Were you obsessed with The Care and Keeping of You as a kid? Think of this series as an updated, adult version, specifically focused on breast health, play, and pleasure!
You already learned all about your cervix. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, we’re talking all about boobs, from how to take care of your breast health with self-exams & mammograms to finding the perfect-for-you bra to breast pain home remedies, ways to spice up breast play, and so much more.
Breast Health, Part 1: Your Breasts and Your Period
Is it me or does my breast size increase—then decrease—throughout the month?
It’s not you – it’s your hormones!
According to the National Institutes of Health, “Premenstrual breast tenderness and swelling probably occur to some degree in nearly all [menstruating humans.” Symptoms are usually worst during childbearing years. Using hormonal birth control might the symptoms less severe—but you aren’t imagining it if you still feel them.
A breast size increase, dull, heavy pain, and/or breast tenderness are most common in the second half of your cycle, after ovulation but before your period. If that sounds like you, keep reading for breast pain home remedies! This fullness is due to increases in estrogen, which peaks just before you ovulate and causes the breast ducts to grow. Some people’s breast size increases so much that it’s more comfortable for them to wear a different size bra during the week before their period. Keep reading for our favorite bra brands too.
Leading up to and during your period, you may notice that your breasts are lumpy. This is due to progesterone levels which peak about one week after ovulation. This increased progesterone causes your milk glands to grow, giving breasts a “dense, bumpy, ‘cobblestone’ feel to the fingers” that’s usually felt more in the outer areas near the armpit.
After your period, as your hormones are at their lowest level, it may fee like your breasts have pulled a disappearing act! Around ovulation, they begin to perk up again (which can add to that overall sexpot, flirty feeling!)—and the cycle continues.
My boobs get sore midway through my cycle. Are there breast pain home remedies I can try?
Here are a few science-backed ways to ease breast pain:
- Experiment with different bras. Some people find a softcup or sports bra provides the most relief. Others prefer a molded cups. And others prefer to go braless. Try out each to see what works best for you.
- Try breast massage. The idea of touching your breasts might be like the last thing you want to do. But fellow sexuality coach, Amanda Testa recommends it and our founder Kait swears by it. Here’s how:
- Using the palm of your hand, glide down the outside of your breast then up the inside. Do this for 3-5 minutes, starting super gently and increasing pressure as it feels comfortable.
- Take it up a notch by using this essential oil to help balance your hormones. You can diffuse it in the room during your massage or mix it with oil to use for the massage itself.
- Bonus tip: For a super intimate experience, your partner can help you with this breast pain home remedy. Just be sure to set boundaries beforehand if you don’t want it to progress into other sexy times.
- Use hot or cold packs. Like the bras, this breast pain home remedy requires some experimenting. Try both to see which works best for you. As always, make sure there is cloth between the source of heat or cold and your skin.
- Try ginger tea. Ginger is a known anti-inflammatory. Its also gentler on your stomach that pain medications, if that’s a concern for you. According to the Arthritis Foundation, simmering one to two teaspoons in boiling water can provide soothing relief.
- Take pain meds.
Breast Health, Part 2: Taking Care of Your Tatas
What do I need to know about Screening for and preventing breast cancer?
- Do monthly self-exams. The more you touch your breasts, the better you’ll know what’s normal changes and what’s not. That’s why monthly self exams are so important. Try to do it at the same time each month. Here’s how to do one.
- Start by looking at your breasts in a mirror with your arms relaxed by your side. Look for any changes in size, shape, or color, any swelling or dimpling, or any changes in the nipples. Do the same visual exam with your arms lifted above your head and with your hands pressing into your hips to flex your chest muscles.
- Next, lay with a pillow under one shoulder and that arm behind your head. Use the opposite hand, move the pads of your fingers around your breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit. Feel for any lump, thickening, or hardened knots. Repeat on the opposite side.
- Lastly, while in the shower, use the pads of your fingers to move around your each breast in a circular pattern from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Feel for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot.
- Need a visual? This visual from sexuality educator and breast cancer survivor Ericka Hart is the best damn example we’ve ever seen. And you should definitely read the caption.
- See your sexual & reproductive healthcare provider regularly. That means going in for a yearly “Well Woman visit” to get a clinical breast exam, pelvic exam, and any other screenings you might need (like a Pap smear).
- Get the right screenings. Here are the most updated breast cancer screening guidelines from Memorial-Sloane Kettering. These are for people with an average breast cancer risk. If you have dense breasts, a family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer, or have had abnormal test results, these guidelines may be different.
- If you are between 25 and 40: in addition to doing monthly self exams, have an annual clinical breast exam.
- If you are over 40: you should have an annual mammogram in addition to the annual clinical breast exam. If your breasts are dense, your provider may recommend an ultrasound instead.
