Breastfeeding is a great way to bond with our babies and to offer them a wonderful start to life. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding exclusively for at least six months, pushing through to a year if possible, and going even to the two-year mark. Some moms nurse past this to offer their kids longer on the magic milk.
While breastfeeding isn’t the choice of every woman and isn’t possible in every circumstance, plenty of women breastfeed their kids. The consensus they have come to: breastfeeding changes mom’s bosoms, sometimes forever.
There are benefits to mom and the baby when breastfeeding takes place, but just like pregnancy is a major body changer, so is breastfeeding. Mom’s bosoms are flooded with milk, gnawed on by babies, and then they dry up and wither like a flower in the summer heat. There’s no way mom is going to walk away with the same tatas she had before.
Pregnancy alone causes changes to the body, such as stretch marks and a certain amount of sagging when the pregnancy is over. However, breastfeeding adds even more side effects. Of course, none of these should stop a mom from nursing, but it is good to go into the situation prepared for what’s on the other side.
Many changes that occur due to breastfeeding are forever. Some are only temporary and will take care of themselves over time. Knowing which are permanent and which aren’t can help moms come to accept their new post-breastfeeding bodies.
15 Permanent: Different Cup Sizes
We've all got that one boob that is the slight overachiever. It's rounder, fuller, and possibly even half a cup size or more larger than its twin. This is normal, but it can become even more pronounced after women breastfeed.
Mom will usually notice while she is nursing that one breast seems to fill with more milk or stand out a bit more than the other. This is especially true if the baby prefers one side to the other or if mom doesn't double pump. Some of this will correct itself after weaning, but since breasts stretch and grow to accommodate milk, a slight size change can still be obvious after weaning. In fact, it may be more noticeable if one breast ballooned up much more than the other while breastfeeding took place.
Breastfeeding Basics website points out that the breasts are not connected to each other and there is nothing to keep them perfectly matched when it comes to milk production or stretching. One breast stretching to accommodate more milk than the other may end in one side being bigger or heavier looking than the other.
Always nurse off of both sides and pump both breasts when pumping. This should help even out some of the difference in your favor when weaning occurs.
14 Permanent: Sagging
There are two different types of believers when it comes to sagging bosoms: one group believes pregnancy alone makes the breasts saggy. The other believes that breastfeeding on top of pregnancy makes the sagging even worse. Who's right? We don't know, but it's not uncommon to hear women say that nursing absolutely made the sagging situation worse.
The breasts constantly filling up and being emptied of milk affects breast tissues.
The Healthy Home Economist says one way to avoid too much sag is to wean slowly so breast tissue can be reabsorbed easier, but even this isn't a guarantee that sagging won't take place.
Many women feel like the way a baby pulls on the breast while nursing makes the situation worse.
Breasts generally sag with time anyway. Sure, it's tough when it happens earlier due to nursing, but breastfeeding is worth it, and a good support bra offers a lift when it's needed. Choosing not to nurse due to fear of sagging is not the way to go because eventually all of our boobs take a downward dive. Give the baby and yourself the benefits breastfeeding has to offer and hope the girls don't fall too far too early. If they do, so be it.
13 Won't Last: Spider Veins
Mom will likely notice that the veins in her breasts become more prominent when she’s pregnant. If she decides to breastfeed, the veins will stay a super-rich blue and may even bulge from time to time. It’s a look that most of us aren’t used to, and many moms worry that extra veiny breasts are here to stay.
The weaning process usually takes care of prominent veins being super dark. Romper and Very Well say that darker veins are normal, and it’s likely the extra blood coursing to the breasts that cause the change in physical appearance. However, both warn that bulges that don’t go away or seem extremely prominent should be looked at by a doctor. When weaning occurs, veins should be much less noticeable, though they can appear darker as long as milk isn’t completely dried up.
If engorgement occurs, mom can expect the veins to be prominent and to grow even darker as the breasts back up with milk. If this leads to an infection, mom will need to seek treatment to get her girls back to normal.
The prominent blue veins are not unsightly, and they aren’t a problem the vast majority of the time.
