Solidarity, sister. This largely selfless act takes previously perky boobs and puts them through multiple, daily metamorphoses. During my breastfeeding days, my B-cup tatas would suddenly inflate to DDs in the morning, and after thirty minutes of baby-feeding, they looked like deflated water balloons. Then a couple hours later, they were back in Pamela Anderson territory. As you likely suspect, these size shifts are thanks to the boob-filling and draining that takes place multiple times a day. The constant change does a number on your breast’s skin and tissue — so when a woman weans her baby, she’s often left with a flatter, saggier version of her former chest. But not always! Women with smaller breasts and those with more elastic skin sometimes don’t notice a big change when they’re done breastfeeding. (I get into ways to nurture your bosom buddies in the “What to do” section.)
Now for your nipples. The darkening, which is normal, is caused by pregnancy hormones stimulating pigment-producing cells. The nipples often appear bigger because they’re being drawn out each time baby feeds. These darker, larger nipples can be helpful, as they serve as bull’s-eye “Eat Here” signs for baby. Nipples usually return to their pre-pregnancy size and color (or something close to it) after you wean.
You might also notice those little bumps on your areolas (aka Montgomery glands) plumping up. These bumps secrete sebum, a light yellow, oily substance that keeps your nipples moisturized and clean and emits an odor that attracts baby.
Another thing you can expect from your nipples — for now and forever more — is that they’ll pretty much always be at attention. Months of being sucked train them to stay alert. I enjoy this change, as it gives the illusion that my boobs are perkier than they are.
What to do
While there’s no way to avoid the boob restyling that comes with breastfeeding, there are ways to support your skin and emotional health during the changes:
Become one with organic oil and shea butter. Regularly massaging your breasts with organic oil or shea butter increases suppleness and blood flow. This can minimize stretch marks and help skin bounce back after weaning.
Drink plenty of water. Hydration has a big impact on your skin’s elasticity, which is why you want to drink a minimum of eight glasses of water a day — preferably more.
Eat vitamin-rich foods. The vitamins in healthy foods have a big impact on what’s going on in and under your skin. Here are the vitamins you want to get more of:
*Vitamin A stimulates the growth of new skin cells, which can prevent dryness. It can also curb cell damage and premature skin aging. Foods rich in vitamin A include salmon, eggs, carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens.
*Vitamin C helps your skin bounce back from stretching, promotes collagen production, heals damaged skin, reduces the appearance of wrinkles, and hydrates skin. As an added bonus, it has cancer-fighting properties. Get your vitamin C on by noshing on citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli, and spinach.
*Vitamin D helps skin stretch, grow, and repair. Get your vitamin D with about ten minutes of sun each day and eating foods like salmon, cod, tuna, and mushrooms. It’s also present in fortified foods like milk, yogurt, cereal, and orange juice.
*Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can reduce wrinkles, inflammation, and dryness, and it might minimize the appearance of scars (aka stretch marks). You can get it from sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, spinach, mangoes, avocadoes, and butternut squash.
Exfoliate. Once a week, gently rub your breasts with a dry brush or use a sugar scrub in the shower, as exfoliation can promote new skin growth and increase blood circulation, which can regenerate skin and enhance elasticity. Make a homemade sugar scrub by mixing one-half cup of brown sugar with three tablespoons coconut or olive oil and two tablespoons raw honey.
Talk with your partner about your insecurities. If the changes in your breasts make you insecure, tell your partner, as these feelings might impact your willingness to be naked in front of them. It’s also important for them to know so they can be sensitive about how you’re feeling and can maybe even pump up your confidence with compliments about your amazing lactating breasts.
It’s natural to develop insecurities when experiencing rapid changes in various parts of the body, but you don’t have to navigate the emotions these changes trigger alone.
Honor the shifts as a reminder of the gift you’re giving your child. If you get bummed because breastfeeding is almost constantly remodeling your boobs, shift your focus from what they look like to what they can do. They make milk that’s custom designed for your baby! That’s so cool — and something not all boobs can do. Some women would happily give up their breasts’ constant perkiness for the ability to make enough milk for their baby. While you have every right to feel all the feels about your breasts, I encourage you to bring yourself back to gratitude as often as possible.