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Bouncing Back After Breastfeeding

Jan19

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Photo by misspiano
A topic request from reader Alissa:

Could you do a kind of a Bounce Back from Breastfeeding post some time? I am in the thick of weaning my almost 1-year-old, because I’d LOVE to have my boobs back (as would my husband, who has been banned from that general area for a LONG LONG time). I am terrified that when I stop nursing I will immediately gain five trillion pounds. I have NO IDEA where to go or how to buy new bras (I’ve been living in nursing tanks) that actually lift and fit. Without underwire, because underwire drives me batty. Do the 12-year-olds at Victoria’s Secret really know how to measure? I don’t think there’s an actual lingerie store anywhere near me. I’ll have to look that one up… Also, as I’ve been sleeping with a bra on forever – on the rare occasion that I sleep without a bra, my nipples feel all chafed and raw my the morning. Which is WEIRD, right? I mean, how can they hurt any more than when a baby is biting on them? But they really don’t like the new “I’m wild and free to move around under this tee shirt all night” feeling. Will that go away, I hope? Could I put something on my nipples to help with the chafing? Or do I just need to wear something tighter than a tee shirt to bed? Oh, my husband would LOVE that!

Happy to oblige! We love talking about boobs ’round these parts. While we already talked about postpartum boob changes in a general sort of way (i.e. saggy vs. perky vs. everything else), let’s see if we can offer something a little more instructional and practical for postpartum/postnursing boobcare.

Will I gain weight once I stop breastfeeding?

No, there is nothing about the weaning process that causes weight gain. Yes, nursing burns additional calories and many of us are guilty of eating with wild abandon and must adjust our diet, but after nursing for a year and adding solids and eliminating feedings it’s really unlikely that nursing is burning ALL THAT MANY calories for you anymore. You aren’t producing milk at the same rate because your child is no longer wholly dependent on you for nutrition. Cut out an extra snack, switch to nonfat milk, dial back on the butter — a couple tweaks are probably all you need to balance out your calories and keep your weight steady.

Many women actually report LOSING weight once they wean, as if their bodies were deliberately holding on to 10 pounds of emergency padding. I’ll tell ya, I was REALLY HOPING this would happen to me. It didn’t.

Will I need all-new bras? Where do I get them? When do I get them?

Some women can go unpack a drawer-full of pre-pregnancy bras and be just fine. Others find that the shape and size of their boobs (whether they nurse or not) to be completely different and have to start from scratch with the measuring and bra-buying.

After my first baby weaned, I went and got measured at a fancy lingerie shop. They gave me a positively weird size that could not be purchased in any non-fancy lingerie store. It turned out, though, that I was a bit premature with the fitting. My boobs had not fully settled, or something, because after another month or so those bras DID NOT FIT. They were all wrong, in both the cup and band size. I’ve since read that it can take up to six months for milk ducts to fully shrink up, so don’t waste your money on amazing bras the very week your milk dries up. I learned my lesson this time and bought some inexpensive stopgap bras at Target and GapBody and then got measured (at Nordstrom) a couple months later once I felt things were more or less staying the same.

While I was on maternity leave we had a great guest author over at the Advice Smackdown write about everything you need to know about getting a proper bra fitting: how to find a store, what to expect, where to buy expensive sizes for less, etc. (Hint: Do not ever, ever get fitted at Victoria’s Secret.) My only caveat with the bra fittings is that like all apparel, the sizes are not 100% universal, so just because the nice lady with the measuring tape tells you that you’re a 34B, it doesn’t mean that all 34B bras in all stores and brands will fit you. You’re still going to have to try on different styles and sizes sometimes to find the best fit. But a proper fitting will help you recognize when a bra fits (and when it doesn’t) and hopefully give you a couple options and brands to get you started.

When can I stop sleeping in a bra?

I stayed in my nursing tanks for a few weeks after Ezra weaned — it just seemed like good sense to keep the bewbs supported round-the-clock what with all the changes going on inside. I did not have any of the chafing problems you mention…that could simply be something that will go away once your nipples are no longer regularly getting bitten (OH, YOU HAVE MY SYMPATHIES) or exposed to moisture and suckling. Have you tried busting out the good ol’ Lansinoh cream again? (Or unrelated to breastfeeding, do you happen to wash your nursing tanks and bras in a different detergent than the rest of your clothes? It could be an allergy.)

