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Mangled Breasts: is there any way around it?

I clearly remember my mom nursing my brother.  It was painful, based on the crumpled look on her face.  More painful than the actual nursing was the actual latching-off, removing baby mouth from mama breast.  In early books, I read about a couple of key components of nursing: (1) good latch, mouth open wide! and (2) break the seal before unlatching, removing from breast.  My mom's breasts, by the end of her few months of nursing my brother, were mangled.  Her nipples were so stretched out, hardened from the poor latch-on and poor latch-off.

When I nursed my first child, I soon realized the effect of the lazy latch off.  If I let her slip off the breast, lips still firmly wrapped around my breast and nipple, she would elongate my breast and nipple with every latch off.  The result - after days, weeks, years - was not pretty.  My breasts - well, at least my nipples - were starting to look like my mom's, a very skewed breast-to-nipple ratio (approaching 1 to 1!).  Mamas, you know what I mean.

As I approach the three-year mark nursing my third child, I look at my bare breasts in the mirror, and I sigh.  My nam-nams are looking as tired as my face.  They are weathered, flappy.  The worst of it, I think, are my nipples.  The mechanism of getting the nourishment from my milk stores to my child's stomach, my nipples have seen better (and shorter) days.  After almost a decade of combined nursing, is there any way to revive my nam-nams?  Is there a way to perk my ladies up?  Is there a way to unform what has become an extra-large avent nipple?  Or, do I look at my breasts and feel accomplished for all the comfort and nourishment I have provided (and continue to provide) my children for all those years?

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I nursed two kids past the two year mark. Many years later...my breasts look fine to myself and to the hubby. I'm thrilled to have created strong, healthy bodies and fulfilled my biological destiny.

Time after nursing can help some. For others, if it is affecting your self confidence I don't think there is anything wrong with surgery (reduction, lift, and/or augmentation). I lucked out and after nursing three kids my small breasts closely resemble their pre-nursing appearance. However one of the things that I made clear to my husband during pregnancy was that if either my breasts or abdomen didn't return to something I felt happy with, then I would be visiting a surgeon to have things improved. Lucky genes, good diet, and exercise paid off and I didn't have to do so, but I see nothing wrong with a little surgery in this case.

Anon, I find your stance distasteful. How will we ever raise a generation of women proud of their own bodies if everyone succumbs to unrealistic expectations?

Do your best to love the skin your in and your daughter will reap the rewards, too.

Nothing distasteful about it....I would find find living in a body that I am dissatisfied with distasteful. I didn't say all women should look a certain way, however if I would like to look a certain way I shouldn't be judged by others. If I had come on here spouting off that every woman that doesn't have perfect, perky breasts is gross and should have surgery, feel free to chastise me. That isn't what I said, I just think that it is ok to consider all the options available to help someone feel happy in their skin. That might be embracing changes, maybe some great new bras, or (gasp) surgery. My message-do what makes you happy and let others do the same.

I had reduction surgery two years ago and it was one of the best things I ever did for myself. Always on the busty side, I went from a a double-D pre-kids to an H-cup after nursing two daughters. My nipples were practically grazing my belly button. (I am not exaggerating.) My posture was terrible, I had never-ending back pain and neck pain and headaches almost every day of the week.

Post-surgery, I am a full inch taller (I can finally stand up straight), the back and shoulder pain are gone, it's easier and more comfortable to exercise, and most exciting of all? In over two years, I have had a total of three headaches. The surgery was positively life-changing.

I can also now wear shirts that button in the front (couldn't do that before - only stretchy fabrics.) To top it off, I feel much better about the way I look - both with and without clothes. I do have a few scars, but they are small and the only people who see them are me, my husband and my doctor, so no biggie.

One bonus is that my breasts are perkier than they've ever been (even as a teen.) That wasn't something I cared about when I had the surgery (I just wanted the headaches to stop) but it has been nonetheless. I've been self-conscious about my chest since about 4th grade. For the first time in my life, I like what I see.

Depending on how large your breasts are, insurance may cover a reduction (mine did.) A lift is something that would have to be covered out of pocket (because it's cosmetic - it's not addressing back/neck/shoulder/head pain.)

