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 Gynecoma.com, 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 Gynecoma.com

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

Monday, February 16, 2015

Features of Full Support Bras

'Full Support' is often used to describe a bra, but what does this really mean? The way a bra is constructed and the materials it is made of change how much support that particular bra will give you. Bras range in support from light to sports level because we use lingerie for everything from aesthetic boudoir pieces to intense workouts.

If you have a heavy bust then your everyday activities probably need a lot of support. Women in very physically demanding jobs sometimes wear sports bras for work but that's not for everyone. You can get a lot of support from everyday bras if you know what to look for in a Full Support Bra.

There are some common features in Full Support Bras:

1: Lois by Fantasie 2: Profile Perfect by Fayreform 3: Tango by Panache 4: Profile Perfect by Fayreform 5: Basic Beauty by Wacoal
1) Cups that go all the way around your breasts [image: Lois by Fantasie]. Full cups that encircle your breasts ensure there is a downward force that keeps your breast tissue in place as you move. A bra that exposes the upper part of your bust is versatile for your wardrobe but won't give you the same level of support as full cups.

2) Elasticated edging on the cups. [image: Profile Perfect by Fayreform] Full cups that have elasticated edges enhance your support level. The elastic gives you a comfortable fit but it also adds a layer of resistance that increases support.

3) Wide straps. [image: Tango by Panache] Full support is all about minimizing bounce and impact when you move about. Wide straps absorb more impact so that you stay comfortable during your busy days. Lots of wide straps also have a layer of foam cushioning at the shoulder for comfort and support.

4) Deep bands: the more hooks the better. [image: Profile Perfect by Fayreform] The taller your band is the more impact it will absorb. A bra with a deep band can be the most important feature for a really heavy bust.

5) Materials that don't stretch easily. [image: Basic Beauty by Wacoal] A cup that's made of a non-stretchy material will give you more support because the cup itself resists bounce.  Some bras are made of soft stretchier material but have a double layer of that material to give you the benefit of a stretchy fabric's comfort and fit with the support of the thickness.

Choosing bras with two or more of these features will give you a full support fit so you can get on with your busy days in comfort. xx

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Empowering Websites for Girls

A big part of my job is helping women identify and let go of the big boob baggage they've been carrying around for years. Bullying at school, shaming within the family and teen self esteem issues can all leave women carrying around self-doubt and insecurity for decades. Great adult confidence starts with experiencing diverse and empowering toys, stories, adventures and mentors as a child.

Here are some of my favourite websites with resources to help you raise or encourage a girl in your life...
Books, Toys and Entertainment
http://www.amightygirl.com/
http://towardthestars.com/
Clothing
http://www.girlscantwhat.com/
http://www.pigtailpals.com/
http://www.amightygirl.com/ 
http://towardthestars.com/


Mentoring
http://www.mygirltalk.org/
http://www.girlsforachange.org/


International Projects
https://www.w4.org/en/
http://www.girlup.org/
http://www.girleffect.org/


Career Help and Inspiration
http://www.sheheroes.org/
http://www.cagis.ca/