A woman's breasts are bound to change throughout the course of her life, whether she breastfeeds or not. It's widely known that gravity and aging take a toll on all bodies, and both of these factors entirely inevitable. But, as it turns out, doctors are seeing an alteration in women who've been pregnant and breastfed called involutional. There are many reasons why breastfeeding moms should know about involutional change, but the most pressing reason is because this change in breast appearance is completely normal and nothing to be alarmed about. So what is this change and how does it impact breastfeeding mothers?
According to the Medical Dictionary website term "involutional" means returning to normal size, rolling or turning inward, and a shriveling of tissues and organs. This shrinkage is precisely what happens to a woman's uterus after she gives birth, but it can also happen in a woman's breasts. "As a result of expansion of the breast tissue, as well as hormone changes, we generally see volume loss to the upper pole of the breast," Dr. Gregory Buford, a certified plastic surgeon, tells Romper. "This involutional Change often gives a classic concavity to the upper pole or top of the breasts." Basically, if you've ever seen a meniscus in chemistry class or a flat pancake, those are your visual references.
Buford says involutional change is extremely common following pregnancy and can occur whether you breastfeed or not. "Because breastfeeding is so important to the baby's health, young moms need to not be afraid to breast feed since changes will occur to their breasts even if they do not," he says. Of course a baby's health trumps any and all vanity concerns, but that doesn't stop women from questioning what their breasts will look like after. Nor does it quell curiosity surrounding the topic of extended breastfeeding, and how that impacts breast appearance. Buford says there are no studies that he's aware of that discuss this topic specifically, "but in my personal experience we have seen greater involution when the period of breastfeeding has been significantly extended."
Involutional change is not the only breast transformation that women see. Sagging, unevenness, and even misshapenness can occur to the breasts after breastfeeding due to engorgement, according to Web MD. Women basically have two choices in regards to dealing with the appearance of their post pregnancy boobs. They can either choose to not care and accept their new body and boobs (good bras help when you choose this route).
Or, they can go the plastic surgery route if they wish. "Post pregnancy involutional change can generally be addressed with placement of a breast implant to effectively restore lost volume," Buford says. "And although there are a few studies suggesting that breast implants may reduce the ability to breast feed down the road, I haven't had any patients in my practice who have encountered this issue."
I chose the first option in dealing with my postpartum appearance even though it was really tempting to go the surgical route. I'm the first to admit that my deflated boobs, softened contours, and childbirth scars were alarming at first. After all, change is change, and change can be hard. As a woman I've been groomed to view my postpartum body with it's droopiness and so called imperfect markings as less than favorable. But with time, space, and a little self love I learned to be more than OK with my boobs and body — I'm happy with them.
No matter what change your body and breasts go through during pregnancy and breastfeeding, know that it's normal. These changes shouldn't stop you from breastfeeding or impact how long you do it for. Your health and your baby's health are more important than any unrealistic beauty standard.