Breast discomfort
August 5, 2012 8:00 AM   Subscribe

Aesthetic/comfort issues in the boobular region.

When I was in my 20s I was a 34B and reasonably slim. Ten years and two breastfed kids later I am a bit heavier in general and my breasts are bigger too. I need to get properly fitted but I generally wear a 36C.

That would be fine but I realized recently that even when I walk my breasts are bouncing and jiggling even in a full-cup bra - it's embarrassing. I accept that I need to get properly fitted at a store, but I feel like they are much softer and more...flaccid now than they were before kids. I get really uncomfortable when I have PMS because they swell up and ache, and my job requires a lot of moving around. I often find myself walking with my arms crossed over my breasts to stop them moving at all.

Is it more likely to be associated with increased body fat or with post-breastfeeding, or some combination? Any suggestions aside from buying new bras - or will that be the miracle cure?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
The new bras should do it, but be open to different cuts and styles than you've been wearing up til now. People get used to certain fits and assume they're right for them, when really it's just habit, and a change would solve a lot of problems.

If you're still having trouble with jiggling, consider a high end running bra. I have this one and there is Absolutely No Jiggle, no uniboob either, but it might be tight for everyday wear.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:23 AM on August 5, 2012

New bras really are great. I find that I am more bottom heavy than many bras are built to accommodate, but having the right one makes a ton of difference. You think you might be doomed to something made by the Army Corps of Engineers, but instead you end up with something that actually has thin straps and is just as pretty and colorful as something you wore when you were a perky little thing. And by gum, these bras will make you a perky little thing again.

Don't go to Victoria's Secret. If you have a Nordstrom near you, they are fantastic. Otherwise, see if there's a smaller specialty place.

Consider spending something like 60 bucks on one really great bra. You'll find that there really is a difference. And even if you can't/don't want to buy more than one, it's a great feeling knowing that you have this one bra in your arsenal that will get those girls in line.
posted by Madamina at 8:28 AM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

You should not be jiggling and you should not need a running bra to accomplish that. More than anything, be sure you are wearing the right size bra: see this amazing, life-changing FPP from Flex. Behold the number of women in the second half saying "I just bought a new bra with these directions and MY RACK, IT IS NOW GLORIOUS!"

Moral of the story: you may not be a C or even a 36 at all. you may be something very surprising. Measure yourself, try some bras. If you don't get Rack of Wonder, let the ladies measure you but you may do a better fitting job than they do.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:30 AM on August 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

Some of us are just jigglier. Size, weight, age, and babyhaving can all be factors, but some of us are just jigglier for no reason.

Nothing beats a good bra fitting, but here's a quick and dirty tip in the meantime: supportive bras are not very stretchy. Definitely not in the cup, but also not in the band. Most of a bra's support comes from the band. Trouble is, most mall-store bras have really stretchy and nigh-useless bands. You may have to end up going to Nordstrom or a specialty store for that.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:38 AM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Stretch bras = problem solved. Freya makes pretty stretch bras, they are often unlined so if nipplage is a problem grab a nipple guard. I also have a few lined la mystere bras that are stretchy enough to work. Those cross my heart bras are also hella stretchy.

Most T shirt bras are the devil for jigglage because they're made of non stretch foams that just toss your books back and forth as you walk.
posted by fshgrl at 8:41 AM on August 5, 2012

Excellent bra advice from the Hive Mind:

flex's life-changing "finding the right bra size and best fit" post

ukdanae's advice on sizing; more on sizing; and bra recommendations

sickinthehead's worries about bra fittings, relieved

lemonade asks about sexy and comfortable bras; the hive responds

HMSSM posts about the trials and tribulations of having big girls not always under control

Shepherd gets advice on sports bras for the busty

tl; didn't click: Boobs, ack! After four years (total) of breastfeeding, I knew I no longer understood my size and shape. The best decision I made about that was to go to a small boutique that specializes in bras and offers a correct (not "I need to sell you something") fitting. Someone who is well trained in fitting can give you an objective opinion that you might never come to yourself. My not-tiny girls went from "OH MY GOD, PLEASE STOP PAWING AT MY SHIRT, CHILD" to form-enhancing thanks to Freya, but YMMV because boobs vary from woman to woman, and they change over time.

