point of view because I've been told that I now have "more than a handful" and that's too much! Apparently he liked me at a 36C instead of my 38B/C that I am now! Whatever! I say it17 years and 4 kids to get this size… I'm stayin! I love putting on my push up, the spanx (because the girls do have some issue with wanting to talk to my belly button and I want to tuck that away), a flirty dress and say BAM! Yes, these girls are mine and NO! You may not touch them.

    Excellent post Amy, thank you for some great information and for going where only our husbands like to go.

  • Traci

    I never lost my breasts after nursing. Before pregnancy I was a ridiculous excuse for an A cup. After giving birth to my first son and nursing for 18 months, I was left with a, albeit saggy, C cup. While my husband never complained, it was odd to get use to. After my second baby? I am currently sporting a D cup and would gladly prefer a B. Haha.

    I think the fact that I lose weight during/after each of my pregnancies just makes them look even bigger, at least to me. Some days I wish I had my perky little boobs back instead of these bazoombas I have now! šŸ™‚

    -Taleof2Cuties

  • ResourcefulMommy

    Traci, I also lost weight during pregnancy – 30 pounds w/ E and 20 w/ N – and yet the hormones took care of "the girls." Sad to say, but the best body I ever had was that sickly, yet perky end of first trimester body.

    Give me healthy and saggy any day, though šŸ™‚

  • JennyF

    My favorite quote is from Rita Rudner who said that as she aged her cup size went from a 36C to a 36 long.

    I have had the opposite experience, but also found that the width of my hips lowered post babies. I wear different brands of jeans than I used to wear because now I need "curvy" fit jeans. What's up with that?!

  • ErinJeany

    Great Post Amy! I know I used to love how perfect my boobs were. I had nice perky c's that it was honor to flash around town… lol

    Then I had Elijah. And though it was more than worth it to loose those in exchange for him it still makes me sad from time to time. Mine are still about the same size… only um… longer? lol Which causes me to have to wear a bigger bra size. They are much flatter and of course one is a bit bigger and different shape than the other resulting in very odd cleavage separation. lol

    I am not a self conscience woman really when it comes to my body, but my boobs, well thats a whole 'notha story. Those things look out of wack it throws my whole ego off. lol They are my prized possessions so seeing them laying around like a sad dachshund makes me depressed. I already put in a request with Dave for implants when we are done having kids. He agreed IF ..IF I can get back down to the weight I was when we met (and recommended weight for my height) of 120, that he will in fact buy them for me as a present for getting healthy again. I don't want huge and unnatural, I just want perky and cute back. That's not too much to ask, right? lol

  • Mine are deflated. Yes, that’s the word for it. After nursing three kids, they are deflated like neglected party balloons.

  • […] the record show that I have no problem writing about personal topics, saying things that make people angry, or even biting the hand that feeds me if there’s […]

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