"Ruining" our breasts - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 86 Old 10-26-2006, 08:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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You know, I see frequently in lactivism circles that folks say that pregnancy and not breastfeeding is what "ruins" the breasts.

Now first, to clarify, I don't see that my breasts are ruined by anything. They are different though. Breastfeeding all these years has stretched my nipples out quite a bit. They are very long. Issues with oversupply caused engorgement and stretch marks (meaning my skin stretched more and therefor sags more now) well after my milk came in.

I think that it is misinformation to tell women that their breasts won't change. I spent some months wondering what was wrong with me that my breasts changed and they weren't "supposed" to.

Can we change our language around this? It seems like saying that BFing won't "ruin" one's breasts is acknowledging that breasts can be "ruined", and by their most important natural function at that. I would really like to see that go. I also think it's imortant to acknowledge that for many women there will be a change in their breasts and if this is something that bothers them try to come up with ways to help. For example, if a mama is concerned about stretch marks help her to keep from getting engorged and protect her skin without binding her breasts and crushing her milk supply. Sometimes there won't be anything to help with changes, but helping to normalize those changes so that we are comfortable with them is the key.

My mother nursed me past toddlerhood, and her nipples were very long, just like mine. It was so drilled in to me in all the BFing books and forums that my breasts would not change with BFing, but pregnancy, that I assumed that I was not going to end up with those stretched out nipples since I didn't have them at the end of my pregnancy. It was almost counterintuitive, to be honest, but I believed it.

I think it's misinformation to say that breasts aren't changed by BFing, many women that I've talked to have had a similar exprience to me.

I don't think it's helpful to gloss over problems that women have or deny that they exist.

Can anyone else think of some other ideas and language around this issue that would honor the experiences of all women and be honest while still promoting breastfeeding?
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#2 of 86 Old 10-26-2006, 08:13 PM
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I have never heard anyone say their breasts were "ruined"?
Pregnancy IS what makes the breasts change, not actual breastfeeding.
If you never get pg, your breasts will never change.
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#3 of 86 Old 10-26-2006, 08:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am saying that when we say to women that breastfeeding will not ruin their breasts it is like saying that breasts can be ruined. Which they can't.

And breastfeeding most definitely does cause changes in the breasts after pregnancy is over in some women.
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#4 of 86 Old 10-26-2006, 08:38 PM
 
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I get what you're saying about 'ruining' - that is the way a lot of people put it (perhaps more mildly, though) - and obviously they're not ruined, just different. I think everyone's experience with those changes is different though - pregnancy is what gave me stretch marks on mine, and made them much, much bigger. I know some people don't experience that until their milk comes in, so to speak.
Not sure how to change the language though - a lot of people see not-so-perky, stretch-marked breasts as less than ideal...so do we just say breastfeeding and pregnancy will change your breasts?
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#5 of 86 Old 10-26-2006, 08:39 PM
 
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I like "change" over "ruin," as a word choice.

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#6 of 86 Old 10-26-2006, 08:43 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Mamma Mia View Post
And breastfeeding most definitely does cause changes in the breasts after pregnancy is over in some women.
I think what MamaIntTheBoonies meant is that pregnancy preceeds breastfeeding (you can't breastfeed unless you were pregnant first) thus it was the pregnancy that caused your breasts to change (because it led you to breastfeed).

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#7 of 86 Old 10-26-2006, 08:44 PM
 
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I think there should be some truth in advertising, too. My mom nursed 3 babies for well over a year each and her nipples are now permanently, um, perky. T-shirt bras are her friend, let's say.

I couldn't care less what nursing is doing to my breasts because I didn't like them in the first place. I can sort of understand the vanity thing, but jeez, if you're that worried about your body, you might want to avoid pregnancy altogether.

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#8 of 86 Old 10-26-2006, 08:45 PM
 
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yeah. and I'd rather have long nipples than a masectomy. the opportunity for breast cancer prevention is a blessing

I agree- I think sometimes we get so anxious not to turn people off to bf'ing that we try to idealize it and deny anything remotely unpleasant about it- when the message should perhaps instead be, "yes, like most things in life, there are a few issues that could be considered drawbacks. but overall, none of them outweigh the enormous benefits for the health of yourself and your baby." in other words, if you care more about long nipples than your kid catching pneumonia, your priorities are really, really wacked.

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#9 of 86 Old 10-26-2006, 09:00 PM
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But the breasts would have become engorged if you had nursed or not so chances are the stretch marks would be there anyway as well as the excess skin.
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#10 of 86 Old 10-26-2006, 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by TechnoGranola View Post
I think what MamaIntTheBoonies meant is that pregnancy preceeds breastfeeding (you can't breastfeed unless you were pregnant first) thus it was the pregnancy that caused your breasts to change (because it led you to breastfeed).

