Menu
22 overlooked reasons our breasts are amazing, mamas

Let me just start by saying the female body is truly incredible. During a woman’s lifetime, she can help create a child, grow a child, birth a child, and feed a child, all just with her body.


Part of this body is her breasts. Shown from the beginning of time in famous art pieces where Madonnas are seen nursing their little ones, to causing major controversy with nursing in public. Being seen as sexual objects in our media, to being the symbol of femininity and beauty. And of course, to providing the ultimate magical food for our babies, breasts are a BIG topic.

FEATURED VIDEO

Here are 22 facts that are often understated, unknown, or misunderstood about breasts and why they are so interesting and amazing (in case you didn’t already feel this way):

1. The word mammary comes from the Latin and Greek term for breasts, mamma which was developed from the infant’s hunger cry sounding like “mamma.”

2. Your breasts change and develop through life starting in-utero, to puberty, to pregnancy, to breastfeeding, to weaning, after weaning and menopause. No other organ in the body goes through such dramatic changes in shape, size, and function.

3. Your breasts can make breast milk that feeds and sustains your baby totally and completely without any other substance for its first 6 months of life. What is more amazing than that!? Plus, breastmilk has a double function providing your babe with nutrients and defense against infectious agents. All of the defenses protect without causing inflammation in the baby.

4. Human breasts differ from all other primates’ breasts as they grow long before pregnancy, during adolescence, and even after weaning. Other mammals’ breasts only grow during lactation and flatten down when their young have been weaned.

5. Your nipples and areola increase in size and become darker while pregnant in preparation for your little one who has poor eyesight at birth—they can only see about 8-12 inches away, which is perfect viewing distance to their mama’s face while nursing.

6. You have small bumps on your nipples called montgomery tubercles that greatly increase in size during pregnancy to help your baby locate your nipples and help to condition, cleanse and lubricate your nipples for breastfeeding. This fluid provides sensory stimulation so your babe will instinctively move toward your breast at birth.

7. Your breast tissue reaches all the way up to your armpit, and this area is called the tail of spence. You may even get breast milk in your armpit. Make sure this tissue is not forgotten when checking for cancerous lumps in self exams and with your OB/GYN and for painful plugged ducts during nursing that could turn into mastitis.

8. Each woman has differing numbers of ductal openings on their nipples where the milk exits the breast to the baby. Depending on the woman, she can have anywhere from 4-18 in each breast.

9. Even though breasts are considered sexual, your mammary glands are not part of the reproductive system. These glands are a type of secretion gland, a mucous membrane, which is why you should not take any kind of decongestant medication that will dry up your mucous membranes while breastfeeding.

10. The average breast weight is 150-200g. During lactation, this number more than doubles to 400-500g. That means the breasts gain at about a POUND during lactation!

11. There is a nerve (the 4th intercostal nerve) that enters the back of each of your breasts (left breast is 4:00 and right breast is 8:00). When the infant is suckling, this nerve is stimulated, triggering your brain to make more milk. When plastic (from a pump, for example), is in between the baby lips and the nerve, there will be less stimulation, contributing to less output of milk seen with pumping.

12. Breast asymmetry is common—the left breast is often larger than the right.

13. Lactogenesis is the transition your breasts make from pregnancy to lactation. Once you’ve delivered your placenta, you have a rapid drop in the hormones progesterone and estrogen, telling your body you are no longer pregnant. With the help of a few additional hormones, your milk production begins and it creates the exact amount and exact formula your baby needs in colostrum.

Colostrum coats the baby’s entire gut (mouth to anus) to protect it from any outside bacteria and is filled with amazing-ness to protect and nourish your brand new babe.

Lactogensis II is the start of copious milk secretion controlled by your hormones, beginning between day three and day five. Your milk will “come in” regardless of emptying within the first few days after birth because it is hormonally driven.

After Lactogenesis II, you move into autocrine control. This is where your breast milk production works by milk removal—supply and demand. When your babe nurses, fully and frequently emptying your breasts, there is a feedback mechanism that tells your brain to make more milk.

An empty breast tells your body to make more, while a full breast will tell it to slow down. Your milk supply changes all the way until you wean, including changes in composition, depending on what your baby’s needs are.

As long as milk is removed, your breasts will continue to make milk indefinitely.

14. You can re-lactate (re-stimulate lactation) weeks, months and even years after having your child. It takes serious commitment, and you may not establish a full supply again, but your breasts remember. Adoptive parents who have never nursed a baby before can induce lactation, in a similar way to re-lactation.

15. Has your baby ever pulled off while you are having a letdown and you shoot milk across the room? Your milk ejection reflex is in response to suckling, and the hormone Oxytocin causes this reflex to occur. This can feel like burning, aching, a warm sensation, pressure, or tingling down your breast. In most women, their first letdown occurs around two minutes after the baby latches and you can have multiple milk ejections during a single feeding.

16. Size doesn’t matter. The size of your breast does not tell you how much milk you will be able to make. What it can tell you is how much milk you can store in your breast at a time. Women with smaller breasts may have to do more frequent feedings, both day and night.

17. Your breasts are never fully empty. An infant takes about 2/3 of the milk out of your breast at a feeding.

18. Breastfeeding will not cause your breasts to sag! Breastfeeding does not actually change the way your breasts look. The changes come from being pregnant. But please try not to worry—although your weaned breasts may look saggy, in time (around six months plus), fatty tissues do come back to some extent and your breasts will look more like your pre-pregnancy breasts (woohoo!). Genetics, skin elasticity, smoking, your age, and weight gain in pregnancy will however, effect this.

19. Around the world, even in third world countries, breastmilk composition remains stable. Unless a mother is severely malnourished, her milk volume and quality is not affected by her nutritional status.

20. Scientists are hypothesizing that when your infant is sick, through saliva transfer (ahem, backwash) back into the breast, your milk will adjust its components to fight off exactly what your little one is fighting.

21. Some women can reach orgasm from breast and nipple stimulation alone. Through a study done in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, nipple stimulation did affect the genital sensing brain areas.

22. If you need some help going into labor, try stimulating your nipples! Nipple stimulation causes Oxytocin to be released which will then cause uterine contractions.

And finally, to add the all this awesomeness, breasts are beautiful, cozy pillows for your little babies or your partners to snuggle on, ask anyone :)

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

Keep reading Show less
Work + Money