Why love your breasts? Some people believe that positive feelings correlate to good health. Beyond that, we live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with negative, false, or impossible messages about breasts. This post is intended to help women (and men) love breasts (and the rest of their bodies too). My hope is that the increased self love and acceptance will lead to happier people, less violence, more successful breastfeeding, and, eventually, world peace.
1) Stop wearing a bra. I realize this is not applicable for everyone (you ladies with huge breasts who suffer back pain etc., my hat goes off to you), but everyone can still try this and see how it feels. For some women, an unconventional, loose and loving “bra” might work too. Basically, it is tight and restrictive, you don’t have to wear it! I think most women would be surprised by how realistic (and pleasant) the switch to bralessness can be.
Sagging is the first counterargument to bralessness. Few studies have been done on whether or not bras are good for sagging boobs. Some schools of thought say that bras are better because they hold up breasts and keep them from sagging. Others say that bras weaken breast tissue and cause them to sag even more than they otherwise would. I think that genetics are such a factor here that it is difficult to say for sure how boob saggage is impacted by a bra. But, vanity aside, are bras good for breasts?
There are very few things written about women going braless. What is written is from sort of an über hippy perspective. Mostly, this is also a women’s rights issue. As I mentioned earlier, stigma around the breast has a lot to do with horrifying cultural expectations about women’s breasts. We have such a strange relationship with breasts. Going without a bra is incredibly controversial. Nipples are considered pornographic. Breastfeeding in public is sometimes illegal. This puts women in a very difficult situation because most of us are walking around with breasts hanging off the front of our bodies. Whether we boost them up in a padded underwire bra or strap them down under three sports bras, there they are. In so many ways, it feels like there is no right way to have breasts.
Note: I still wear bras sometimes. First, I have not yet fully converted my wardrobe to clothes that are bra-free-friendly. Second, sometimes, for short periods of time, I still like to wear a bra. I also always wear them when I run. Because of the culture and situation we live in, women can still be discriminated against if they choose not to wear a bra in some circumstances. Yes, discriminated against. Personally, I try to avoid wearing a bra whenever possible and work toward buying clothes and underwear that allow for more freedom of movement in my breasts, and I feel much better.
2) Avoid antiperspirants and deodorants. I stopped wearing antiperspirants years ago–right before I began my Masters program, I think. It was a new and empowering time for me when I took more control over my body than ever before. Society was sending me a strong message that I shouldn’t sweat and I shouldn’t smell, but new research was coming out that the aluminum in antiperspirant was not good for the body. I thought really critically about it for the first time ever. I threw out my antiperspirant and never looked back. They never really worked for me anyway. I have a healthy, functioning body, and so I sweat. Toward the end of my relationship with antiperspirants, Dove had just come out with the “clinical” strength antiperspirant, and that stuff really worked if applied correctly. I didn’t sweat when I used it, but I felt weird and sort of pent up all day.
I still wear deodorant, Tom’s of Maine, but I’m thinking about avoiding that all together based on a conversation that I had with a pro-breast health woman last weekend. I am realizing that I am clean. I shower. It’s fine.
3) Practice yoga. Yoga stretches the body, releases toxins, massages fascia, and helps pump the lymphatic system. Breasts produce hormones. It makes sense that they need to circulate so the body can effectively use, process, and eliminate. One can imagine how disease could manifest in a situation where this system is disrupted–by a bra or inactivity.
I even started teaching and practicing yoga without a bra! I usually wear an undershirt with a larger t-shirt over the top, and this has worked perfectly. I’ve had the urge to practice yoga without a bra for years. This urge is especially strong in Bikram (hot) yoga, where I, like most women, wear only a sports bra and short shorts. The heat in hot yoga is so purifying and detoxifying that the bra feels incredibly stifling. Bras feel so terrible in yoga because the lymphatic system is restricted. So, while a yoga practice stretches and cleanses, the bra is simultaneously impeding that process.
4) Massage your breasts. I’ll admit, this is a hard habit to start. I’ve practiced it on an off for a few weeks at a time, but it is a ritual that I would like to implement daily. It’s about lovingly massaging the breasts (which is easiest to do when not wearing a bra, by the way). This too helps move and release hormones and other stuff that is in the (mostly stationary) breasts. In pornography and in popular culture, we are often exposed to a “grabby” approach to breasts. Breastfeeding children grab at the breasts. Men (and women) grab at the breasts in sex. Breast massage is different–it’s an open palm circular rubdown. This is less about fingers and more about the palms of the hands.
Women are taught to do monthly self-exams of the breasts, but it is incredibly difficult to get in the habit of doing something if you’re only doing it once a month. As an aside, nearly all similar posts about loving breasts are about cancer and not about loving breasts for the sake of love and acceptance. The whole process is fear based. It’s about looking for something that’s wrong. Instead, massage is about feeling good and loving the breasts, which, let’s be honest, loving breasts is innate for nearly all mammals—male or female.
5) Love your breasts by changing the story (and the rest of your body too). Ok, I understand that women opt for surgeries to alter their breasts for lots of reasons. That’s okay. Once you’re done with all that, start loving what you have. Foster feelings of gratitude toward your breasts. For the vast majority of women, their breasts are absolutely perfect and wonderful and should be celebrated for the life-giving, sustenance-giving, lovely goodness that they are. Some breasts are enormous. Some are very small. Some are soft and some are hard. Some have plastic shoved inside them. Some have been cut off. Nipples can all look very different. Most breasts produce milk, but some do not.
As a culture, we idolize the breast, but women are also taught that their breasts are never really okay. They’re either too small or too large, or too sexy (inappropriate), or not sexy enough, or strange in some way. You’ve got to change the story because your society will never tell you that your breasts are okay as they are. After all, if you loved your breasts, you wouldn’t spend lots of money hiding, lifting, padding, or otherwise changing them. Love and self-acceptance is never going to be a part of the capitalist society we live in because there is more money to be made in insecurity and uncertainty. Society won’t do it for you, so it’s your job to think critically about what serves you. Find a way to love your breasts (and/or the breasts in your life), and your body, and go from there.