Nipple sensitivity SHOULD stop when breastfeeding stops, but if you are uncomfortable at night, look for tanks with the built-in shelf bra. Plenty of non-nursing tanks have them — I have dozens of them, from Old Navy, GapBody, pretty much any store that sells inexpensive basics. Athletic apparel stores also sell them — check out the Yoga department for hybrid tank/sports bra things. Target’s a great place to buy PJ sets that include tight, form-fitting tanks and tops that will both help keep your boobs more or less in place while also satisfying the hubby’s wishes that you not wear four layers of protective undergarments to bed. HA.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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17 Responses to “Bouncing Back After Breastfeeding”

  1. Olivia Jan 19 at 12:28 pm Reply Reply

    I’m curious about this …it just seemed like good sense to keep the bewbs supported round-the-clock what with all the changes going on inside
    My boobs are large and would fall out of a nursing bra while sleeping, so I stopped wearing one within a week of my baby being born. And for day time, when I’m not at work, I go bra-less 90% of the time for easy nursing. So, I guess my question is, is wearing a bra around the clock a personal preference, or is there some other benefit I’m missing?

  2. Roberta Jan 19 at 1:47 pm Reply Reply

    Oh, I am a total round the clock bra wearer since having a baby and nursing. I was a 34 D/DD pre-baby, a 36DD/E while pregnant and for the first few months of nursing, and I seem to be back to the 34D/DD after a year of nursing. So. Yeah. A fair amount of boobage. Those “sleep bras” weren’t worth CRAP at the beginning, so I wore my regular nursing bras to bed for the first few months. I was too swollen/engorged/sore to tolerate any kind of jiggling or chafing, and wanted those babies held.in.place. Now I can wear the sleep bras to bed or a nursing tank. I just can’t sleep w/o some kind of support now. Feels too weird. After I wean, I will probably try a tank w/a shelf bra too – I’m all about supporting anything that could possibly droop. ;-)

  3. Heather Jan 19 at 2:17 pm Reply Reply

    Good question! I stopped nursing my son at 13 months 3 weeks. He is now 15 months old and I still haven’t bought any new bras. I am wearing my old maternity (stretchy) bras and those tanks w/built-in shelf bras to sleep in. I know I need new bras. So glad I read this post! I’m going to wait until I feel like things have ‘settled’ before I run out to Nordstrom for a fitting (highly recommend Nordstrom for bra fitting).

  4. Jaymee Jan 19 at 3:00 pm Reply Reply

    @ Olivia
    Did you not have any leaking? Well you must be lucky. If I so much as even think about taking my bra off I start squirting everywhere. Sometimes at night, even though I wear a bra with fresh pads, I still end up soaking my shirt/sheets. If I could go without a bra and not have to worry about creating a flood I would. Unfortunately I can’t. I thought it would back off some, but here I am at month 4 and I’ve yet to see a change.

  5. Sarah T Jan 19 at 4:37 pm Reply Reply

    I’d add that if you can find one, and have the time, go to a lingerie shop that will fit without measuring – I just treated myself to a (WAAAY overdue) fitting and the tape measure didn’t come out – and she nailed my size first time. Well worth the rather dear bra I bought from her, and now I know what I should be trying on in less expensive ranges.

  6. Abby Jan 19 at 4:40 pm Reply Reply

    I was thinking the same thing. I’ve rarely worn a bra since my 2nd daughter (9 mos) was born even though I always wore one before. Having to pull a bra up for nursing is a pain and because the ‘girls’ change size depending on how full they are, no bra fits right throughout the day. I haven’t noticed any sagging from this or other problems.

  7. cassie Jan 19 at 5:36 pm Reply Reply

    Thank you so much for the advice to not get the bra fitting until several months AFTER weaning!
    This is going to be my gift to myself after my baby is no longer breastfeeding and I had no clue it could take up to six months to get everything adjusted. Now I’ll no better than to rush out to the fancy lingerie store.