The first two days post-op were REALLY painful - probably the most pain I've ever experienced (including a drug-free birth that ended in 27 stitches.) I remember crying to my husband that if I'd known how much it would hurt, I never would have done it. But after day two, the pain was bearable and within a week, things were mostly itchy and sore to the touch, but not round-the-clock painful. It took about three months before I was completely pain-free and felt completely back to normal (which was a little longer than I expected -but for the most part, the pain was under control after a week and then for several weeks I just achy and very tired. I hadn't expected the fatigue.) But like I said, it was worth it for an end to shoulder, neck and back pain, chronic headaches and just generally feeling crummy (physically, yes, but emotionally too, because I felt so self-conscious about how I looked.)

It sounds as though you are more concerned about the nipples than about the size of the breasts, but I believe that part of the procedure is the same whether you have a reduction or just a lift. It is a bit gruesome, just so you know. They remove your nipples and reattach them higher on the breast (and if they are extra-large and stretched out, they will trim them down a bit before reattaching them.) And I will be completely honest - it hurts. But not forever, and I would say I actually have more sensation there now than I ever did before the surgery.

I saw Dr. Reid Mueller at OHSU and liked him quite a bit. http://www.reidmueller.com/index.html

I have a friend who saw Juliana Hansen in the same practice and was thrilled with her as well (also for a reduction.) http://www.ohsu.edu/ohsuedu/academic/som/surgery/divisions/plastic-reconstructive-surgery/Faculty/juliana-hansen-md-facs.cfm

I understand what mummy-to-two is saying about taking pride in your body, but for me, after so many years of pain, reduction surgery was the right decision FOR ME. It may not be right for you, or for others, but it is an option you may want to explore.

Good luck to you and if you have other questions about my experience, I am happy to try to answer them. :)

"fulfilled my biological destiny". Huh?

Z, biologically, women (generally speaking) were formed to feed babies from their breasts. Hillsdale mum's body was able to complete this function to her satisfaction and she fulfilled her biological destiny. A melodramatic statement maybe, but pretty straightforward.

I don't accept that use of the word "destiny" in that case.

My wife nursed for about 6 months. The high demand of her job in the Army ultimately commanded that she cut breastfeeding short, unfortunately. It's hard to say whether or not her breasts would've been sacrificed, so to speak, if she'd had more time to nurse and pump.

As a stay-at-home dad who is readily available to bottle feed (and who does, of course), I personally was thrilled at the physiological outcome of these results. Her breasts have never been better in my opinion!

I think I'm probly gonna go the "embrace the changes" route, but I do support individuals choosing what works for them. Hooray for not judging and not prescribing!

why does everything having to do with breastfeeding turn into mamas sneering at each other and criticizing over their comments, choices, use of vocabulary etc. etc.?
I'm with you author of this article: almost a decade of nursing 3 kids, or a third of my life..call it destiny, or being a mammal, a parenting choice, or whatever you want...my nipples hang low too, the word "perky" doesn't even belong on my body...not sure if there is anything I can do when the last nursling is done besides take good care of myself, but I wouldn't change it for anything in the world...let's all support and love each other, our bodies for the feats of childbearing, nursing, and mothering in general, our wisdom as mothers, and our personal choices...nursing is an amazing relationship...even if your boobs hang low in the end : )

I must say that I don't think breast feeding was the worst impact on my breasts. As a younger adult I had a lot of weight fluctuations, which definitely impacted the "perkiness" of the ladies. I would like to say that the pendulous nature of the girls is primarily due to the 18 months of breastfeeding, but I think that it is mostly due to life and getting older. Maybe I would have noticed more of a difference if I had started out with a manageable C cup instead of the DDD handfuls that I had lugged around since I was 12.

Stephanie: Thank you for your post! I'm so glad you feel better in many ways. Not a challenge I face (hah! the opposite), so nice to hear how breast reduction has been so positive for you.

Here's what I think/feel when I see myself nekked in a mirror or glance at my profile: pride in accomplishment (wow! I kinda thought I might nurse someday, and wowzee, I really did it!), sexy and alive (heyyyy good lookin', shake it baby), horror and disgust (a fleeting feeling, but it's there--Ew, that's what I look like now?), defiant (um, yeah, that's me; what u lookin at?), practical (ya know, the soft cup thing isn't working for you anymore. Try an underwire); completely bemused (bodies are really silly looking!) reflective (hated y'all in my early teens cuz u were dull, strutted my barely-A cups w/out a shirt at lesbian marches, showed 'em off to girl- and boyfriends my 20s, relished 'em w/love of my life in my 30s, nursed babies into my 40s; hoping they stay cancer-free from here on out); and neutral (huh; that's me; oops, forgot to brush my hair).

