How Breastfeeding Ruined My Body

Photo: Getty Images

From Harper’s BAZAAR

As part of’s #NudeWeek, one writer opines the loss of her perky chest after breastfeeding.

My boobs were famous in high school. When the boys made a list of girls’ best body parts, I always won best breasts. An ample size C, they were perfectly round and buoyant, always staying put when I removed my bra. For me, bras were optional and decorative, not a necessity. I could wear any type of top-spaghetti strap, backless, halter, sleeveless. The world was my oyster.

And as I aged, the magic of my breasts stayed with me. In my early thirties, while on vacation with friends, they finally blurted out the question they had always wanted to ask: “Are they real?” Yes, of course, and fabulous.

Then I got pregnant. I’m going to fast forward through those nine months when my breasts grew gargantuan-mesmerizing, even. I couldn’t stop looking at them. I needed a whole new breast wardrobe. Giant bras. Bras you could wear as hats. I was even bestowed the term “fun bags.” My giant boobs were so giant they wanted to lie down at the end of the day and rest; they needed their own pillow. I could pick one up and hit my husband in the face with it. It was fun.

“If I had any idea that breastfeeding would ruin my breasts, I doubt I would have done it.”

I am also going to fast forward through the first year of my son’s life, except to say that I breastfed. Yes, for the whole year. What’s more, I loved it. I was one of those lucky women: my boobs worked. The milk came. The baby latched. The hormones hit. The weight vanished. I found every single other part of being a mom impossibly difficult. But biologically, I nailed it.

And then I stopped breastfeeding and the magic disappeared-deflated. My perfectly round, perfectly perky breasts dropped, and then drooped, and then settled into a U-shape. They looked as sad as I felt. Perhaps I was naive, but I really thought they’d reshape. I kept waiting for them to tighten back up. It has been four years.

I’ve since purchased my third round of bras. They’re not the globe-size hats of my pregnancy days, nor the slinky, lacy options of yore. They are lifter-uppers. And even with these new bras on, clothes don’t hang on me in the same way. Here’s what I should feel, according the internet: joy, love, appreciation of my body and all the many gifts it has given me. Pride that I fed and nursed and nourished my mewling infant into a healthy boy. Respect and admiration for the strength and wonder of the female form. Here’s what I actually feel: fucking pissed.

“My perfectly round, perfectly perky breasts dropped, and then drooped, and then settled into a U-shape.”

That’s the truth. I don’t mind that my hips are a little wider, or my stomach slacker, and I’m not sure what’s going on with my butt. Fine. But if I had any idea that breastfeeding would ruin my breasts, I doubt I would have done it. Is that vain, selfish, and narcissistic? Sure. But it’s also true.

There’s a far-reaching philosophical argument I could make. My breasts were part of my identity, my confidence, my style, my beauty, my sexuality. And they changed so suddenly, so drastically, in a time when my whole identity changed-from person to mother. I connect my beautiful breasts to my old self, and these new imposters to the mom-me. And I don’t want to be thought of as mom-me. At least not when I’m naked, or when I’m having sex, or when I put on a beautiful dress and walk out the door.

But there’s also the less lofty argument. Formula exists. Lots of women use it. I could even have breastfed for the first couple months and then switched. Maybe the change would be less drastic. This is not the breastfeeding vs. formula argument. It’s not that. It’s this: My body is my body and I loved it. Yet for the many conversations around breastfeeding-the difficulty, the complications of pumping at work, the impossibility of procuring breast milk for those who want it, the cultural pressure, the health benefits, the logistics, the commitment-no one ever talks about this particular sacrifice. I’m sad my breasts are no longer beautiful. I’m sad my body won’t ever be fully mine again. And that’s a real loss.