It wasn't until a neon push-up triangle bikini promising to make me two cup sizes bigger landed on my desk that I realized just how excited I'd become at the thought of having boobs. Well, boobs again. As someone who developed very early in life - around fourth grade people were telling me I needed a bra - I'd been fortunate to never have to really think about them. I'd been a 34C my entire life; a chest you'd never notice in a crowd but one you could count on when the time comes.
After I delivered my first baby, my boobs shot up to an unwieldy 36F. Two hard blimps that I'd poke and prod daily while expressing milk out of them. I didn't recognize them but found the humor in it all and knew that there was a larger picture at play - I was producing breast milk for my daughter via the pump, and I was grateful to be able to. Just like my body would, everything would return to normal at some point.
But what I wasn't ready for was the new normal. Sure, my body looks different than it did, but I still don't recognize my breasts. When I lie flat on my back at night, there's no indication that there are even any breasts there. Flat as a pancake. I asked Krystal Nicole Duhaney, registered nurse and certified lactation counselor, why this happens to some women, and here's how she explained it.
The change that I experienced doesn't have to do with breastfeeding at all.
"During pregnancy, your breast tissue and connective tissues stretch due to hormonal changes that occur as your body prepares for breastfeeding. Once you have stopped breastfeeding, your previously enlarged milk glands and breast tissue begin to shrink as milk production stops. This may cause your breasts to shrink down to your prepregnancy size. It is also common for your breasts to appear less full at this time. Over time, the fat tissue in your breasts will return and your nipples/areola will lighten and get smaller. It is possible that your breasts may not look exactly how they looked prior to becoming pregnant. But you should be proud of the fact that you were able to nourish your baby with precious liquid gold."
And I am proud I was able to pump milk for so long. But I wondered if there was anything I could have done to "encourage" my boobs to return to me. I wondered if it had anything to do with how much manual expression I had to do while pumping. Duhaney said no. "Breast deflation after ending your breastfeeding journey is common whether you exclusively pump, nurse, or a mixture of both. This is because the enlarged milk glands and fatty tissue that were once there to produce milk begin to decrease as milk production ceases. While some mothers' breast size returns to their prepregnancy size, others may notice breasts that are larger or smaller than they were before they became pregnant," she explained.
Interestingly, the change that I experienced doesn't have to do with breastfeeding at all. "Contrary to popular belief, breast sagging is actually caused by the changes that occur during pregnancy and not by breastfeeding," Duhaney clarified. "Once your breasts began to shrink after pregnancy, which happens whether you breastfeed or not, the stretched connective tissue causes your breasts to sag or droop."
All is not lost, however. Duhaney said there are some things moms can do. She suggested the following: "Wear a proper-fitting, supportive bra to help prevent weighing down of your breasts as they grow. Perform exercise and yoga. This can help strengthen your pectoral muscles, which can give your breasts a more lifted appearance. And keep your skin and breast tissue moisturized to help promote skin elasticity and prevent sagging."
For now, I'll be getting to know my new breasts while indulging in my Voda Swim Push-Up Bikini ($79), which I absolutely love.