I have some exciting news. This one is for any ex-breastfeeding mum who is staring with dismay at her deflated balloon boobs in the mirror.
Your girls may not be sad and saggy forever! I say ‘may not’ because we are all different, but here’s what I’ve learnt about what happens to breasts after breastfeeding, and it may give you some hope.
Will my boobs EVER come back?
A little while ago I wrote an article about The eight stages of breastfeeding mum boobs: From show-stopping to flat as a pancake – and I know, the title of the story was pretty depressing! But it’s true, right? When you go from sporting porn star hard, Wonder Woman-esk breastfeeding boobs to two floppy, perhaps lopsided, pikelets on your chest after weaning, it’s like one mum boobage extreme to the other.
And yes, while we are incredibly grateful to our ‘girls’ for all they have done for our babies – nourished them, soothed them and often breastfed them to sleep (thank you, thank you boobs) – there comes a time when we all look at our chest in the mirror with an expression of non-recognition.
The other day while getting dressed, I realised something. I no longer have pancake boobs. Sure, my breasts are not as perky as they were pre-babies – and let’s face it, they probably never will be, but they now have some shape to them. They fill my bra again, and while softer then they were during pregnancy and breastfeeding, they are no longer floppy.
It’s like they have sort of recovered from that whole journey and are now, two years after weaning my youngest, looking a little more like themselves again.
More on breastfeeding:
- From Mongolia to Italy: How breastfeeding differs around the world
- Why the first six weeks of breastfeeding are the hardest
- You’ll LOVE this photo of a breastfeeding mum “covering up”
I did a little research after this most delightful discovery of mine and learned a few things about what happens to our boobs after breastfeeding.
1. Droopy boobs are normal
When we breastfeed, our boobs experience a big change in both their appearance and feel. All that milk-producing results in dense fatty breast tissue (what makes you look like you’ve had a ‘breastfeeding deluxe’ boob job at the time), but after weaning? Well, it’s pretty common to have droopy boobs because while the skin containing our breasts has stretched, the tissue inside it is shrinking; this is especially the case if you have a sudden drop in weight.
2. Breast tissue suicide
This one is bizarre. After weaning our babies, our bodies undergo a sort of clean up process, and the structures in our breasts called alveoli, which is where milk is made, commit massive cellular suicide. What’s happening here is our body is removing old tissue debris.
3. The result?
As to how your breasts will appear and feel after your breastfeeding journey has ended is up to a few things. Genetics play a part, as they do in everything to do with our bodies, as well as the number of pregnancies you’ve had, your weight and age. So while some mums notice that their breasts return to size and firmness similar to their pre-pregnancy breasts sometime after their baby has weaned (in my case, this was two years), others say they never really recover.
Helping them along
While it’s hard to say what camp you will fall into, the interwebs are alive with suggestions to bring back that fullness and firmness to our post-breastfeeding boobs, and also reduce skin sag. Among them:
- Diet: Eating well helps us in immeasurable ways, but when it comes to sagging skin, increasing your intake of foods that contain vitamins B and E will promote skin elasticity and suppleness. These vitamins also contain oils which assist our skin in maintaining its tone.
- Exercise: Although breasts themselves do not have any muscles, there are muscles in the chest underneath the breast tissue. If strengthened, these muscles will provide a ‘lift’. Think push-ups, chest presses and dumbbell pullovers.
- Wean gradually. Breastfeed for as long as you and your baby want, but if you need to wean, try to do so slowly. Sudden weaning can result in sudden breast reduction and sagging.
- Creams: The Australian Breastfeeding Association mentions rubbing natural creams like Fenugreek or Saw Palmetto to help tighten the skin of the breast and make it smoother. Fenugreek is also said to increase the size of the breasts after breastfeeding.
- Breast massage. Massaging your sagging skin with coconut, almond or olive oil a few times a week is said to help stimulate blood flow and circulation, encouraging breast tissue and skin to self-repair.
Give yourself and your boobs some time
In all of this, the most important thing to remember is that you need to give your body time to recover from pregnancy and breastfeeding. It has been through a lot of changes, and even now it still is.
While you might be sporting saggy pancake boobs now, you may not be forever. In the meantime, buy yourself a new bra. Those boobs have served your baby well, and they deserve a treat. You’ll also feel more supported.