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What Breastfeeding Really Does to Your Boobs

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

As a new mom, I’ve been inducted into “The Club:” I get the jokes, I get the exhaustion, and I get the post-baby “growing pains” as you get to know a new body. Some people bounce right back to their old selves, while others see a new figure in the mirror, and sometimes it takes a while to get used to it. Some moms I’ve talked to are three kids in and still haven’t gotten used to the changes. One of those changes can be deflated breasts, which is often the result of breastfeeding, no matter how many children you’ve had.

And although breastfeeding (and pumping!) is one of the best things you can do for your child, it can take its toll physically. Here’s what doctors have to say about the impact it can have on our breasts, and four products to help restore a little smoothness and firmness when it’s lacking.

There May Be Stretch Marks…

New York OBGYN 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.”

“Some women have skin that is more prone to stretch marks when it stretches,” explains Chicago plastic surgeon Michael Horn, MD. “Some skin-care creams—ask your doctor before using to make sure it is safe to use during pregnancy—may help limit the marks.”

…And Some Volume Loss

“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 on how much the skin contracts. “Women have the capability to produce quite a bit of milk, and 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.” 

“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.” 

4 Boob Creams to Try

  1. True Botanicals Body Love Boob Cream ($48) is a rich, botanical-scented moisturizer packed with oils (rose hip, coconut and jojoba) and peach butter, which helps smooth crepey skin.

2. RODIAL Super Fit Boob Job ($60) is a gel-cream that’s formulated with Volufiline, hyaluronic and powerhouse peptide Matrixyl 3000 for firmer, more hydrated skin.

3. MAËLYS Lift and Firm Breast Mask ($49) 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.”

4. Truly Acai Your Boobies Boob Serum ($28) is one you can only use once you’ve had the baby and you’re completely done breastfeeding, as it contains retinol. It also uses acai and dragon fruit to help smooth skin, and it works to minimize the appearance of stretch marks.

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