I'm sure you already know this but you can BF w/out being pregnant.
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#11 of 86 Old 10-26-2006, 09:10 PM
 
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#12 of 86 Old 10-26-2006, 09:20 PM
 
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Yes breastfeeding can change your breasts but I do not believe breasts can be ruined. I also don't believe breastfeeding is the only or even the most important factor. 9.2 meters per second of gravity pulling them south is a big factor, as are the hormones of pregnancy. I am the middle of 3 girls, both my sisters ff, I bf, both my sisters have the full on eggs hanging off a nail effect (my lil sis is only 20) and I do not. They aren't as perky or as round and my nipples can stretch like taffy if pressure is applied, but I am ok with that.
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#13 of 86 Old 10-26-2006, 09:21 PM
 
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I think ruined is the wrong word all the way around. Our breasts are greatly improved by pregnancy and breastfeeding. They're much healthier, for sure. Our society just had f&^%K up priorities about women's bodies.
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#14 of 86 Old 10-26-2006, 09:22 PM
 
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Originally Posted by jeanine123 View Post
I'm sure you already know this but you can BF w/out being pregnant.
Heh, I knew right after I posted that someone would mention this. Yes I do know, it's just not real common, most women are pregnant first. I was just stating what I believe MITB to have meant (which was likely not smart of me since I probably misunderstood her anyway! ).

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#15 of 86 Old 10-26-2006, 09:49 PM
 
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what-ev. i'd rather have "ruined" boobs than no boobs.
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#16 of 86 Old 10-26-2006, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by MamaInTheBoonies View Post
I have never heard anyone say their breasts were "ruined"?
Pregnancy IS what makes the breasts change, not actual breastfeeding.
If you never get pg, your breasts will never change.
Acctually your breasts can and will change weather you get pregnant or not, Aging does that to a person. You know, gravity and all...

So, pregnancy, breastfeeding AND AGE can change a womans breasts.

Seriously, there's no way around it, breasts are gonna change no matter what course of action one takes regarding them. Be they childless by choice *or circumstance* Adoptive, formula feeding by choice or breastfeeders, Breasts Change, just like the rest of our bodies. Men's testicles start to sag when they get older, so do breasts, weather they get "used" or not.

Women need to get rid of the steriotypical beauty image that gets pummeled into their heads from the day we are born through Barbie and Bratz and super models and all the "Beautiful People" that invest hundreds of thousands in Plastic surgery and in persuit of that mythical fountain of youth.

All I gotta say is Screw You Hollywood. Screw you Milan and Paris runway people..Screw you all. Today's standard of beauty is totally farked up and I hope it changes soon.

Pandora: Former Stripper, had PERKY 36D breasts...my money makers...I was in THAT industry...Trust me I know the whole standard is messed up.
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#17 of 86 Old 10-26-2006, 10:38 PM
 
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How about breastfeeding changes your breasts, it makes them less susceptible to cancer, all in one breath? A sort of negative with a real big positive altogether?

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#18 of 86 Old 10-27-2006, 12:13 AM
 
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Well if they get 'ruined', really, what would I be saving them for by not breastfeeding. THat is what they are there for....

When you are pregnant, regardless of whether you nurse or not, your still have your milk come in, your breasts get large, stretched out, very full. THAT causes the same 'damage' as nursing to keep the engorgement under control.... or maybe it only helped me to not be as engorged.
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#19 of 86 Old 10-27-2006, 12:59 AM
 
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Originally Posted by MamaInTheBoonies View Post
If you never get pg, your breasts will never change.
I think this is an urban legend. We know a Nun - she's probably about 167 years old now and she showed us photos of when she was a young lassie. Lovely, perky bosom - now she's never been pregnant, but they hang down to her belly button these days.

Off topic - she's a riot. Funniest old lady you've ever spoken to. Great stories to tell - she keeps us entertained for hours (she lives at an old folks home with my Great Great Aunt).
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#20 of 86 Old 10-27-2006, 01:01 AM
 
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As for the OP - I think 'change' is a better word. My breasts weren't 'ruined' by breastfeeding, but they did change. The pregnancy had no effect that I could notice - but engorgement and years (and years and years and years) of sucking did.

My cup size is still the same as pre-pregnancy, but the tissue itself is softer and less firm. I don't see it as a bad thing - they did their job. I'm lucky in that my hubby still likes them - if he was giving me a hard time about them being 'ruined' I can definitely see how that would cause a woman to resent the change which happened.
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#21 of 86 Old 10-27-2006, 01:03 AM
 
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I don't think it's necessarily getting engorged that causes stretch marks, at least not all of them. I got stretch marks on my breasts in my teens as a result of a growth spurt, not pregnancy, and then got more 7 years later in the beginning weeks of my first pregnancy.

So my stretch marks are from pregnancy and growing up. There have been other changes as well but I agree that the word "ruin" is sad and not appropriate.
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#22 of 86 Old 10-27-2006, 01:41 AM
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Originally Posted by justplainbecky View Post
Well if they get 'ruined', really, what would I be saving them for by not breastfeeding. THat is what they are there for.....
I was trying to think, "Ruined for what?" but couldn't quite grasp that thought.

