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Women’s bodies undergo a lot of changes during pregnancy and afterward. One of the most perceivable changes occurs in the breasts as they slightly enlarge during pregnancy and swell up when breastfeeding. After the baby is weaned from breast milk, the breasts go through normalization, after which they would appear different in size and shape. It’s a common experience for all pregnant women and is to be expected after childbirth. So what happens to your breasts after breastfeeding? Continue reading to find out.
Does Breastfeeding Cause Change in the Breast?
Most women will observe that their breasts have noticeably changed after they stop breastfeeding. In addition to the breast changes after nursing, basic changes have been taking place since the pregnancy. Soon after conception, the body produces more hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, causing the breasts to enlarge through accumulated fatty tissue and increased blood flow. As the breasts grow bigger, their weight stretches the underlying ligaments. It could also be the reason why breasts become less elastic and firmer after giving birth. These changes brought about by pregnancy are permanent and can occur whether women are breastfeeding or not.
Breastfeeding also influences breast size as women notice that their breasts become enlarged for three to four days postpartum, triggered by the production of the hormone prolactin after childbirth. If they continue breastfeeding, the breasts stay large and shrink if nursing is stopped. Six months after the baby is weaned, the breasts shrink but may not return to their original size. Many find that their breasts settle down at a size slightly larger than their original, and in fewer cases, they may shrink to a smaller size.
Ways Your Breasts May Change After Breastfeeding
There is little doubt that pregnancy can change the size, shape, and appearance of the breasts. However, these changes are different in different women, and not all women experience the same changes. Here are some ways in which your breasts can change after pregnancy:
1. The Breasts Become Saggy
Whether they have been naturally big or small, you can count on them to get bigger and even increase by a few cup sizes. Pregnancy brings about an increase in change as the body deposits more fat tissue under the breasts. After childbirth, lactation causes the breasts to swell further, maintaining the size throughout breastfeeding. The increase in size means that the tendons supporting the breasts get stretched and retain the stretched length making them saggy. The sagginess continues to persist even after you have stopped breastfeeding and becomes the new normal. Breastfeeding is not a sole contributing factor to the sagginess, but factors such as aging, smoking, and BMI all influence it.
2. The Breasts Will Shrink
In postpartum, breastfeeding change your breasts by increasing their size due to engorgement with milk, but once the feeding is stopped and the milk production tapers off, they shrink to return to their natural size. However, they would start appearing smaller as the skin and the fatty tissues begin to shift because they were previously stretched. Over some time, depending on your level of activity and physical exercise, the breasts might even shrink to a size smaller than their pre-pregnancy size.
3. The Breasts Might Leak
Many women experience that their breasts leak when they are breastfeeding. It could happen when they hear their babies cry or when they have missed a feeding session, or even when they get sexually aroused by their partners. This could continue in some women even after they have stopped breastfeeding, as it takes about 42 days for the tissues in the breast duct to shrink. Women could continue feeling like their breasts are leaking or that they are about to have a letdown for a few weeks after they have weaned. One way to control the issue is to wear tight sports bras that don’t allow the nipples to get stimulated inadvertently.
4. Veins Become less Noticeable
In the early stages of pregnancy, you will notice that more and more veins become visible under the skin all over the breasts. This happens because the volume of blood increases by almost 40 percent, and the veins show under the thin breast skin. The veins continue to show as long as the breasts are enlarged with continued breastfeeding. This appearance will start fading once you stop feeding your baby. Over time, as breasts shrink, the skin becomes thicker, and there is a lesser supply of blood to the region. The areolas and nipples also return to their pre-nursing state.
5. Stretch marks on the Breasts Fade
As your breasts get larger during pregnancy and breastfeeding, the skin expands to make way for all the new tissue, producing numerous stretch marks. The marks generally start as red or purple streaks and persist throughout breastfeeding. They begin to subside once the breasts start shrinking and become barely noticeable in about a year.