I'm an older mom. My body is changing anyway. I daydream of surgery, but probably won't do it cuz doesn't fit w/how I wanna be as a woman. Wonder what I would feel about my bosom if I were 15 yrs younger. Or single/dating. ??

It seems to me that your feelings are completely normal Saggy. :) I think mine are similar. (Even post-surgery. I may be happier with my chest, but now that it's smaller, my caboose looks that much bigger! Ugh!) That said, I appreciate the fact that body is healthy and gets me where I need to go and I am thankful that it gave me two great kids and allowed me to nourish them. That doesn't mean, though, that I don't look at photos of myself from my 20s and wonder what the hell happened! :) It also doesn't mean I plan on any additional plastic surgery!

I'd thought about reduction surgery since high school. I never went through with it because I knew I wanted to have children someday and I wanted to be able to nurse them. After my youngest was weaned, I thought about it for another two years. I think one of the things I struggled with was that for as sore and self-conscious as I felt, I'd always had large breasts and I wondered if I would still feel like me if I didn't. I wasn't sure I wanted to be someone else, if that makes sense. That didn't end up being an issue though. The more tissue they remove, the more likely complications are, so my doctor refuses to take patients down by more than half. So even though I went down by half, I still ended up with a D-cup. Not small, but manageable! So, I am still curvy and still look like me (or the old me, pre-kids) ... but without the back pain. ;-)

I've wondered too about how I would feel if I was younger. I think I was able to make the decision because I had my husband's support and knew he would love me no matter what. I do have scars now (they aren't huge or hideous, but they're there.) Sometimes they bother me a little, but my husband doesn't care any more than he would if I had a c-section scar or an appendectomy scar - they're just part of me. But if I was single/dating, I know I would be really self-conscious about them. Then again, if I was dating, I'd probably be just as self-conscious about ginormous pendulous breasts that reached my belly-button!

I guess, really, when it comes to this type of surgery (whether it's a reduction or a lift) whether it's the right decision for someone doesn't just vary from person to person but also varies depending on where someone is in life. But that's true for almost everything, isn't it?

Here's what worked for me after 2 years of nursing:
going to Nordstrom's and getting properly fitted
for a proper bra! Who knew: instead of a 36C,
I am now a 34D! Wacoal bras give great support and lift
are very comfortable, and reasonable in price--$35, usually.
As for when I am bra-free? Well, then they swing free in the breeze. Really, unless you are in your early twenties,
who has naturally super-perky breasts? Embrace your
woman's figure and be done with it.

@Toddlermama Your post cracked me up. I nursed many years and the one thing that made me feel better was going to Nordstroms and getting fitted. I too was trying to squeeze into a C since it didn't occur to me the huge arm pit miffins were because I was actually a D. The ladies there are so patient.

Proper bra fitting the ladies and yes a plastic surgery consultation just to determine budget and procedure/risks etc. are options. I also have this stretching piece of skin and all the exercise in the world hasn't changed it and although I should be pound of my body I just don't like this and my saggy breasts. A consult may be in my future also..

What about cost? Isn't cosmetic surgery expensive? I know reductions can be covered by insurance, but a plastic surgery consultation would be absurd for most people I know who don't have elective procedure in their budgets. It seems like quite a luxury to even consider it!

My insurance company covered 80 percent of the cost of the reduction, aside from a co-pay and an anesthesiologist fee. But the fee for cosmetic surgery would be several thousand dollars.

It's interesting that so many people are talking about breast reductions here because I swear my boobs are half the size they used to be. I mean on top of being saggy and shriveled up from apparently bad unlatching practices (I had no idea until I read this post). I used to be a C cup and now I'm an A/B. It sucks but what sucks more is the wrinkled plastic bag stomach look. If I had the money and the guts to do it, I'd get that fixed first.

I think a lot of people who have always wanted reductions will get them post-nursing, feeling that's a good time to get it all taken care of. I think a lot less people will get surgery just to be perkier again... maybe I just don't know people who get elective surgery.
The long nipples thing, I don't know what it looks like, not sure if it would be an issue for me. I ended up a bit lopsided, but it's not really noticeable. Even if it was an issue, I'm more likely to just live with it than wish to take what to me feel like drastic measure for a change.
I also always thought saggyness was from actually pregnancy, not from feeding. That's what they told me, anyway! As I'm sure they didn't want anyone to decline to nurse for fear of the results to their body.

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