Monday, May 25, 2015

How Long Does it Take to Move Migrated Breast Tissue?

One of the most common side effects of wearing the wrong bra size (or style) for a long period of time is migrated breast tissue. Migrated breast tissue is fatty breast tissue that gets displaced from the main mass of fatty breast tissue into the area around your armpit. This is usually caused by the edge of a cup that is too small or positioned in the wrong place due to a band that rides up and tilts the cups forward. The edge of a cup that's in the wrong place bisects the breast tissue forcing some fatty tissue outside the cup into your armpit.

You can move this tissue back into your cup by getting good bra fit which essentially stops the pressure that bisects your breast tissue. The time it takes to move tissue back into your cups depends on a few things:
    1. How much tissue has been displaced
    2. How long the tissue has been displaced
    3. The density of the breast tissue
1. It's not uncommon for a cup size or more of tissue to be displaced. I have helped a lot of Butterfly Collection clients move their migrated breast tissue back into their cups and on average a cup of displaced tissue takes 6-12 months to migrate back into the cup.

2. If your breast tissue has been displaced for 15+ years it can take longer for the tissue to be repositioned back into the cup. The skin that bisects the main breast tissue mass and the displaced tissue can become toughened from the daily pressure of an ill fitting bra. In a well-fitting bra the pressure is relieved and over time the bisect tissue will soften and the tissue migration back into the cup can begin. My clients with 15+ years of migrated tissue find that it takes about 18 months to migrate tissue back into the cups.

3. In my experience dense breast tissue migrates back into the cup faster than soft breast tissue. I have tried to find the medical reason for this but as of yet I'm still not 100% sure why. I'm assuming that the connective tissue between the fat cells are closer together so as one cell is moved back into the cup the adjoining cells follow on quickly. As the fat cells in soft breast tissue are farther apart this may explain why migrating soft breast tissue back into the cups takes a little longer.

If you are attempting to migrate tissue back into your cups then remember to be prepared for an increase in cup volume or a change in breast shape. It's probably a good idea to invest in just two or three well-fitting bras while you migrate your breast tissue and wait to assess any size or shape change before going to town on an array of lovely well-fitting bras! xx

Monday, May 11, 2015

Smooth Cup Bras: Fit, Health and Body Shame

Whether you call them smooth cup bras, t-shirt bras or molded bras the result is the same; a smooth, seamless look under clothing. This look can be really sleek and stylish but the smooth bra can also be a curse. In today's special we're going to look at the different kinds of smooth cup bra, whether they're right for you, and how smooth cups are part of the body shame problem. 

Deco Vibe (left) is a fixed smooth cup. Versailles (right) is a soft smooth cup.

Fixed or Soft
The most prolific smooth cup bra is a fixed molded bra, one that keeps its shape even when it's not on your body. There is also a soft smooth cup option. The cups are still smooth but the material isn't rigid like a fixed cup. Fixed cup smooth bras tend to have a little padding to them because the material has to be thick enough to hold its shape. Soft smooth cup bras tend to be made of lighter material. There's also a halfway option which is the spacer bra. Spacer bra cups are less rigid than a fixed cup but not as lightweight as a soft smooth cup.

Spacer bras, like Profile Perfect, are less rigid than fixed cups and breathable

A fixed smooth cup gives a predictable shape, disguises nipples and evens out the appearance of asymmetrical breasts. The downside is that if your breasts don't closely match the pre-fixed shape of the cup you're going to get gaping which can lead to compromised support and chafing. A soft smooth cup can be adapted more easily to accommodate the natural shape of your breasts (by adjusting the straps) but can't disguise nipples as easily because the fabric is thinner.

Support and Health
A well-fitting smooth bra can give you great support but for a lot of women smooth cup support isn't enough and that's because smooth cup bras don't have seams. Seams are like boob scaffolding. In a smooth cup your breast tissue floods the cup shape, which is usually round and wide or round and plunged. In a seamed bra the seams direct the breast tissue up, forward or wide depending on the angle of the seams. Very heavy breasts need excellent support to lift the tissue up and away from the body (this is good for your health as it stops heat and sweat getting trapped between your breasts and body which can cause rashes and irritations).

This is why seamless bras aren't generally available over a 36GG, because breast volumes over this simply couldn't be supported by a seamless bra.