6. Breasts might look more Lopsided
Most women’s breasts are uneven in size, and this difference can become evident during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The natural expansion of the breasts can enhance their natural lopsidedness. The asymmetry can also result in one breast having more milk ducts than the other or more milk supply. However, the difference can remain, altering the breast shape and appearance change after breastfeeding. Some women may also notice a difference of almost one cup size in the breasts.
7. The Breasts Will Return to a New Normal
Breastfeeding affects your breast size by returning it to a new normal size after three months of weaning your child. They may return to their original size or settle at a different size which might remain the same as long as the body weight is maintained. Gaining more bodyweight will also lead to an increased size of the breasts.
Tips to Care for Your Breasts During & After Breastfeeding
Although there is nothing you can do to reverse the changes in your breasts before and after breastfeeding, there are some steps you can take to minimize the differences.
- Wearing a Supportive bra
To ensure that you minimize the effects of the increased weight on your breasts and the chest tissue, buy a special breastfeeding bra. If the sensitive breast tissue goes unsupported for a long time, you are more likely to have sagging breasts after breastfeeding. Although you may not have much time or patience for it, put some time into buying a properly fitted bra that offers all the supports your breasts need during their time feeding the baby.
Your post-nursing breasts will need a bra that gives a little more lift and has cups fitted to the top of the breasts. However, before buying more lingerie, wait for three to six months to give enough time to adjust to a new normal.
- Skin Care
The expanded skin on the breasts is prone to dehydration, stretch marks, and cracking. Ensure that you take proper care of the skin to reduce discomfort. Using an appropriate skincare lotion can greatly ease dryness and dehydration. You can massage the stretch marks with a good lotion or oil to alleviate itching and reduce the long-term scarring.
- Take Care of the Nipples
Nipple sensitivity, cracking, bleeding, and blistering are common problems that many women face during breastfeeding. You can rub and massage the nipples with some breast milk after feeding sessions or use products such as olive or coconut oil, lanolin, and calendula-based creams. If the mentioned remedies do not work, contact your doctor to start appropriate treatment.
- Quit Smoking
- Do not stress Yourself.
Breasts differ in all women, and there will always be some degree of unevenness in both. After breastfeeding, all real breasts experience some sagging, implying that you may end up with the same size as before or experience specific changes. They will look and feel different after pregnancy and as you age. Do not stress over their changed shape or appearance and start embracing the changes that have occurred.
When to Contact Your Doctor?
You need to contact your doctor when your breasts start showing signs of trouble. Here are some:
- If you have lumpy breasts after breastfeeding, especially if they are painful, visit your doctor immediately. It could be mastitis– a bacterial infection that results from blocked milk ducts infected with bacteria that entered through cracks in the nipples.
- If you experience burning nipples or sore nipples frequently, it could be thrush, a yeast infection. Generally, pain in the nipples is a sign of bacterial infection or poor latching of your baby.
- Visit your doctor even if you experience achy breasts after breastfeeding for a general examination.
The breasts can change in several ways in different women during pregnancy and after they have stopped breastfeeding. It takes about three to six months for the breasts to settle into their new normal size. In some women, the breasts return to their normal size, and for others, it settles with different sizes and shapes. However, do not get concerned if changes to your breasts after breastfeeding do not match the changes your friend experienced since such changes happen differently in different people.
1. Is There a Problem If My Breast Don’t Change After Breastfeeding?
No. Breasts are different in all women and undergo various changes across the spectrum. While some women find that their breasts have become larger than usual, some find their breasts have become smaller. Many women, on the other hand, find that their breasts return to their normal size. Even if your breasts don’t change after breastfeeding, there is still no problem with it.
2. What Are Surgical Procedures After Breastfeeding?
In cases where women have found differences, such as a large asymmetry or shape that they are not happy with after breastfeeding, they can opt for a cosmetic procedure to reshape or resize their breasts. It is essential to consider the full impact of such procedures as they can have permanent effects that may not be desirable in the future.
Women could also hold off any cosmetic procedures until they have decided to stop having children. This is because some procedures change the breast tissue making it impossible to breastfeed again in the future. It is ideal to consult a doctor to understand the risks and trade-offs involved in such surgical procedures.