Get fitted. Properly. I know you don't have time, you live in the middle of nowhere, but please do this for yourself. It will be such a lift to you and your self-esteem!
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:44 AM on August 5, 2012 [15 favorites]

New bras will likely be the miracle cure for the jiggliness, though of course not the soreness. You simply must get fitted. I walked into a store fitting event at Nordstrom a few years ago wearing 38DD bras and complaining that nothing fit me right. I asked the wise women if they thought I needed to go up a cup size or a band size. They laughed compassionately, measured me, told me to trust them, and produced mountains of beautiful bras in a size I didn't even know existed.

And hark, my boobs! I walked out of there looking like a goddess in a 32FF. That 6-inch and many cup discrepancy made all the difference in my heretofore jiggliness. Now not only do I look like a goddess, they look SMALLER! They also don't move, because these bras (my favorite is the French brand Freya, available at Nordstrom,, and eBay, among others) are wonders of modern engineering. They're not cheap, around $45 at the deepest discount price I can find.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:13 AM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

You may find that you need a few different types of bras for different "phases" of your breasts. I am about your size and I've found some real usefulness in

- "full cover" bras that have padded cups [I sort of hate being my size and having a padded bra but they're super helpful for comfort]
- "minimizer" bras that can sort of hold jiggly breasts in without being sporty. I have one from La Isla that has a racer back and it's been a game changer.
- sports bras when you're just feeling all "don't touch me" I have one like this which is an okay all-around bra lookswise

I'm also super cheap and I've found that it's helpful to get a bunch of different bras from thrift stores and ebay and try them on. If they turn out to be ones that I really like, go all out and pay whatever they cost to get new ones. Of course the ones I fall in love with always seem to be discontinued, but it's given me a ton of options. I've found that as I've gotten older [and gained and lost a little weight] the old plain underwire bras no longer really work or I get that jiggly feeling that you refer to which always makes me feel weird and showy and not that comfortable.
posted by jessamyn at 9:14 AM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I definitely get enormous amounts of relief from wearing high-impact sports bras during shark week and the preceding 3-5 days of hormonal hell. Sometimes it's noticeable enough that my shoulders and back are just about the only things that DON'T ache.
posted by elizardbits at 9:36 AM on August 5, 2012

That would be fine but I realized recently that even when I walk my breasts are bouncing and jiggling even in a full-cup bra - it's embarrassing. I accept that I need to get properly fitted at a store, but I feel like they are much softer and more...flaccid now than they were before kids... Is it more likely to be associated with increased body fat or with post-breastfeeding, or some combination?

Oh, hi, I have a relevant previous answer to this part! Quoting myself from here:
Breast tissue matures when you're pregnant in order to produce milk (that's why one of the first signs of pregnancy is sore breasts). So it's common to have firmer, perkier breasts before you are pregnant, and softer, less perky breasts afterwards (yeah, I hear you with "deflated", there). FWIW this happens whether you breastfeed or not - it's not nursing that causes this, it's pregnancy.

I've gone through this as well. It seems to be something you don't find out (or fully absorb the impact of) until it's already happened to you. And since we're primed to think now that firm/perky breasts are "the way breasts should look" (we don't see naked normal post-partum breasts very often; when we do, it's mocked and played for laughs) it can really do a number on you and your self-image - because short of surgery you won't be able to get back to pre-pregnancy breasts; that's just how our bodies work.

Gaining a little weight can help; lots of women say when they lose weight they tend to lose it from the breasts first - which makes sense since breasts are mostly fat. And weightlifting/chest exercises are something else you can do - strengthening the pectoral muscles will help raise the bustline.
And it's not just your self-image or what have you: it's physically uncomfortable if you're used to your body being a certain way, and your breasts a little more, uh, firmly in place on their own - to adjust to the fact that they're softer, that they droop more, fall into your armpits or actually "sink in" when you lay on your back, get in your way when you roll over, that they're just moving/bouncing more or getting in your way more.

On the other hand your breast cancer risk is lower since pregnancy & lactation reduce your estrogen levels but as well the matured breast tissue makes it easier to see issues during mammograms (it's harder to spot abnormalities in dense breast tissue).

