My body has undergone many shifts as it grows and matures. Each change has come and I have adjusted rather gracefully and in wonder of the magic of my body's ability to adapt in response to hormones, nutrition, and life. The current change I am learning to embrace is the transformation of my breasts during the mothering of my two children. In the reflection of the culture that saturates this country my breasts are deflated and sagging. They are becoming the opposite of what the media impresses upon the masses as “sexy”.
I know this breast change is usual to most nursing and post nursing mamas and as I near the time for weaning my daughter I fear that the little lift and fullness that the milk allows will disappear and they will deflate and sag even further. This is the first year that while “skinny dipping” at the river with my friends and acquaintances I felt the want to cover my breasts when I was not luxuriating in the cool water. I felt ashamed and uncomfortable with my new breast shape and elevation. I knew in my inner self that this shame of my breasts was bourn of misinformation and a skewed view of beauty. I began to reach out to my information resources on the internet and re-educate my shame.
Before I expound upon my enlightening discoveries I will tell a little about my previous relationship to my breasts. My interest in breasts began while watching my mother and her specific technique of fastening her bra, as well as seeing my great grandmother collect her hefty sagging breasts up from the level of her belly button to a “societal acceptable“ height into her bra. I remember my mother recount her grandmother telling her that “You don’t need to wear a bra until you could hold a pencil under them.” and singing an altered version of a popular song “ do your boobs hang low do they wobble to an fro, can you tie them in a knot …..”. At the time (I was probably 5 or 6 ) I did not have a negative image of my great grandmother’s breasts and found it delightful that she could find humor in her dual-pendulum bosom.
Around the dawning of puberty I began to clue into breasts, their sizes and parts. A few of my friends began puberty early and I watched the boys tease them. When my breasts first budded one began before the other and I went to my mother fearing illness like cancer. We actually went to the clinic to be sure I was OK and the nurse assured us that it was just the beginning of my breasts. Soon my other breast caught up and I went with my mom to buy a training bra to support my sore little buds during P.E. I was fascinated by all of the lacy and frilly bras in the store and a bit disappointed and that I only fit into one of the plain and rather unattractive colorless triangular bras. As the months passed I would cup my palms over my breasts to measure them, not being able to believe that I would ever have what my friends called “cleavage”.
So thus my relationship and identity with my breasts flourished. It wasn’t until my interest in sex peaked that my breast growth took off, or visa-versa. It happened so quickly I was un able to keep up. I remember my dance teacher pulling me aside after dance class one day and telling me I needed to buy a larger sports bra. Around that time I found my first steady boyfriend and we began exploring sexuality. That is when I began to see the sexual power of my breasts. I took to wearing small tight t-shirts that showed the shape of my breasts and nipples. One day I was called to high school principle and she told me that I was making my male teachers uncomfortable and that I needed to wear a bra. I felt angry and misunderstood and confused by my new breasts and society.
As I entered my second year of college my need to wear breast enhancing clothing waned and I became more comfortable with myself and the world around me. My breasts we no longer in their peek fullness and firmness and were settling into a relaxed but perky hang. Once I met the man with whom I wanted to have children, my interest in breasts turned to their baby nursing capacity. I still liked to wear clothing that allowed my breasts to be attractive, but I no longer thought of them only as sexual attraction tools. I would steel interested peeks at nursing mothers and I attended a pregnancy class to gain insight into the entire process of growing and nourishing a baby.
During my first pregnancy my breasts filled and plumped and I was intrigued by the little bit of colostrum that would occasionally come from my nipples. It felt neat that my breasts were held up by resting on my growing belly. When my son was born he nursed fairly easily and I was surprised by the pain accompanying the let down of milk. My breasts became solely for the purpose of nursing. I didn’t want my husband to give them sexual attention and I all but forgot their sexual display for society. My breasts were humongous when the milk came in. They were larger than my son’s head. As the milk regulated itself and my breasts relaxed in shape I found it easier to nurse my son in varying positions (On my lap while sitting cross-legged, from either breast while laying on my side, while carrying my son in the front carrier) around the time that my son was almost two I had very little milk and I saw my breasts as a tad bit sagging but not deflated.
(From the always amazing Hathor the Cow Goddess)
Before I could give those evaluations of my breasts much thought I was pregnant again with my daughter and my breasts began to swell with pregnancy and I was once again amazed by their monstrosity when my milk came in. This time with the regulating of my milk my breasts appear to me as deflated and sagging. So we come to the present moment. My daughter is a year old now and my milk is present but no longer leaking with every let down. This time around I was able to allow my breasts to be for nursing and sexuality with my husband. I do not anticipate that I will have any more children and so I see my new breast shape and size to be what I have to learn to be comfortable with and eventually embrace with love.