12 Permanent: Nips Will Point In Different Directions
Most women don’t depend on their nips to work as compasses, and that’s a good thing. After breastfeeding, it’s likely the nips won’t even be facing the same direction, making navigation by breast near impossible.
Children don’t nurse without moving, and this is evident when mom ends the nursing relationship and finds her nips have been pulled from side to side, up and down, by her child’s nursing. The change in direction may come as a surprise to mom if she hasn’t been monitoring the change throughout the breastfeeding relationship, but it comes into clear view when the nursing stops and the nips stay stubbornly pointed wherever they landed.
This is a small price to pay for all the advantages of breastfeeding, but it is a price.
There are women who seek surgery to have their breasts lifted and their nips saved from the situation of forever pointing different directions, though many just get used to it over time.
Blame the elasticity of the breasts, the same thing that can lead to sagging, for this. Luckily when a child decides to turn his head while mom’s boob is still in his mouth, the nip will stretch, though it hurts. After months or years of twisting or pulling, the poor nips don’t put up much of a fight to go back to their original position. Who can blame them?
11 Permanent: Less Chance Of Breast Cancer
There’s always been a ton of good reasons to breastfeed, but most of those focus on the benefits to the baby. Of course, we want what’s best for our little ones, but what if moms can benefit in the long term from all those leaky boobs, bouts of mastitis, and sleepless nights? They can!
Fit Pregnancy discusses four studies that show women can decrease the risk of breast cancer if they breastfeed. Though the reasons aren’t totally clear, breastfeeding does seem to have a positive effect on a woman’s health in this are for the long term.
Theories abound as to why breastfeeding makes a difference, but Fit Pregnancy said one might be that women who breastfeed don’t get as many periods. Less periods means less estrogen, and this is a win when it comes to breast cancer.
Breastfeeding may also change a woman’s breast cells, and this may play a part in why a mom who breastfeeds doesn’t develop cancer. There’s also the fact that breastfeeding changes our lifestyle, or at least it should. Smoking and drinking are noes for a thousand reasons, one big that they increase the risk of breast cancer. Moms usually don’t breastfeed while throwing back tequila shots and smoking a cigarette, so the positive lifestyle choices associated with breastfeeding may also help lower cancer risks.
10 Won't Last: Lumpy Lady Lumps
Moms truly have lady lumps after nursing, though most don’t find them all that lovely. The weaning process makes breasts extra lumpy, though some lumps can only be felt while others are actually seen. Since women have been trained to freak out at the slightest sign of a lump in the breast, and with good reason, these lumps are problematic. Fortunately, they are also almost always temporary.
Redbook wrote that the drying up process is the cause of these lumps. Suddenly there is less milk, and mom becomes aware of every bump and abnormal feel.
Though it’s fine to call a doctor for help clarifying if the lump is cause for concern, most are not. They disappear when the weaning process is really and truly over.
The faster mom weans, the more she can expect lumps as breast ducts fill up with nowhere to put the milk. That’s why weaning slowly is preferable when possible. Mom won’t notice the lumps as being so prominent if she simply pulls one feed at a time over a course of weeks. A sudden weaning process will ensure lumps that may then become a vicious, painful infection called mastitis. Those lumps will be red, sore, and warm to the touch, but with the treatment, they will also go away.
9 Permanent: Stretch Marks
It's great to live in a society where covering stretch marks isn't necessary. Women and men have them everywhere, from our arms, butts, and thighs to across our stomachs. Women who breastfeed can add one more location to that list: breasts.
Pregnancy alone can cause stretch marks to appear on mom's breasts. Add breastfeeding to the mix and it's almost inevitable that stretch marks are going to appear. The milk flowing in and then being taken out offers the perfect situation for stretch marks to occur.
Despite what advertisers try to tell us, no magic product will make stretch marks disappear. They are with us for life, and that's okay. Some women develop them on the top of their breasts, while others find them on the sides and the bottom.
The stretch marks shouldn't keep mom from wearing what she likes. The person with stretch marks notices them more than other people, so it's likely that even with them on full display in a low-cut top no one will notice, unless of course they are staring at mom's boobs for a bit too long. Even if they are spotted, stretch marks are just a sign that our bodies did amazing things for our little people.