  8. Kathleen Jan 19 at 5:49 pm Reply Reply

    No help, but I’m right there with the chafing, and it’s not detergent here. This question couldn’t be more timely in general for me – thanks!

  9. Crystal Jan 20 at 12:00 am Reply Reply

    @Olivia
    I think it’s a personal preference thing. I never slept with a bra on and yeah, I woke up with big wet spots, but I was happier with than than sleeping in a bra.

  10. Olivia Jan 20 at 8:34 am Reply Reply

    @Jaymee, I had some leaking and I just kept a burp cloth handy. At night I slept on a receiving blanket on top of the sheets, but sometimes I just got a wet shirt or night gown. It was annoying, but more comfortable for me. The leaking stop by 3 months. I also never had painful engorgement, so I guess it is just personal preference.
    @Abby, same here. My daughter is 9.5 months, and while I used to wear a bra everday even just around the house, once I started breastfeeding it became too much trouble.

  11. stacy Jan 20 at 8:55 am Reply Reply

    I am about 3 months out from weaning, and *weep* all my old bras are too big in the cups and too small in the band. And they are only 34B’s! weepweepweep. I look forward to new bras though… I guess that’s a plus

  12. Monica Jan 20 at 9:55 am Reply Reply

    I will be weaning in the next couple of months and my wonderful, lovely pediatrician has recommended that once I’m done nursing I slather some A&D Ointment on my breasts to help them firm back up. I will definitely be trying that, as the boobs are already starting to produce less milk and, well, it isn’t pretty round these parts…

  13. Alissa Jan 20 at 2:37 pm Reply Reply

    Thanks, Amy! Awesome advice as always. I committed the big no-no and went to Victoria’s Secret over the weekend. I KNOW! But I had a coupon! And they are having a SALE! And even supermodels love a sale! Anyway, while in six months or so I will go to a real place and have a fitting, these bras are SOOOOOO much better than the old, too small, stretched out, no support bras I had.
    I also tried sleeping in a tight, shelf bra tank last night. It was comfy for the girls. But, seriously – how do you not freeze all night long? I kept waking up thinking, hmmm. I am cold! I think I might need some layering.
    And, so you’re saying I need to stop buying a candy bar in the grocery store check-out line, and then perhaps my 30 Day Shred will actually DO something once I stop nursing? ;-)
    Appreciate the advice!

  14. Shayla Jan 25 at 11:58 pm Reply Reply

    I am most curious if there are things I can do to get my boobs back to normal afterwords? That may sound strange but are there exercises to put them back in their places? Vitamin E? Anything? I am in fear of the droopy boob syndrome.

  15. Olivia Jan 26 at 12:42 pm Reply Reply

    Shayla, if you have smallish boobs, chest building/strengthening exercises can build the pectoral muscles and help with droop. Otherwise plastic surgery is the only thing that will make a difference.

  16. Elita @ Blacktating Jan 26 at 2:30 pm Reply Reply

    @Shayla
    Unfortunately breast sagging after pregnancy is genetic (and yes, it’s pregnancy and associated weight gain that makes your breasts saggy, not breastfeeding). As Olivia said, you can try pec exercises, but besides a good bra or a great surgeon, whatever your boobs is, they is.

  17. Katie Mar 17 at 7:02 pm Reply Reply

    I was wondering if you could help with my problem: I’ve been breast feeding for 9 months, I had a breast augmentation 6 years ago and had nerve damage (pain/numbness) from too large of implants in my right breast ever since. I’ve had great success nursing til now: my right breast with nerve damage is now completely numb (on my nipple) and I can only get a let-down if my baby nurses on my left breast first. Since my body can’t feel her nursing, she is only getting what comes from the force of the let-down and nothing else. But my breast is still full! Please help me! I’m not ready to wean yet. Also, my husband melted my breast pump parts while sterilizing them in a pot by letting all the water drain so I can’t even pump the extra milk out :(((((( is there anything I can do to get feeling back?!?!

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