I don’t think I properly appreciated my breasts before I had my son. They were cute and perky, and I absolutely took them for granted. I nursed my son until two months before his 4th birthday, when I finally had to say enough is enough.
Throughout those three and a half years, I nursed on demand, and nursed constantly. By the end I had developed pretty serious nursing aversion; I just wanted to feel like my body was mine again. But once it was mine again, I had a new hurdle to get over…reclaiming my breasts in my own mind.
I’m a single mom in my early 30s, so in reality, at some point in my life I will likely want to date and have sex again. But my post-breastfeeding boobs have made it hard for me to even look at myself without a bra on, let alone feel attractive. It’s been hard for me to reclaim something that I don’t even like anymore.
I suspected I wasn’t the only woman who had mixed feelings about her post-breastfeeding breasts, so I posed the burning question to other moms: just what is the deal with our breasts after we’re done breastfeeding?
One interesting thing I discovered is that pre-breastfeeding, some people didn’t have much of an opinion about their breasts. Tamy Ben Ezra Devine, a mom of two children, says, “I didn’t think about them much. They were smallish, but not tiny. God had not yet invented the demi-cup push-up bra.”
But for many of us, nursing our babies and toddlers gave our breasts a new sense of purpose. Holly S., a mom of two living boys and two angel babies, loved what her body was capable of. “My body grew and birthed a living human, and then my child lived solely off my milk for six months, and he continued to receive nourishment and love from me that way until he was 4. How cool is that?! I really do think our bodies are amazing, and breastfeeding reinforced those feelings.”
Weaning a child from nursing is often fraught with complex emotions. Add in our complicated feelings when it comes to body image, and it can be even more complex and sometimes emotional to transition away from breastfeeding.
David Clover, a queer and transgender writer and artist, explains, “My child weaned suddenly due to illness, and it devastated me. I started to see my breasts as useless and then I really resented them. In a weird kind of way, I think the experience of nursing really showed me how little I felt about my breasts. Like it was amazing when I felt like they had a purpose, an important purpose, but as soon as that was gone I was like, ‘you mean I still have to carry these things around with me?’”
David admitted that he would likely have his breasts removed if not for the possibility that he and his partner could have another child. If that were to happen, he’d want to nurse this child as he did with his first.
When describing her breasts post weaning, Rita Templeton, a mother of four sons was super honest. “When they did wean, I felt a new kind of freedom, but I was totally taken aback at what physically happened to my breasts. They just disappeared — they didn’t just go down to their original size, they deflated. I’m not kidding when I say that I lost so much volume in my breasts, you can literally see my ribs at the top of them. I can forget about filling up a bra cup any more; it’s almost like just folding a flap of skin into it. I would totally get a boob job if it weren’t so fucking expensive.” Yes. This. All of it.
When you have smaller breasts to begin with, the effects of weaning are sometimes even more shocking. I often joke that no one will ever see me without a bra again because my breasts are sad looking; my son exclusively began nursing from the left side at around three months, so that breast is saggy and deflated, while the right side is still reasonably perky. For the first time in my life, my breasts are two different cup sizes.
When I was still wearing nursing bras, the difference was far more obvious, which made me incredibly self-conscious. I went from a very full C cup to an oddly proportioned A/B cup. As soon as I stopped nursing, I celebrated by buying myself a push-up bra. It’s not a perfect solution, but it fills my tops out much better, and I feel a little more like my old self.
Accepting our new breasts comes in different ways too. Some may not really accept them, like Willow Torres, a single mother of two. She loved her breasts while she was breastfeeding because they were finally the size that she had wanted, but she says, “Once I finished weaning, I was devastated with how my breasts looked.” She plans on getting breast augmentation surgery as soon as she’s able to get her breasts back to the way she’d like them.
Debi Lewis, a writer and mother at Swallow, My Sunshine, had a slightly different opinion about her breasts after weaning. “I lost all sensation in my nipples after weaning, so I didn’t feel connected to them sexually anymore (even if my partner did). I was surprised to see how quickly they shrank. I’ve described them also as ‘skin and the memory of milk,’ and I think that’s how I see them to this day.”
There is no one way to feel about your body after it has nourished a child. We all have different experiences with our bodies before, during, and after breastfeeding. It is okay to not love your body all the time. It’s okay to feel sad about the fact that your breasts will never be full and perky every again. But, know this: they did something pretty amazing.