8 Permanent: The Girls Are Smaller Than Before
Don’t get too attached to those buoyant, oversized breasts. For most women, they are absolutely not here to stay. While getting into pre-pregnancy pants may be possible, pre-pregnancy bras can end up being totally useless once breastfeeding is over.
An article from Redbook points out that many women end the nursing experience with smaller breasts than they had to begin with. For instance, if mom went into pregnancy with a B cup then ballooned to a C cup during pregnancy and nursing, she shouldn’t expect to automatically land back at a B cup. As her milk dries up, her breasts may move from a B cup to an A cup and set up camp at the permanently smaller size.
Women with large breasts, to begin with, may not have a problem going down half a cup size or so. Women who started out small may find it more concerning, though it’s also freeing to not care about wearing a bra on any given day.
The moral of the story is don’t get too attached to expectations in the boob department, especially as it relates to pregnancy, nursing, and weaning.
The girls may look different each day or week, and there’s no way to know what mom’s chest is going to look like when it’s over.
7 Won't Last: Missed Mensies
The good news about enduring saggy breasts, mastitis, and sleepless nights? No periods, for most ladies anyway. According to Healthline, prolactin, a hormone that aids in breastfeeding, also stops periods, and prolactin stays around as long as mom is still nursing. While some women experience light or sporadic periods while breastfeeding, others have the pleasure of no bleeding at all.
This is a benefit because dealing with menstrual cramps and a heavy flow would be seriously unfair while also suffering from leaking breasts and sore boobs. However, there is one negative that many moms don’t factor in when their periods fail to appear: they can still ovulate. Ovulation takes place before a period arrives, so it's possible for a woman to get pregnant while nursing and before she even has a period.
It’s also important to note that according to Natural Child Spacing and Breastfeeding, periods can return in full force while mom nurses. The majority of moms see a return of Aunt Flo between the 12th and 24th month after birth, likely because a child is not nursing as much and the hormone prolactin is not going to be as high. Still, a year-long break from a period is not a bad deal.
6 Permanent: Nip Appearance
Mom's nips are absolute champs during the breastfeeding process. They often crack, bleed, and eventually get bitten by a tiny human. Self Magazine even confirms that the nips can develop a yeast infection while mom is nursing. It's a lot to put on mom's nips and areolas. It seems like the fair outcome would be for the nips to get to go back to their normal existence after nursing.
That's not usually how things play out though. Just like the rest of mom's breast is changed while nursing, there are changes that take place that simply don't fix themselves when a baby is weaned.
While the yeast infections, bleeding, and mind numbing soreness subside, the color and location of the nips are sometimes permanently changed. That's right, they may be pointing in different directions in a new color while sagging.
The nips are darker while mom is pregnant, but when she weans they may get lighter than they were before she was pregnant.
Due to the breasts sagging, nips often end up lower than they started as well. Some women seek plastic surgery to change this, but it's totally normal and not something anyone will notice unless they see mom nude.
5 Permanent: Sensitive To Touch
It doesn't matter how much mom liked the girls being touched before she breastfed. Breastfeeding complicates the chest area being touched both during breastfeeding and all the way through and after the weaning process. It's a complicated situation that doesn't always get easier with time.
During the months or years that mom is nursing, having a partner touch the chest area isn't always great. Touch leads to milk, and that's not sexy. It can also lead to pain if the milk causes mom to become engorged. Many moms also just feel weird about someone touching the place that they feed their children from.
These complicated feelings can stay around after weaning takes place. It's not easy for mom to go from a milk machine to a sex machine who wants her breasts touched overnight. There's also the issues of the breasts staying sensitive, even after the weaning process is complete.
The best policy is for moms to be honest about how they feel about partners touching them. It may take a while for the sensitivity and the mental block to let up, and things may never go completely back to normal in this department. Though some moms may not notice a difference in the sensation they feel when touched, many women report it being a difficult situation to navigate after years of nursing.
4 Won't Last: Constant Leaking
Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand. Women who nurse their children regularly for a period of time will notice that they still experience leakage after the weaning process is over.
