With so much emphasis on physical appearance in our society, it’s common to be concerned about what breastfeeding will do to the appearance of your breasts. While this is a understandable concern, the assumption that breastfeeding will change the shape or size of your breasts is a misconception. Breast tissue changes primarily with pregnancy, as the body gears up to feed a newborn baby.
What Determines the Shape and Size of Your Breasts?
Breast tissue is primarily composed of fatty tissue, ligaments, milk glands and ducts. The size of your breasts can vary based on your body mass index or BMI, genetics and age. Because breasts are primarily composed of fatty tissue, weight gain or loss often effects the size of your breasts as well. Overall shape is determined by underlying muscle strength, ligament tightness and genetics.
The Effect of Pregnancy and Beginning Milk Production on Breast Tissue
From the moment you become pregnant, your body begins to gear up to feed the baby you are carrying. Breast tissue becomes denser and most women experience an increase in breast size. Milk ducts and glands grow and expand as they prepare to make milk. Blood flow increases to support growth and milk production, often resulting in the appearance of darker veins. Due to hormone changes, the areola (the area around the nipple) and the nipple grow darker; often increasing in size and becoming more raised. Your body will start to produce colostrum, the protein and antibody rich pre-milk which will nourish your baby while your milk comes in, as you near your due date. Breasts may also become tender and hypersensitive during this time of growth and change. Whether or not you breastfeed, these changes will occur in your breasts with every pregnancy.
After Baby is Born
After the birth of your baby your body will naturally continue the process of making milk. Whether you choose to breastfeed or not, your milk will generally come in somewhere around the third day post-partum. When this happens, most women experience engorgement, which is a full, tight feeling in the breasts. Engorgement can cause some stretching of the skin and ligaments of the breasts, which may or may not return to normal after breastfeeding has ceased.
As your baby gets older, or if you have chosen not to breastfeed your breasts may start to return to their pre-pregnancy size, depending on your BMI, age, and genetics. However, most women note that the size and shape of their breasts is different than before they became pregnant, whether they breastfed or not. The changes to the size and color of your areola and nipple are, for the most part, permanent. Post-partum breasts are often not as firm as they were prior to pregnancy and breastfeeding. This is a natural result of the growth that has taken place. Breast ligaments are, by nature, a looser ligament, allowing the breasts to move. They loosen even more over time and with any growth and shrinkage that may occur. Ligaments that stretched as your breasts grew during pregnancy will generally not go back to their original level of elasticity. Veins and stretchmarks will often fade with time. Your breasts will continue to change with age and every pregnancy you experience.
The process of bringing a little human being into this world is a beautiful one. The ability to nurture and nourish a baby with your breasts is part of the wonder of life. It will leave you changed in so many ways. Your body won’t be the same, because it was home to a new life. We hope that you will take great consolation in this, knowing that though your body has changed, it is still very beautiful and even more so for the amazing work that it has done.
If you are contemplating whether or not you will breastfeed and would like more information on the pure organic formula we carry, please visit our blog. If you have been breastfeeding and are thinking of weaning, please see “How to Stop Breastfeeding.”