Post-Breastfeeding Boobs: Can the Pancake Be Prevented?

Posted by on July 21, 2011

Side Sag Many women seem to experience a sort of breast deflation after weaning their children. Some women claim their babies literally “sucked the life out of” their breasts, and they end up in AA-cups where before pregnancy they were B-cups or better. Other women simply sag, and some women go through a “pancake phase” but then see their breasts fill back out again over time — albeit without returning to their original shape.

In other words, no breasts emerge unscathed from the uses for which they were designed. But I wonder, as I always do, whether harm can be reduced and whether, given the right conditions, the breasts can be enabled to “bounce back”?

Harm reduction means preventing the shredding of the Cooper’s ligaments and the skin of the breasts. Only the lucky AND smart ones can fully avoid stretching these structures and suffering some sag as a result. I say “lucky AND smart” because you have to be genetically or hormonally gifted to avoid the rapid breast swell that adds an extra cup size (or two or three…) during pregnancy; and then when first breastfeeding, you have to be smart — and have an easy time getting breastfeeding going — to avoid getting engorged, which damages the breasts further.

I was not lucky or smart. I grew a cup size within the span of a month, and I didn’t learn anything about breastfeeding until I was already in the thick of it. I had several engorgement events that weren’t too painful but definitely stretched things a bit.

So I am apt to think of “recovery” — if that’s even possible.

The key seems to be the redeposit of fat into the breasts after weaning. Before all of this milk production ever begins, the breasts are mostly filled with fat. Then during pregnancy, the breasts swell with the activation of milk ducts; some women leak even before their baby is born. And in breastfeeding, the fat is almost totally replaced by milk ducts — which means that right after nursing the baby is when breasts look their flattest and most deflated, and probably provide a cue to what they will look like when the baby has been weaned.

All of this suggests to me that eating a high-fat, low carbohydrate diet might help the post-breastfeeding body put fat back into the breasts.

Other pieces of the puzzle include how much weight you gain or lose while you are breastfeeding, how long you breastfeed (3 months is probably way too short!), how much bodyfat you have during the weaning process, and (possibly) something called “GF Compounds”.

A Google search for “GF Compounds” brings up a bunch of sites trying to sell you snake-oil-for-breasts, so that’s a little suspicious. Then again, snake oil salesmen are better at SEO than scientists.

As for weaning, I can’t seem to find good information about when the body starts to redeposit fat back into the breasts. Does it wait until after total weaning — so you can’t be breastfeeding AT ALL before the breasts start the fat redeposition process? Or does gradual weaning make a difference to the final shape of the breasts? This “Ask Dr. Marla” article comes closest but doesn’t answer the question.

I’ll continue on this topic in a future post when I’ve learned more.

In the meantime, I will freak myself out reading this lady’s personal account which resembles what I suspect will happen to me (same cup sizes and everything):

Oh, H., if you are only smaller, count your blessings. I am almost finished weaning my son, and I have gone from a C to a B. I actually don’t mind being a B. What bothers me is that all the skin from my pregnancy and nursing size D is still there,; it’s the “filler” that’s missing, so I am left with flabby, floppy, squishy sacks of nothing in place of what used to be a pretty good looking pair. I recently went to Victoria’s Secret to buy new bras to fit the new me. It took the manager, a sales clerk, and EVERY bra in the store before they finally found one that fit me (the last option they had). The problem was my breasts are so floppy, they kept, well, flopping out the front of the bra every time I bent over. The bra that finally worked for me is made of memory foam, so it contours to my new sad, shape.

It’s pretty depressing, but I’m still glad I breastfed. At least a good bra makes them still look good with clothes on!

But then again, you have accounts like this:

personal experience: pregnancy caused them to be less firm, but breastfeeding did nothing else to them. i went from a B cup to a D cup during pregnancy though and have stayed there. ;)

and i’ve breastfed my 4 kids a total of probably 10 years. and average of 2 to 3 yrs each. i still have a figure that is gets looks from men 20 yrs younger than me — you just have to keep fit and eat healthy food, drink lots of water, and generally take good care of your self.

So, hrm.

Does it really have to come down to “luck of the draw”?

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  • AmberGardner

    I hate bras.

    • nthmost

      I’m so with you there.

  • Ginny

    Hi! I was an 8E before nursing went up to a 10FF! I am now slowly weaning and in an 8F now – but I have no idea what will happen over time – desperate to get out of these nursing bras but I don’t know when to buy new bras!? My breasts kind of have sagged which I am sad about because they were one of my best features….but anything for my little man so I am grateful that he and I are both well.

    • nthmost

      I wish I could resolve this for you, but there’s no way to predict what’s going to happen to any particular person during the course of breastfeeding.

      My boobs sort of reduced in size somewhat after 12 months of breastfeeding, and then after weaning they decreased more. I went from a solid C pre-pregnancy to a B/C post-breastfeeding, with a significant change in shape (but not unpleasant) as well.

      My best advice would be to use Ebay or Amazon to source some cheap bras in different sizes and just give away the ones that don’t work out for you. Tricky in your size, I know!

  • brad

    funny how moms with weaned babes so wish to enhance thru medical procedure,the appearence of they’re boobs-so much for the “feeding the only role for em”,debate

    • nthmost

      Funny how people all have different interests and focuses. Why would you think that MY interests have anything to do with settling anything for everyone?

  • Nikki Watson

    I nursed 3 kids in 6 years. They’re now 6 turning 7, just turned five, and about to turn three. I had a nice perky c cup set before my first babe. Now the look like floppy saggy pancakes. When I lay down they even wrinkle and sort of cave in. It’s bad. BUT I may have found an answer to a prayer! I’ve been wrapping them with the skinny wrap from It Works! And using their “defining gel” I’ve actually seen a really encouraging difference so far and I’ve been doing it about a month. I wanted to look at getting a lift but the goin rate is 5k or more and hubby said no way. He doesn’t agree with cosmetic surgery. Then again I bet he’d be singing a different tune if his balls hung to his knees!! Lol Anyhooo I am so glad I’m not alone in this!! I’m the only 28 year old I know with pancakes for breasts! If anyone wants to check out the info about the miracle cream I’m using it’s http://www.wrapthatupvancouver.com

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