Breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of your baby’s life is best for your infant’s overall health, according to medical experts and researchers at the University of Florida. However, you might be wondering if breastfeeding will ruin your breasts.
Well, ‘ruin’ is a matter of opinion. Breastfeeding will change your breasts and will not only benefit your baby’s long-term health but may also decrease your risk of developing breast cancer. So is it worth it.
What Happens to Your Breasts After Breastfeeding?
Breasts do typically undergo some changes after pregnancy and breastfeeding. Some women may experience all of these alterations or just one or two.
1. Stretch Marks
During pregnancy, it is not uncommon to rapidly gain weight in all areas of the body, including the breasts. Rapid weight gain and weight loss frequently cause stretch marks (striae gravidarum) to develop on the skin of the breasts. Over time, stretch marks tend to fade but it may take a few years for them to become less noticeable
The weight gain of pregnancy and the fact that your breasts will go through daily changes as your breasts expand and decrease your milk production all cause a loss of elasticity in your breasts. Think about breasts as a balloon. A balloon can be blown up and deflated many times but eventually, the balloon will stretch out and not spring back into shape. This is what gives breasts a deflated look. The top part of the breasts becomes flatter and elongated.
Sagging of the breasts is known medically as ptotis. The risk of permanent sagging increases with each pregnancy. Many experts believe that it is a combination of pregnancy, hormones, and breastfeeding that contribute to sagging breasts.
4. Nipple Realignment
The nipples of both breasts or one breast may start to point downward.
5. Reduced Size
Some women may lose the size of their breasts by an entire cup size after breastfeeding.
6. Nipple Colors
During pregnancy and breastfeeding your nipples will typically become larger and darker. After breastfeeding it is not uncommon for your nipples to shrink to a smaller pre-pregnancy size. In many cases, the color also becomes lighter.
After breastfeeding, many women notice that their breasts have a very lumpy feel or appearance. Eventually, as the milk ducts dry out, the lumps disappear.
Ways to Protect Your Breasts to Minimize Changes
There are ways that you can reduce the burden on your breasts while breastfeeding your baby. These tips help protect the connective tissue that holds up your breasts to minimize long-term breast change.
Supportive Bra: During pregnancy and breastfeeding it is very important that you wear a supportive bra. The bra supports the connective tissue that holds your breasts up naturally.
The extra support helps prevent the connective tissue from stretching. You will need to be prepared to invest in a few different bras of various sizes because the size of your breasts will naturally increase and decrease many times throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Moisturize: For centuries women have used moisturizers such as coconut oil and aloe to try to prevent stretch marks. Experts state that approximately 50 to 70 percent of women will suffer from stretch marks. Applying lotion once or twice a day may help prevent or reduce the likelihood of stretch marks.
Keep a Schedule: Breastfeeding and using a breast pump on a regular schedule prevents your breasts from becoming engorged which can cause aesthetic damage.
Other Health Benefits
Breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast cancer, according to the Susan G. Komen organization. Researchers have found that breastfeeding also lowers the risk of developing estrogen receptor-negative (including triple negative) breast cancers.
It is also believed that breastfeeding aids in the prevention of ovarian cancer, postpartum depression, and type II diabetes.
Plastic Surgery After Breastfeeding
If you cannot accept the changes that your breasts have undergone from pregnancy and childbirth then you might want to consider seeking plastic surgery. Breast implants, a breast reduction, a breast lift (mastopexy), or a fat transfer to the breasts, are ways that you can restore your breasts to their pre-breasting feeding glory
What the Experts Say
Most experts agree that a combination of breastfeeding and pregnancy will alter most women’s breasts. However, the benefits of breastfeeding not only for your baby’s long-term health but also for yours far out way the negative physical changes.
“While some lucky women don’t experience much change, my experience is pretty normal. Our breasts are miraculous machines, and breastfeeding is a process that starts during pregnancy and sets off a host of metabolic, hormonal, structural, and even mental changes throughout your body — even if you never actually breastfeed. But the longer you breastfeed, the more your breasts adjust to it and the more changes you’ll notice after you’re finished.”
– Kelly M. Kasper, MD, Indiana University Health.
“When you first begin to nurse, your breasts may become swollen with milk (a temporary process called engorgement) and grow larger; however, they’ll diminish in size once you’ve established a solid breastfeeding routine. After you wean your baby, your breasts will become softer and you can expect them to return to their pre-pregnancy size, unless you’ve gained or lost a significant amount of weight.”
– Matthew R. Schulman, M.D., Mount Sinai School of Medicine
“Some women’s breasts return to their pre-pregnancy size while others end up larger or smaller. There is no way to predict how a particular woman’s breasts will change.”
– Carly Stewart, M.D., MoneyCrashers
Whether or not breastfeeding will ruin your breasts is not an easy question to answer because it is ultimately a matter of personal perception. Generally, breastfeeding will change your breasts. How significantly they change depends on a variety of factors such as weight gain, smoking, pregnancy hormones, and genetics. Every woman and pregnancy is different. Each one is a very personal and unique experience.