So here are some of the things I discovered during my internet research on this topic. The first is the growth cycle of breasts. When breasts are first formed the entire area of the breast ductal tissue is dense and stimulated and the fullness of the breast is distributed evenly. The newly stretching skin hugs the breast giving it a taught, full, rounded appearance. This is the only time in the life cycle of the breast that they will appear like this because of the pituitary hormones allowing for the reception of estrogen by the breast tissue. Because of this hormonal relationship that is not present in later life breasts will never appear as they do when they are freshly formed (even plastic surgery breasts eventually sag due to stretching of the skin). Once this phase is complete the breast ductal tissue settles mostly to the lower area of the breast and the skin stretches . At this point in maturity the breasts fullness are made up of fat as well as ductal tissue. The breasts do not reach their full developmental maturity until they create milk. While a woman is pregnant the body rids the breast of most of it’s fat to make way for the activated breast ductal tissue and milk. It takes around 6 months for the breast to regain it’s previous fatty matter once the milk is dried up. After weaning breasts may still sag and any stretch marks may remain depending on nutrition and genetics. When menopause occurs the breast tissue is dramatically minimalized due to the lessening of estrogen and most of the fullness is made up of fat, creating a drooping shape.
Breasts come in all shapes and sizes. Ductal tissue, fat, hormones (estrogen and progesterone), genetics, and glands play a large part in how breasts develop and take shape. Most often one breast will be larger than the other and in some the difference is dramatic. While doing my research I ran across a web site that showed a plethora of normal (non popular culture/ media idealized) breasts. This was good for me to see, to know that I am not unusual, my breasts are just one miraculous sculpture amongst the many. BREASTS ARE FOR NURSING CHILDREN. I am lucky that my husband is attracted to my breasts in their new shape, but I think it would be wonderful if boys and men were educated to this fact. It would be helpful if men were taught to see the sagging deflated breast of a post-nursing mother as glorious. Like wide hips can be considered attractive because they are good for birthing, breasts that point down could be considered attractive because it is easier to nurse a baby with a breast whose nipple is pointing downward. Also glorious simply because they brought life into this world.
I am learning to embrace my breasts as mature, having gone thought the final stage of development which is milk making. I AM A MAMA AND THESE ARE MY LIFE GIVING TOOLS. The understanding of this comes down to what people (men and women) are taught my their families and culture, what is seen as beautiful. For example some tribes find stretching the lip out with a plate to be desirable, where here in the united states that is not high fashion beauty. Can you take a moment to look down at your breasts or view them in the mirror and remove all preconceived ideas about what they “should” look like? Just for a moment even, (those ideas about your breasts will still be there to pick back up afterwards if you so choose). If you are able to do this with your own breasts, can you sustain this self love of your breasts? And if so can you turn outward and do the same for all of the other breasts you see every day? I would not even call this “accepting your breasts, or overlooking what you see to create a false mental image, because THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOUR BREASTS, THEY ARE WONDERFUL AND ARE AS THEY SHOULD BE OR ELSE THEY WOULDN’T BE. There is a man around where I live who sings a song about loving and honoring saggy breasts. It is all about how he loves them and they fed children and how they are still sexually attractive to him. When I first heard the lyrics to this song I giggled and wondered why he would love saggy breasts (I was so brainwashed by culture) but now that I am one of those saggy breasted mothers I say hallelujah this man is sane.
Take good care of your breasts. If you love them up then they are easier for others to love, they will emanate the beauty you know them to be. Have you ever seen a person who would be usually considered plain or unattractive to popular culture but they are so filled with joy in themselves that they are beautiful? Loving your breasts is the first step to caring for your breasts. Other aspects include nutrition. Easting lots of fresh organic fruits and vegetables allow for your body to rebuild and replenish itself. Vitamins C, E, A, K and B complex are good for skin health and elasticity (repairing stretch marks and elasticizing stretched “sagging “skin). Some foods stimulate the breast ductal tissue with what is called Phytoestrogen. Here are some of them that you can research more (a few are not recommended to take while pregnant or nursing) : Soy, flax seed, sesame seeds, garlic, dried apricots, sweet potatoes, pomegranate, olive oil, peanuts, maitake mushrooms. Women have been using breast enhancing phytoestrogen herbs for centuries some of which are: saw palmetto, dong quai, red clover, wild yam, green tea, ginger, turmeric, iodine, fenugreek, fennel, black kohosh. Phytoestrogen also helps with estrogen related bone loss. If you are susceptible to estrogen fueled cancer refrain from phytosestrogen foods. Breast massage helps to shape, tone and promote growth. Susan Weed, the herbalist, has a few good breast massage oil recipes in her literature. Qigong is also helpful for circulating energy through the breasts chest and shoulders. There are qigong exercises specific to the breasts if you want to research and learn more about qigong. Ironically I have read that bra wearing actually can speed up sagging of breasts. All breasts eventually sag because they are not held up by muscles but by ligaments. When breasts are continually supported by bras the ligaments atrophy and the breasts sag quickly. It is recommended to wear bras for support during exercise because extreme bouncing will stretch the ligaments and skin of the breasts, but otherwise to leave off your bra when ever you are able. Lastly I notice my breasts appear more saggy when I hunch my back. Nursing my children has caused my shoulders to be more hunched over for reaching my breasts to my babies mouth. So working on good shoulder posture and light exercising of the pectoral muscles will reduce some of the sag.
Here are the web sites that I referenced:
And here's a documentary about breasts and our relationship with them:
I hope that my story and research will help other mothers regain the confidence in and honoring of their breasts. LEARN TO LOVE YOUR MAMA BOOBIES TOO!