Breasts, Biology and Bras

 

Do you know how to dress your breasts?  It may seem like an odd question, but as women many of us give a lot of thought to our outer wear; the styles, sizes and cuts of clothing that best complement our bodies.  But how many of us think about these things when choosing bras?

Since wearing the right bra for your body can help you feel more comfortable, confident and beautiful, this post aims to help you understand the changes that occur within the breast over time, how those changes affect the shape, fullness and firmness of your breasts, and how different bra styles may best complement your body as it changes.

Puberty

During this time the emerging breast tissue may be sensitive and tender, and girls may experience itchiness of the skin as it stretches to accommodate the growing breast.  Some young ladies may find relief by wearing a supportive undergarment such as a camisole or a bra.  Early bras are less about providing shaping and structure to the breast tissue and more about offering support and modesty under clothing.  If you find yourself responsible for one of these early bra-shopping experiences with an impressionable girl please be mindful that any comments you make can impact her body image for years to come.  A young woman’s breasts will develop at their own pace, and can take from a few months to a few years to fully develop.  Try to avoid descriptive words such as “big” or “small” and try to assure her that whatever breast development she has is completely normal.  Your bra fitter should also help to ensure that the experience is positive.

Pregnancy and breast feeding

We’ve covered the changes a woman’s body goes through during pregnancy and breastfeeding in these previous posts:

1. How to choose bras during pregnancy
2. Guide to choosing nursing bras
3. Will nursing my baby cause my breasts to sag

In summary, as a woman’s body is going through these changes quality maternity and nursing bras can help ensure her comfort.  Look for bras with wide side bands as this will help support the increased weight of the breasts.  The straps should not be overly narrow, as this may cause them to dig in at the shoulders.  Bra cups that are made of a slightly stretchy material will accommodate growing breasts while breathable fabrics will help keep a woman cool as nursing can raise body temperature. For women who are used to wearing underwired bras and choose to continue to do so during pregnancy and nursing it is crucial to ensure a proper fit to avoid any potential issues with mastitis – a painful infection caused by blocked milk ducts.  Your bra fitter will check to make sure that the underwire rests on ribcage, not breast tissue, and does not dig in.

Before, during and after menopause

As a woman ages the milk producing system atrophies and is replaced by fat.  Having more fat than milk ducts makes the breasts both heavier and softer.  Additionally, the connective fibrous tissue loses strength and it is this combination that is largely responsible for the loss of firmness that many women experience over time.  Some women find that they are no longer able to fill out the moulded cup “t-shirt” bras that they wore in their 20s and 30s as their breasts change shape and lose volume. Bras with seamed cups help provide structure and shaping to softer breast tissue and are also especially useful in providing support for full-busted women.

Choosing bras that fit and flatter

Breasts vary widely in terms of shape, volume, firmness and spacing on a woman’s body.  Even women who wear the same size bra may find that different styles are more flattering.  Our last words of advice are to (i) always try on a bra to know how it is going to work on your unique body, and (ii) select styles that fit and flatter both your body and your sense of style.  There are beautiful bras available to suit every woman.

Disclaimer:  This post is not intended to offer medical guidance.  Please seek advice from a healthcare professional if you have a concern about any changes to your breasts.