Baby

Boobs After Baby

Babies are so great. They are wonderful little creatures whose wonderfulness more than compensates for all of the crazy things that they do to your life and to your body. And that’s a good thing, because “crazy” is exactly what the things that they do to you are.

Today we need to go wayyy over there into OvershareLand and talk about boobs, and exactly what goes on with them in the weeks and months after the baby arrives…because when I was pregnant I read all the books about what happens to you post-pregnancy – hell, I wrote a book about this – and even when I had already gone through it once before, I was still floored by what happens to the top half of your body in the weeks following the birth.

Floored.

I just got an email from a friend in London who had a baby a couple of days ago who’s in a complete panic about what’s going on with her breasts – “Is this normal? How can this be normal?!” – and I realized: for whatever reason, nobody seems to talk about this particular part of baby-having. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to scare you, or maybe it’s because they want to make sure that you prioritize breastfeeding, or maybe it’s because it’s just super-personal and a little uncomfortable to talk about…but regardless: it’s always better to know what’s coming, so you can be prepared and not have to do what I did, which is frantically google “my breasts are the size of basketballs and I think they might fall off” while yowling for your husband to bring you a hot water bottle.

body after baby

A few days postpartum

So here’s what happens, for those of you who have yet to experience this (or who have forgotten, as I apparently did immediately after having Indy): a couple of days after the baby arrives, your milk comes in, and celebrates its arrival by providing you with about ten thousand times the amount of fluid required to feed an eight-pound infant. I went from a DD to something north of a G (for real) in what felt like ten minutes, and let me tell you: that is not fun. While your body figures out what’s going on, there is a lot of discomfort (ok, searing pain)…and a lot of leaking, which can be kinda embarrassing. The worst part, for me: with Goldie, I developed a plugged duct, which I’d never had with Indy – but oh my goodness, is this ever painful.

Have I scared you yet?

Don’t be scared; the bad part doesn’t last all that long; your body will settle down in two or three weeks, and breastfeeding should start feeling, if not like second nature (not everyone takes to it the same way), at the very least not painful or excessively stressful. That said, it can help to have a few tricks at the ready for that time period during which everything’s going a little nuts.

Presenting: The How-To Guide For Boobs After Baby

  • Before you go into the hospital, stock up on supportive nursing bras…or supportive sports bras that are stretchy enough to pull down so you can breastfeed. My advice: skip the underwire bras entirely; underwires not only contribute to developing blockages, but are insanely uncomfortable during those early days. Honestly, you know what my favorite bra was for the duration of my breastfeeding? A sports-bra-style (meaning supportive and with decent coverage) swimsuit top. Whatever works.
  • If you develop a plugged duct, you will know it: it makes the part of your breast where the milk is blocked get rock-hard, and it hurts like crazy. (In a worst-case scenario, a plugged duct can develop into mastitis; click here to read Jessica Quirk of What I Wore’s story.) What to do: take a hot shower, then wrap the affected area in hot (as hot as you can stand) towels, and then feed your baby from a bunch of different positions to help release the blockage (you’ll know when you’ve hit the right angle, because it will both hurt and feel amazing, like rubbing on a sore muscle). Repeat as necessary, feeding the baby as often as you can, and call the doctor right away if you notice any signs of mastitis (fever, redness, et cetera).
  • If you’re going out in public to places where leaking would be embarrassing (or just don’t feel like doing laundry every thirty seconds), stock up on nursing pads.
  • If it hurts when your baby latches, skip the pricey creams: a little olive oil works just as well. Put it on after every feeding, and it should help a ton.
  • Finally, once you stop breastfeeding, wait a week or two for your breasts to go back to something approximating their “regular” size, and then get thee to a lingerie store and get yourself measured: I can virtually guarantee that by now you have absolutely no idea what size bra you should be wearing, since your breasts are almost certainly smaller and located further south than they were pre-baby (sorry about that). I just stopped breastfeeding recently, and made this discovery at a Victoria’s Secret in Miami, where I picked up this pretty thing to make myself feel better about the whole Post-Baby Boobs deal.

Did I forget anything? Any other questions? I’m obviously no expert on this, but I have been through it a couple of times now, so feel free to ask away.

