Bouncing Back After Breastfeeding
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, 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 by 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 When 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 the butter — a couple of 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?
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) is 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 of 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 is 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.
Photo source: Flickr/misspiano