Here’s What Breastfeeding Really Does to Your Boobs

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Here’s What Breastfeeding Really Does to Your Boobs featured image
Photo Credits: Jamie Grill/ Getty Images | Image Used for Illustrative Purposes Only

As a mom of two, I understand the post-baby “growing pains” as you get to know your new body. Some people bounce right back to their old selves. Others see a new figure in the mirror, and the acceptance isn’t so easy. Some moms I’ve talked to have three kids running around and still haven’t adjusted to the changes. One of those changes can be deflated breasts, which is often the result of breastfeeding (and pumping!).

Though breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your child, it can take its toll physically. “I always remind my patients of the process they have experienced after pregnancy,” says New York OB/GYN Angela Wilson, MD. “It is a life-altering change, and your body is not the same after. It is a new normal. You are not alone. Speaking about these changes and how it affects us is important for our own well-being. It can help other moms with expectations after pregnancy and nursing.” Here’s what breastfeeding really does to your boobs, according to top doctors.

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Stretch Marks on the Breasts After Breastfeeding

New York OB/GYN Carolyn Delucia, MD says that any time a woman’s body goes through a rapid weight increase, there is a risk of developing stretch marks. “During pregnancy and with lactation are two times this is likely to occur.” For some women, their breasts increase two to three cup sizes. Chicago plastic surgeon Michael Horn, MD adds, “Some women have skin that is more prone to stretch marks when it stretches. Select skin-care creams may help limit the marks. However, ask your doctor before using them to make sure they are safe to use during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding.”

Volume Loss in the Breasts After Breastfeeding

“In general, pregnancy and breastfeeding cause a temporary increase in breast volume to accommodate for milk production within the gland,” explains Tucson, AZ plastic surgeon Silvia Kurtovic, MD. “After a woman stops breastfeeding, her breast volume shrinks back down, and she can develop mild-to-severe permanent breast-related postpartum changes that can affect her overall breast size and shape. These changes typically include stretched-out, droopy breast skin and volume deflation. These are some of the most common concerns I hear from my patients who are considering cosmetic surgery of their breasts after pregnancy and breastfeeding. The reason why breasts become droopy is that the skin and ligaments that support the gland have become permanently stretched and are no longer able to support a ‘perky’ breast shape.” 

Dr. Horn adds that the amount of change is variable depending on how large the breasts become while pregnant and breastfeeding. And, how much the skin contracts. “Women have the capability to produce quite a bit of milk. The filling and emptying of the breast while breastfeeding is like inflating and deflating the same balloon over and over again,” says Dr. Delucia. “The rubber of the balloon soon weakens and becomes wrinkled. This is what may happen to the skin on a woman’s breast after breastfeeding. And, it may last for anywhere from a few months to several years. The foundational quality or density of breast tissue varies woman to woman, much like the skin on the face. Some women age well, while others age poorly. Some women may have little change in the breast after the first child, but after breastfeeding two or three children, the tissue reaches its critical point and breaks down.” 

Is the Volume Loss Genetic?

“Similar to how not every smoker will develop lung cancer, there is a huge genetic component to breast tissue and how it is affected by breastfeeding and pumping,” says Pasadena, CA plastic surgeon Lily Lee, MD. “Unfortunately, I think it matters less how many times and for how long you breastfeed, and more what the genetic makeup of your skin is like.” Dr. Kurtovic agrees, saying some women experience severe deflation where they have smaller breast volume after breastfeeding, while some women have larger breast volume. “Multiple factors play a role in these differences between patients, the greatest which is probably genetics.” 

Nipple Changes After Breastfeeding

Dr. Wilson says the nipples can undergo a lot of trauma through the process of breastfeeding. “Most of this trauma heals when proper latching techniques are used and when breastfeeding ceases. However, there may be some permanent changes in color and size. Some nipples become darker and/or larger after the process.”

Do Boobs Ever Go Back to “Normal” After Breastfeeding?

“Changes that occur in the breast tissue after breastfeeding tend to be permanent, given the stretching and change of the breast tissue architecture associated with the pregnancy,” says Dr. Wilson. “The changes are likely to occur even if you don’t breastfeed, but may be more pronounced with nursing. The decrease in size is different for everyone. Some go back to their original size, some have smaller breasts and others stay enlarged. I try to reassure patients that the changes seen after breast feeding are normal. I encourage healthy diets filled with fruit, vegetables and lean protein, as well as regular exercise to help achieve a healthy weight post pregnancy.”

The bras you wore before pregnancy may no longer fit, whether they’re too big or too small, and that’s OK. Dr. Wilson suggests waiting two to three months after you stop nursing before buying new bras. Give your breasts a little time to adjust to their new shape and size.

Boob Creams for Smoother, Firmer Skin

“Maintaining proper moisture of the skin with moisturizers will help the elasticity of the skin overlying the breast,” says Dr. Wilson. “Protection against the damaging rays of the sun with sunscreen is also encouraged.” These are our favorite boob creams to keep the skin smooth and supple.

1 / 5

True Botanicals Body Love Boob Cream ($48)

This is a rich, botanical-scented moisturizer packed with oils (rose hip, coconut and jojoba) and peach butter, which helps smooth crepey skin.

BUY NOW – $48

2 / 5

RODIAL Super Fit Boob Job ($92)

A gel-cream that’s formulated with Volufiline, hyaluronic and powerhouse peptide Matrixyl 3000, it promotes firmer, more hydrated skin.

BUY NOW – $92

3 / 5

MAËLYS Lift and Firm Breast Mask ($49)

This is a leave-on mask (it acts like a moisturizer) that helps firm up slack skin. In a clinical trial, it proved to “significantly give firmer-looking skin in the breast area after 28 days.”

BUY NOW – $49

4 / 5

Mio Skincare Boob Tube Bust Cream ($32)

A new and improved version of the brand’s original Boob Tube, the cream now contains shea butter, a hydrating Feel-Good Complex (Indian fig and Monk’s pepper berry), and a Smooth Booster Complex with niacinamide. The citrus-floral fragrance from natural extracts is new as well.

BUY NOW – $32

5 / 5

Truly Acai Your Boobies Boob Serum ($32)

Infused with retinol, this is a formula you can only use once you’ve had the baby and you’re completely done breastfeeding. It also uses acai and dragon fruit to help smooth skin and minimize the appearance of stretch marks.

BUY NOW – $32

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