It can lead any mom to wonder, when can I stop buying pads?
Every woman is different, but Livestrong says it can take weeks or even months for some women to stop leaking and for their bodies to get the message that the valves need to be turned off. Weaning is ideally a slow, gentle process that allows a woman’s body to adjust, as well as giving a child time to get used to the new set up. Even so, a body that has been regularly producing milk for months or years isn’t going to magically stop overnight. Breasts will usually keep producing and leaking for a while.
The good news is this won’t last forever. Don’t stand under warm showers or let the lover get too handsy with the girls in the early days and the leaking should eventually stop. The body will get the clue that a demand is not being made anymore, and the supply will then stop. Until then, just carry extra breast pads and keep the nursing bras at the ready. The breast-pad free/sexy non-nursing bras are ahead.
3 Permanent: Half Empty Instead Of Half Full
Good luck giving yourself a breast check in the shower after nursing. The density of mom's breasts don't stay the same, making her chest feel constantly full of ominous invaders. The good news is that firmer or different breast density doesn't always mean a problem, especially if it's a result of nursing. The bad news is it's hard to tell what you feel when you check the girls for possible issues.
Though pregnancy can also cause these changes, women who breastfeed tend to feel their breast density is a bit different than it was, even with the pregnancy considered. Livestrong points to relaxin, a hormone that causes our tendons to relax and make room for baby during pregnancy. It also allows mom's breasts to make room for so much milk. When nursing is over, the relaxin is gone, and there's no milk to fill up the girls, the breast tend to have a harder feeling than they did before.
How much breast density changes varies from mom to mom, but there are generally noticeable changes that cause mom to need a doctor's help determining if what feels like hard tissue in the breasts is actually a lump or just, well, tissue.
2 Permanent: Preferences In Undergarments
Most moms complain about the look and feel of nursing bras. I mean, we go around wearing a bra with straps sturdy enough to carry two boobs full of milk that also happens to have a flap in the front we can release to feed a tiny person. This doesn't really scream sexy and alluring.
What mom may not realize until it's too late is that nursing bras are surprisingly comfortable.
They often don't have underwire, and the sturdy design keeps mom's girls at attention without putting a heavy strain on her back. Sure, they still smell like rotting milk, and most moms are ready to trash them as soon as weaning is complete. However, many moms have a hard time going back to the sexy, skimpy lingerie of prior days.
Suddenly, that underwire doesn't feel good at all. The lacy cups don't offer enough coverage, and mom is way too aware of the feel of the bra. This is why many moms who have gotten through the weaning process opt for sturdier bras, ones made like nursing bras without the peek-a-boo flap, in the future. They offer comfort, coverage, and the acceptance that, like our boobs, we are in a different place in life than we were previously.
1 Won't Last: Sensitivity
A woman is probably more aware of all the colliding sensations in her breasts when nursing than any other time in her life. The heightened awareness of sore breasts, expanding cleavage, and strange leaking only intensifies as mom’s body works to accommodate making massive amounts of milk for a growing baby. To say a woman’s breasts are sensitive when they nurse is an understatement.
Luckily, if a baby latches correctly, pain is not the prominent feeling of nursing. However, as a child starts teething or actually has teeth break through, pain returns. There’s also discomfort just from the sensation of so much milk coming down.
This is not a symptom that immediately lets up. Sure, once mom weans her baby, her breasts don’t feel the same sensations as they did when she nursed. However, she may notice that her breasts are still sensitive and prone to attempt leaking for months after the weaning process is over. During this time, she probably won’t be keen on people touching them or standing directly under the shower head.
Lactation consultant Kelly Bonyata speaking to Livestrong points out that women may have increased discomfort if they become engorged or develop mastitis while weaning. This can lead to a longer period of time where breast sensitivity is an issue, but the sensitivity will eventually go away.
Resources: Healthline, Redbook Magazine, KellyMom.com Very Well Family, Breastfeeding Basics, Self Magazine, Romper, Livestrong, CDC.gov, Fit Pregnancy, The Healthy Home Economist
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