Full bust bra seams not only help with upward lift of your bust but they also reinforce the strength of the cup which reduces bounce which in turn reduces the impact stress across your whole bra. This lessens the strain on your back and neck.  If you have heavy breasts then look for a soft smooth cup bra with double lined cups because the additional material will provide some of the cup reinforcement that reduces stress. Basic Beauty from Wacoal is a very supportive double-layered t-shirt bra.

Women with shallow breasts or hollowing at the armpit will almost certainly be faced with empty cup space in a smooth cup bra, especially a fixed smooth cup. Sometimes you can come down a cup size to offset the gaping but this doesn't always work. For example, Deco by Freya, which is their signature style, is pretty tall in the cups so no matter how much you come down in volume the cups still gape on a shallow bust because the cups always come up higher than your breast tissue. If you have shallow breasts then you're best option is to go with a soft smooth cup bra option from brands like Fantasie (Echo Lace) or Parfait (Jeanie) that make shorter cups.

Body Shaming
If bras were fruit then the smooth cup bra is like strawberries. So good to look at, easy to eat and gives thousands of people allergic reactions! But imagine if those people who are allergic to strawberries were made to feel that they had to eat strawberries in order to fit in because strawberries are the only acceptable fruit in North America? Smooth bras are not right for everyone but lots of women wear them because they feel that their breasts would be 'too obvious' or 'inappropriate' in anything other than a smooth bra. This is when smooth bras become a real problem.

Because of the high-visibility of brands like Victoria's Secret and La Senza who trade almost exclusively in smooth cup bras, it has become default that breasts should be rounded, smooth, nipple free and 'modest'. The idea that seams bring attention to your breasts is holding some women prisoner in smooth cup bras.

I have lost count of the number of emails I've had from women who are terrified to wear anything other than a smooth bra for fear of their boobs looking too big or obvious or inappropriate. Thankfully I've also lost count of the number of women we've helped break free from their smooth dependence and embrace different styles.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't wear smooth cup bras but I am saying that you shouldn't wear them to keep other people happy or to conform to what social convention says your breasts should look like. Smooth cup bras should be one arrow in your quiver of bra styles and support. They are one look that you can choose to wear, or choose NOT to wear. xx

Monday, April 20, 2015

Who Knew Breastfeeding Could Make Your Feet Hurt?

I used to blog every week before becoming a Mummy but now I'm only blogging when enough of my braincells club together for a sentence. There's no doubt that running a business and being a full time parent is a form of elective insanity but here I am almost 11 months in and Butterfly Collection is thriving, the baby's still alive and most days I'm dressed by 3pm!

Before having Evelynne I had helped a lot of women find comfortable, well-fitting nursing bras. I understood the biology of breast size fluctuation, heightened skin and nipple sensitivity, mastitis and leakage but I had to experience the true mysteries and secrets of breastfeeding for myself.

I love this series of doodles by Lucy Scott
1) Breastfeeding made my feet hurt. That was not something we covered in our pre-natal classes! It took me ages to work out that it was the way I was breastfeeding that was making my feet hurt. I didn't purchase a nursing chair so I've been using the armchair in our living room. Evelynne is a small baby and my torso is long so I have to lift her a long way up to feed. I use a feeding pillow but I still need to lift my knees up to get her to the right height. I've basically been on tiptoes every few hours for almost a year, no wonder my feet hurt! If I could go back I'd invest in a breastfeeding chair (low rise) to save my aching feet.

2) I imagined that breastfeeding would be this peaceful, gentle time but Evelynne had other ideas. Since being just weeks old her favourite thing to do whilst feeding is to bounce her legs up and down, frequently kicking me in the head. As she got stronger she became very adept at trying to back-flip off her feeding pillow mid-boob!

3) When Mr Butterfly and I attended our prenatal class there was a demonstration of breastfeeding the baby in a sling. In theory you can breastfeed on the go. Fast forward 4 months and I've got two large breasts and a 6lb baby stuffed in a sling and the baby was definitely outnumbered! Trying to latch her without my GGs engulfing her entire head was impossible - no feed and go for this busty Mummy!

4) I had zero volume change during pregnancy and breastfeeding which completely threw me. I'd had clients who went up 3 cup volumes in their first trimester so I was prepared for a change to my 32GG pre-pregnancy size. I had to switch to a 34G, which is the same volume as a 32GG but on a longer band, because I just couldn't wear my band as tight anymore but the rite of passage size increase never happened and it made me wonder whether my milk would come in. Evelynne was a little early and I was induced so my milk needed a little encouragement with a breast pump. I rented a hospital grade pump and I'm so glad I did because I really don't like pumping so at least the hospital grade pump made the whole thing faster (I rented from London Drugs).

