We all know that at some point our breasts are going to change throughout our lifetime… Most people assume our breast go through changes twice. The truth is that your breast are actually going to change 4 different times throughout your life! Those changes happen during puberty, pregnancy, delivery, the weaning process, and menopause.
The first time the breast go through a change is puberty. For a girl, puberty can start as early as 6/7 years old, however the average is 11 years old. One of the biggest changes a girl may notice of her new body is she is developing breast. How do breast changes start? A bump will form under the nipple (can also be called a breast bud). Once the bud has developed, breast will begin to fill with fat tissue and the milk glands are beginning to grow, as well as the breast becoming rounder. As her breasts begin to grown they could feel itchy, achy, or sore. This is all completely normal! The areola is getting bigger, darker in color, and that her nipple is now sticking out (erect). Full breast development will end between the ages of 17 and 19 years old.
Breast changes are vital to the ability to breastfeed. ALWAYS make sure to talk to your doctor and Lactation Counselor/Consultant (CLC or IBCLC) about your breast, their changes, before your baby arrives.
Changes to the breast are vital for the ability to breastfeed. These breast changes through pregnancy include: Growth/Enlargement, Tenderness/Sensitivity, Darken Areolas and even the Nipples, Veins appear darker, and leaking. Some women leak, others do not. Out of three pregnancies, I leaked with 1. Also during this time the nipple is more erect than normal and you get these pimply bumps around the areola.
All of these beautiful changes are caused by your fantastic pregnancy hormones! Remember that everyone’s body is different, so your bodily changes could be different than your friends; relative; etc… Also keep in mind that lack of breast enlargement, leaking and minimal color changes is no indication of how your body is handling development of your pregnancy, your baby’s development, or you ability to breastfeed. Always make sure to talk to your doctor or Lactation Counselor/Consultant about your breast changes and any concerns you might have.
Your next set of breast changes happen right after you deliver your baby and placenta. As soon as the placenta is delivered, Prolactin (the milk making hormone is released up to the brain, signaling the release of another hormone called Oxytocin. Oxytocin signals your milk to “let down” and your milk making factory begins! You breast are now going to become denser and more fatty tissues moves in. This newly formed fatty tissue along with the connective tissue in the breast is what prepares your breast to feed your baby. As your milk comes and goes, you will notice that your breast will be bigger before feeding (and possibly firmer) and then after your nurse they will be softer and not as large. This is because when your milk is flowing down into the ducts, your ducts fill, making your breast look much larger. Then once all the milk is removed by baby, it makes them soft and normal looking again. This is all natural and exactly how your body is suppose to work.
The second to last change your breast will go through is when you baby is no longer feeding at the breast. Also known as the weaning process. Your breasts will shrink back down, once all the milk making hormones are no longer being stimulated and estrogen is once again running through your body. Your breast will not necessarily return to pre pregnancy size, but they will reduce from their lactation size.
During the time of Menopause, is the final time your breast will experience any more change. During the time of Peri menopausal (years before your menstrual cycle stops), one might notice that her breast are changing in size and shape. The breasts may also seem tender and achy as well.
It has been found that the tenderness one might feel in her breast during this time is due to hormone changes as your cycle becomes more irregular. In Menopause, you milk making factory is officially shutting down. This means that the glandular tissues that creates milk is shrinking, causing them to be less dense and more fattier (possible reason for sagging).
In the end, your breast have made their “full circle of life”. Their purpose is to feed life and once your body knows that it’s time has come to an end, it’s time for them to “retire”. Your breast a truly an amazing part of your body and it is even more amazing what your breast can give to help support and sustain life. Remember to do monthly breast exams, if at any point your feel something that was not there before or any lumps. Speak with your doctor right away, Breast Cancer is leading cancer amongst women.