The ups and downs of breasts, from pregnancy to post-nursing.
In the movie “Away We Go,” Lily, a mother of two, proclaims that she no longer worries about a bra, she just tucks her breasts into her socks. Yes, it’s a sad state of affairs when the boost of pregnancy and nursing subsides and we’re left with a pair of breasts that we may not recognize. Whether they hang lower, have nipples that seem to droop, or they’ve shrunk to a size you haven’t seen since junior high, the bottom line is that our breasts do change – and not for the perkier.
Factors Involved In Breast Changes
Women with smaller breasts are most likely to notice the changes from pregnancy to post-breastfeeding, says Wendy Haldeman, co-founder of The Pump Station in Los Angeles. These moms have less fatty tissue overall, so changes to the glandular tissue – responsible for milk production – are really apparent. When progesterone and estrogen rise in pregnancy, all the inner structures of the glands grow, like the alveoli (where milk is actually made and stored) and the ducts (the middle man between the alveoli and the nipple). This network is in constant prep mode when baby is on the way. Meanwhile on the outside, Mom might be working her way through every bra size in the alphabet.
On the way back down, whether it’s from two years of nursing or no nursing at all, the picture is more complicated. Most moms do lose some fatty tissue, and the connective fibers that give your breasts their shape are elongated to accommodate growth, so they lose some of their spring. Many moms think that it’s the process of breastfeeding alone that takes a toll, but remember that breasts grow and change in pregnancy to prepare for milk production, whether or not you nurse. Haldeman points out that it is actually a combination of factors, such as genes, age, and body type that determine the condition of our post-baby bosom.
When will my breasts start changing?
Haldeman’s colleague Jessica Sacher also reminds us that we naturally start losing fat in our breasts as we get older – and remember, biology would have us conceiving children at 18, not in our 30′s, as many of us do. So in the two years or so that might have passed between the stick turning pink and weaning, age and gravity have still been at work.
For the mommies out there who feel as though they went from a voluptuous mother-earth type to looking eerily similar to summer camp photos of themselves at age 12, there is hope. According to Haldeman, studies indicate that the fatty tissue in the post-pregnancy breast can regenerate, even though it might take up to three years. So cross your fingers and maybe buy yourself a little extra support for now. And if you’re planning on having another child, your breasts may be on their way up again soon enough.
This article was written by Heather Turgeon for Babble.com, the magazine and community for a new generation of parents.