5) I've been really fortunate that I haven't had painful nipples from breastfeeding. Evelynne latches well and even with the emergence of teeth her latch is still comfortable. However, I didn't account for "boobs meet razor sharp baby talons". Keeping a baby's nails short can be tricky and they seem to go from manageable to machete-like over night! Every now and then my boobs look like they've had a run in with a tiny Edward Scissorhands. A little antiseptic cream helped the angriest scratches.

The unexpected acrobatics and physical injuries have only added to the incredibly journey that has been breastfeeding. I feel incredibly lucky that I've been able to experience breastfeeding, mini-Wolverine scratches 'n' all! xx

Monday, March 16, 2015

Understanding Gynecomastia: Supporting Breast Tissue in Men

Image courtesy of, a great resource for men with gynecomastia

I have written hundreds of blogs about breast and bra related issues for women. This week is the first time I'm writing about a male breast issue. In the last month I have been corresponding with two men who both have gynecomastia. Gynecomastia is a condition that causes excessive breast tissue growth in men. It is far more common than we realize largely because there are still huge social barriers for men to talk about vulnerabilities or concerns, especially one that is so female-centric, so many men don't know it is a common condition. The first email I received about gynecomastia explained that there is very little information and support out there for men with gynecomastia so would I consider writing a blog with helpful information that could be a resource. I am very pleased to be able to help.

What Causes Gynecomastia?
The growth of excess breast tissue in men is caused by a hormonal imbalance. This imbalance can be caused by a number of things: puberty, illness, medications, aging and environmental factors. Gynecomastia is not of itself a harmful condition but you should always consult your doctor if you have sudden or prolonged breast tissue growth to check your overall health. There are 4 levels of severity in breast tissue enlargement:

Image courtesy of

For a huge number of men gynecomastia is a temporary condition that rights itself as the body restores the hormonal balance. For others though, especially those whose gynecomastia has been triggered by ongoing medications, the condition is prolonged and or permanent.

How Do You Treat Gynecomastia?
Once your doctor confirms a diagnosis of gynecomastia they will be in the best position to assess whether it's likely a temporary condition that will pass with improved health or at the end of a course of medication. If the gynecomastia is more permanent then there is no physical need to have the breast tissue removed (unless, in some cases, if the condition is accompanied by pain in the breast tissue). There is some pharmaceutical treatment available, however, it's not recommended in each case and the success rates are not guaranteed.

You may elect to have surgery to remove the tissue but it's worth bearing in mind that this is not covered by medical insurance as it is considered a cosmetic procedure. There are also risks associated with surgery that should be considered: loss of sensation, asymmetry, infection, hematoma and scarring. Elective surgery has become increasingly common with over 10,000 elective surgeries being performed each year in the US alone so your doctor will be able to give you more information about the surgery options where you live.

If there's no medical reason to have surgery and you don't elect to have it then you can live perfectly healthily with gynecomastia.

How Do You Support Breast Tissue?
Lots of men choose not to use any support garments for their gynecomastia but this can be painful. A lot of women will tell you that going braless isn't an option for them because the movement impact is too painful, this can happen for men too as the physiology is largely the same.

Finding a bra that will not only support you but give you the shape you want can be hard enough for women; for men there is an extra layer of social ignorance about the condition that can make it really tough. There are some compression garments designed for men (mostly post surgical but they can also be worn for daily wear) but these aren't readily available and can be expensive. As one of the men I've been consulting with explained to me, getting bra fit help can be hard. He shared with me his experiences of trying to get fitting help from a mainstream lingerie store and it was heartbreaking.

"In my early 60s my testosterone levels took a very sudden dive and over 6 months I developed significant breast tissue. I had to get some support because the pulling on my chest was really painful. My wife came with me to a local lingerie store and I nervously began to explain that I was in need of support . It wasn't said but the assistant treated me like my inquiry about bra support was sordid or perverted. She was dismissive and wouldn't give me a fitting. My wife was so upset which made me mad and we both left feeling humiliated. Gynecomastia made me feel really alone so to find out I couldn't ask for help with dignity made me feel worse. I found advice on reddit from other men in exactly the same boat; in need of bras for support, not for fashion or fetish purposes. Ultimately the online bra community gave me support, answers and advice about how to find a bra that fits."