Personally, I have never heard anyone say their breasts were 'ruined'.
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#23 of 86 Old 10-27-2006, 01:52 AM
 
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This thread reminded me of the statements made by Gwyneth Paltrow - that she wanted plastic surgery for her breasts, and this is should be called "reconstructive surgery" rather than cosmetic surgery.

http://www.mothering.com/discussions...wyneth+Paltrow
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#24 of 86 Old 10-27-2006, 01:53 AM
 
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I've heard that term, but don't agree with it.

My breasts would only be "ruined" if they were no longer capable of producing milk.

Mom to K (06.23.06) & A (09.13.09)
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#25 of 86 Old 10-27-2006, 03:15 AM
 
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I nursed briefly off both breasts, then weaned my son off of my right breast and continued to nurse for almost 4 years on one side, my left. (Long story.) So I had an interesting little control group within my bra re: breast change.

The verdict, for me, anyway, was that pregnancy didn't really change my right breast. But my left breast was much softer, the nipple looks different and is tons stretchier. More stretch marks in the left breast, too. So nursing definitely changed my breast.

I think every woman's body reacts differently based on genetics, nutrition, exercise, etc. But yes, I wish that breast changes wouldn't be so idealized. Instead of saying, "Yes, they change with nursing" and then rushing to put a positive spin on it, I think we should acknowledge some womens' negative feelings about the matter and talk through it. Otherwise, they won't feel heard and respected about the matter. Just 'cause YOU'RE ok with breast changes doesn't mean the whole world is, that's for sure.

Some women have an awful lot of ego and feelings wrapped up in their breasts, and hardly need some guilt trip about the evils of the patriarchy. They simply need a sympathetic ear that will ultimately help them sort through their needs and the baby's needs. (And perhaps a gift certificate for a very sexy nursing bra!)
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#26 of 86 Old 10-27-2006, 03:33 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by bri276 View Post
yeah. and I'd rather have long nipples than a masectomy. the opportunity for breast cancer prevention is a blessing
My mother has had both. While the risk factor for breast cancer goes up when not nursing, it's not the only factor and so while I do think this info is important to get out to people, this sentence struck me as a little insensitive.
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#27 of 86 Old 10-27-2006, 03:37 AM
 
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Well I would rather have "ruined" Breasts than get breast cancer and all the other 100 things Breastmilk does for you and your DC
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#28 of 86 Old 10-27-2006, 03:46 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I agree that change is a much better word. I think it's important to be honest about the downsides and perceived downsides of the things we advocate. Otherwise we lose credibility.

I will say that it is a big issue for me right now, the agenda that comes with advocacy. I feel like when we conceal the downside, it is very detrimental not only to our cause, but to the women we do advocacy work with. I was thinking tonight that if I were to donate blood next week and find out that I was HIV positive, I would want lots of information to make decisions about future children, what to do about my nursing child, what sort of treatment, etc. I felt hopeless (even though I'm not in that position, that I know of) because I knew that the medical industry would push their agenda, and I can't really trust natural medicinal sources to give me accurate info either, because they will have an agenda too, and their investment in me stops when I fail to prove their case. Basically, the investment in my outcome has more to do with how their side looks than how healthy or happy or well informed my family and I are.

I think this carries through quite a bit to lactivism. I have known so many women who were told that 98% of women can breastfeed, it is really simple and easy- way moreso than making bottles- and that it shouldn't hurt if they're doing it "right" etc. But that ignores the reality that the vast majority of women in my state do nurse for some period, and so, so, so many stop because it hurts, is complicated and difficult. To someone who is considering breastfeeding but is really concerned about the typical things, I would rather say, "Yes, it can be hard. Yes, your breasts may well change. Yes, it may be painful, even when you finally get it "right", at least for a little while. But here are the reasons I think it will be worth it to you in the end. Here are the ways I will support you to get through that stuff *if* it happens."

I think glossing things over is disingenuous.

It reminds me of the DARE program. I, like many other youth heard how dangerous marijuana was, and all these dramatic side effects like memory loss. My experience wasn't that dramatic and I stopped believing anything I heard about any other drug. In the same way, when we over villainize things like vaccinating, ff'ing, crib sleeping, etc. we lose our case when it doesn't seem that bad to the people who do it or see others do it. Factual information without a spin should be enough, and if it isn't enough to keep the practice going, then real, live support is needed.
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#29 of 86 Old 10-27-2006, 03:47 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by ilovemy2ds View Post
Well I would rather have "ruined" Breasts than get breast cancer and all the other 100 things Breastmilk does for you and your DC
This doesn't answer my question at all. It's really unhelpful and as I said just above you, it doesn't reflect my experience.
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#30 of 86 Old 10-27-2006, 04:01 AM
 
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Well, I haven't BF yet but just being pregnant has definitely changed (or you might say "ruined") my breasts! They are bigger, more saggy, less firm and covered in stretch marks. I certainly won't be making excuses not to BF in order to avoid ruining my breasts

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