  • Maria

    We’re expecting our first in April and I’m already in awe of the boob growth – knowing what’s coming down the pike is so helpful!

    • jordanreid

      congratulations!!!

  • laura

    This is so good to know! I’m expecting my first in June! 🙂 This should be interesting…haha

    • jordanreid

      congrats to you too! so exciting 🙂

  • Heidi D.

    There is definitely a conspiracy behind why no one shares what the hell happens to your boobs after birth. I remember when my milk came in (both times) I developed a fever, extreme chills and felt like something was horribly wrong. Ahhh, the joys of motherhood;)

  • Mia Ketterling

    Thank you, thank you! Expecting our first in 10 weeks and was just about to start the nursing bra hunt. This is extremely helpful (and a little scary 😀 ).

    • jordanreid

      lol seriously, don’t be scared – those first couple of weeks are extremely exciting in addition to being overwhelming…and then they’re over, and you can settle in with your new baby 🙂

  • La Leche League is a great resource for breastfeeding. It is so important to know what to expect in the early days. And go to a meeting before you give birth so you can see what nursing really looks like! I never had engorgement with my first – so it’s ok if that doesn’t happen to you too!

    • jordanreid

      oh, that’s such a good point – i figured engorgement wasn’t always as extreme as it was for me, but didn’t realize it didn’t even necessarily happen to everyone.

  • Becky

    This post was great! I experienced the “OMG -my-boobs-are-HUGE” side of breastfeeding, but at least never dealt with the engorgement or leaking (I actually had supply issues and never ended up producing enough, and had to quit breastfeeding after 2 months because of it). The one thing I wish I had known was that it takes a good 2 weeks to go back to your normal size-I kept trying to squeeze in my old bras and was disappointed to realize I had to wear my nursing bras for a little until my size balanced out.

  • Alice

    And the tears -with both of mine I cried for 2 hours straight when my milk came in. Not from pain but think it was the extra hormones. Breastfeeding can also be such an emotional thing, when to stop? How did you decide? I want my boobs back (and I want WINE) but I feel like I’ve come this far, she’s about to start solids so I’ll see what that changes. Thanks for over-sharing, so helpful and so many of your readers seem to be pregnant.

    • jordanreid

      It is SUCH an emotional thing, deciding when to stop – there is a ton of societal pressure to keep going and going, and – especially the first time around – I found it very difficult to talk about (I stopped breast-feeding Indy at 3 1/2 months but never mentioned it on the site because I was so anxious that I’d be attacked, and too insecure in my own decision to feel okay about that). But what I’ve found this time around is that you just do your best. You breastfeed if you can, and for as long as you can, but only you know what works best for yourself and your family.

    • ebrs929

      you have to do what works for you in terms of stopping. those judgey people out there fall into my category of “those who matter don’t mind..”

      this applies to drinking too. your body naturally eliminates about 1 drink/hour. i have a glass of wine right after feeding and it is long gone before his next time. his doctor said as long as i am not going on a bender, no biggie. again, if it doesn’t feel right for you don’t do it… 🙂

  • Morningstar

    I love this site and just had my second in Nov. Since you were a few weeks ahead of me, I loved looking at your pregnancy outfits for inspiration! It helped me see what I could do to dress stylishly and more like me this time and avoid the maternity clothing rut. Thank you! Quick question, do you have a brand of nursing pads you recommend? SOmething that will look good under clothes?

    • jordanreid

      congrats! i used lansinoh nursing pads, but found that you could still see them under clothes if my bra was too thin, so i chose bras with a little extra lining that concealed them.

  • ebrs929

    my #2 is 12 weeks right now, and i can say that breastfeeding is completely different based on your life and the baby. With my 1st, my boobs only got a little more full than they were before and she latched right away. With #2, I had to go up a cup size and it took him a week to get his latch figured out. (This was made even more “enjoyable” since my milk was a little slow to come in.) Lots of mom and baby tears were shed those first few weeks.
    The most important thing for any new mom to remember is “try” not to stress out, relax and let your body respond to the adjustment of nursing. Stress hampers your body making the milk AND the baby senses your tension too. It will hurt at first, but that is temporary. The bond you are building is permanent and priceless. 🙂