I have always said that everyone deserves to be fitted with dignity and respect and this extends to every sex and gender. With that in mind I have been educating myself as much as possible in the last month about bra fit for men with gynecomastia. I will be completely honest and say that I don't have anywhere near as much experience with bra fit for men as I do for full busted women but I hope these fit points will be helpful for those men trying to find support.

Bra Fit Tips for Men with Gynecomastia
There are a couple of generalized physiological points to bear in mind when fitting a bra for the male body (please note that these are very general points just worth bearing in mind, the male body is as diverse in shape and size as the female body).

* A lot of men have more muscular chests because higher testosterone levels in men builds more muscle in men than in women.  The additional muscle can make the chest broader so bras with wide wires are more comfortable if you have a wide chest and breast root.

* While male and female skeletons are incredibly similar, male bones grow for longer which can make them wider and more angular. This can change the shape of the ribcage to be more triangular or flared. Flared ribcages can be tricky to fit because the band needs to be smaller at the bottom and wider at the top. This post about torso shape can help you if you have a flared ribcage.

* Wire free bras can be a great option for men with gynecomastia, especially if the breast root is very wide and a wide enough wire cannot be easily found. Lots of men appear to have had success with wire free sports bras because the support level is good and the coverage is wide and tall.

* A more angular ribcage can mean a more protruding sternum so men with gynecomastia can find a more comfortable fit in bras with a lower gore (the centre part of the bra between the cups).

* The distribution of breast tissue tends to be wide in men (I've tried to find any physiological reason for this but as of yet, no answers). When you wear a bra with a supportive side panel (a vertical panel that forces the breast tissue forward) wide breast tissue becomes narrower with more projection. This shape will work for some men and not others.

* Bras with a horizontal seam straight across the nipple will give less projection and follow the shape of wide breast tissue. This gives lift and stability without projection. Here are some examples of bras with horizontal seams.

* One of the men I was consulting with said he has always been self conscious about wearing a bra and it is very important to him that the bras are not obvious under clothing. Compression garments and compression sports bras are a good solution for those men who want discreet support as these can look like a regular under vest.

While this is in no way a comprehensive guide to gynecomastia, I hope it adds to the helpful information available to men navigating this condition. If you have experience of either having gynecomasita or fitting men with gynecomastia then we would love to read your comments. Thank you to the two men who were generous with their time and brave with their candour. xx

Monday, March 2, 2015

Sensitive Skin and Bra Fit

I have sensitive skin on my face and my eyes puff up to the size of two squidgy golf balls if they get a whiff of a chemical they don't like. Luckily for me there is a lot of hypoallergenic makeup on the market so I can still wear mascara without the risk of leaving the house looking like a panda bear who's been in a fight. If you have sensitive skin on your body then bras can bring you out in an array of blotches, hives and rashes that are painful and upsetting. Unfortunately there aren't an array of hypoallergenic bras on the market, especially in DD+, so you have to find other ways to get an irritation free fit.

It's worth noting that problems caused by sensitive skin are different from skin irritations caused by bad bra fit. If you are wearing an ill-fitting bra then you can get rashes and broken skin as your bra rubs against you and punishes your skin. This article helps you understand how to stop your bra attacking your skin!

You may be sensitive to synthetic materials or metal so having a synthetic-material-bound-wire wrapped around your body poses a big problem. If you can find an all cotton bra they tend to be unwired and most likely a nursing bra. If you don't want to sacrifice the support of a wire then you need a barrier between you and the bra.

Bra Liners

Bra liners are usually made of 100% unbleached cotton. They sit between the band of your bra and your skin because the band is where the greatest pressure is exerted by your bra. Bra liners are not the sexiest things you've ever seen in your life but they are indispensable for thousands of women with sensitive skin because they can continue to wear off the rack bras in comfort.

Extremely sensitive skin can't be in contact at all with synthetic materials, elastic and metal and in this case custom made cotton bras or going braless are the only solutions. One of my clients wears a Cake Cotton Candy bra underneath all her bras to prevent breakouts.

Scentless SOAK

One of the biggest enemies of sensitive skin is starch and unfortunately almost all new bras bras are sprayed with starch because it helps the bra keep its shape during transit and display. One wash can leave starch on the bra so it's really important to soak your bra in scent-free detergent and gently massage the bra so that the starch washes off. It's worth doing this a couple of times before wearing the bra for a long time. We love Canadian, rinse-free lingerie wash SOAK because it's so easy to use and their Scentless wash is completely skin friendly.

In a perfect world there would be pure cotton bras made with BPA free plastic wires but until then we need to find ways to get the best support possible without provoking an allergic reaction xx