Anyway, "increased body fat" may actually help to keep them a bit fuller. But for sure the biggest difference you can make is to get properly fitted, as you've already heard multiple times above! It definitely sounds like your band is too loose, and the band is what supports your breasts to stay in place.
posted by flex at 10:16 AM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

June of Braless in Brasil (a 28J or 28JJ, depending on the bra maker) also has breast-fed two kids, and she says that having softer, post-lactation breasts ("They're like a liquid in that they fill whatever space they're given") is really where the rubber hits the road, bra-wise.

Though women with firmer breasts do need properly fitting bras, she says, they can get away with ill-fitting bras because their boobage just doesn't move around as much. She feels your pain! Read this essay, Soft vs. Firm Breasts, for her reflections and recommendations.
posted by virago at 10:36 AM on August 5, 2012

Definitely get fitted. Actually I am on my way to Nordstrom today to get fitted since I lost a bunch of weight. I will probably get the same Chantelle bra I always get because it is awesome - but I only discovered it because the nice ladies at Nordstrom recommended it.

Also the Moving Comfort sports bra that fingersandtoes linked to is amazing! I am fortunate enough to live near a Title Nine store and they had a Nordstrom-quality lady helping me.
posted by radioamy at 12:00 PM on August 5, 2012

Fitting? It'll be the miracle cure.

Before: My girlfriend was constantly uncomfortable wearing a 34DD. Running? Forget about it, even with like three sports bras.

After: They fit her for a 32G. The 34DD was pushing her breasts into her armpits, and once they migrated out of her arpmits, she actually had to go back and get refitted, and is now wearing 30F and running/working out comfortably without knocking herself in the face.

As I keep saying to her when she complains about her chest, "G" is for "Golly gee willikers" and F is for "f--- yeah!"
posted by SpecialK at 12:32 PM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't be afraid to size up to a bigger cup -- D's just aren't that big!, and it's not outlandish to wear, for example, a 30DD bra. (with photos from a bra blog)

P.S. In her "Soft vs. Firm Breasts" post and comments, June says these bras* help keep her breasts in one place. (YMMV, and I'm sure it's an incomplete list.)

The links include photos unless otherwise noted

Fantasie Smoothing T-shirt Bra
: "I swear the designers of Fantasie had me in mind when they made this bra"

Freya Active Sports Bra: "By far the most supportive sports bra I've had even if the fit isn't perfect"

Bravissimo Alana: "Probably THE most secure bra that I've tried for soft breasts" (full review)

Curvy Kate Thrill Me: Gives a better shape than the Alana, according to June (full review)

Panache Cleo George
: "I cannot emphasize enough how comfortable this bra is" (full review)

And if you have "a short shoulder-to-boob ratio," an anonymous commenter on June's "Soft vs. Firm" post recommends these two balconette bras:

Panache Superbra Ariza: "Gives an awesome rounded shape" (separate photo)

Panache Superbra Tango II
:- "Fits well, is super comfortable ... but gives a little bit more pointy shape and east/west separation that I don't like." (separate photo)

(Sorry for the magnum opus, and no, I'm not June's PR manager -- I just really like her blog!)
posted by virago at 1:20 PM on August 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm going to nth getting fitted. It made a world of difference for me! If you live anywhere near an Intimacy, I can recommend their free fittings from personal experience - I live a far more comfortable life after having spent half an hour there one morning.
posted by 168 at 5:20 PM on August 5, 2012

After breastfeeding my size didn't change a whole lot (14L at the peak of nursing, and that was a terrible fit but all I could get, down to a 10 or 12 H or HH depending on style) but fitting makes ahuge difference to look, jiggle AND feel. Style is important too. I simply can't wear low cut or balconnet bras - when I lean forward my boobs sort of pour out, then it's this awful quadboob thing happening. So I go with full cup, stretch lace preferably, and fairly wide band. I wear Panache and only Panache, but I've found I wear different sizes in the sports bras and the Andorra style.

I tend to wear the sports bras when I'm feeling sore - it makes a bit of difference in coverage and snugness.
posted by geek anachronism at 10:08 PM on August 5, 2012

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