- Not sure where to get a screening? The CDC maintains a map of low and no cost options. Planned Parenthood also offers them.
Keeping of Your Boobs
How to find bras that actually fit
Did you know most people are wearing the wrong bra size? Not only can this increase breast tenderness and pain, it also doesn’t do a damn things for helping you feel confident. Kimmay Caldwell is a lingerie expert slash boob whisperer. Here are a few of her best bra fit tips.
- Measure yourself the right way. Yes, there’s a best way to measure yourself! Learn how to do that so finding bras can be more #freedominpleasure-filled. Check out Kimmay’s free Find Your Bra Size Starting Points guide.
- Look for these things when trying on new bras—or deciding if the ones you own need to be replaced!
- The center part between cups should be flat against your skin.
- When getting a new bra, it should fit snugly on the loosest hook. That way as it stretches over time, you can tighten it.
- The straps should be snug – neither tight nor falling off.
- Let go of cultural ideas about your boob size. From “which breast size is attractive” to what’s considered “appropriate” to the the size that “real women” have (ICK)—it’s all BS. Your bra size says absolutely nothing about your spirit, goals, values, personality, or anything else that makes you YOU. That’s the goal of Kimmay’s #MoreThanMyNumber campaign. If you’ve ever felt defined by your breasts, experienced harassment/bullying/teasing because of them, or have some feels after doing your measurements above—be sure to check it out.
Find your favorite bra brands
Natori: Its easy to become a devotee of Natori. Their bras are so well-made, sexy, comfortable, and supportive—the lingerie embodiment of #freedominpleasure! Yes, they cost a bit more but if you take care of them, they’ll last way longer than your cheap bras. One particular favorite style is the Feathers.
Wacoal: Ditto everything about Natori except Wacoal is a bit lower-priced and slightly more utilitarian in design. (“A bit” and “slightly” are key here.) The Lace Affair is soft-cup, non-underwire bra that’s super supportive. What sorcery is this?!
b.tempt’d is Wacoal’s younger, hipper, & more affordable brand. (Can we talk about how awesome it is when brands give you a variety of accessible options?!) Still high quality, these bras come in brighter colors and trendier styles. Kait is wearing the Bella Balconette in Blithe in the photo above.
Anita: If you have larger breasts, Anita sports bras will change your life. It keeps your breasts in place without causing the dreaded uniboob or digging into your skin. You’ll feel so confident you may find yourself whipping off your bra in all sorts of situations, from hiking to yoga. Bonus: they offer a front-close sports bra that avoid the tricky, post-workout shimmy-the-sweaty-bra-off dance and is a more accessible option for those dealing with hand, wrist, shoulder, neck, arm, and upper back pain.
Breast Play: Tips and Tricks to Make it More Pleasurable
Breasts are wonderful but sometimes overlooked sources of pleasure. Playing with them activates the same parts of your brain as genital play. For some, breast play even leads to orgasm! But the benefits don’t end there: breast play is also great for you and your relationship.
The more you and your partner touch your breasts, the more familiar you’ll be with how they feel. This makes it easier to spot any changes. On top of that, breast play helps you feel closer to your partner because it causes your brain to release oxytocin, the love and cuddling hormone.
Like any sex act, breast play isn’t for everyone. If that’s you, no worries. If you want to explore, read on.
5 Ways to Make Breast Play More pleasurable.
- Start gently! No pawing or grabbing please!! For most people, this doesn’t feel good. Instead, start with light touches, smooth strokes, soft squeezes, and gentle kisses, licks, and nibbles.
- Explore different types of touch. Think: massaging, soft touching, teasing, squeezing, stroking, sucking, jiggling, slapping, kneading, scratching, pinching, pressing, pushing them together, and/or bouncing/jiggling them. Explore different amounts of pressure
- Don’t only focus on the nipple! Breasts have lots of yummy nerve endings and they aren’t all in the nipple! The sides and underneath of the breast are often quite sensitive. Try this: have your beau put massage oil on their hands (this one is a fave of our team and our customers, alike). Then, use the palms of their hands to stroke up from your belly and around your breasts, cupping them all the way around. Switch direction, lifting your breasts from the underside. Finally, they can use 3 fingers to circle your areolas, barely touching the nipple itself.
- Repurpose your favorite sex toys. Many sex toys offer so many more ways to play than their name—butt plug, cock ring, clitoral vibrator—implies. For example, try using a clitoral sucker toy on your nipples! Our top pick is the Melt. The Starlet 2.0 is a more affordable, lower power, entry-level option. Alternatively, use your favorite vibrator on to circle and stimulate your breasts and nipples.
- Give nipple clamps a chance. If you think nipple clamps are only for kinksters, think again! Clamps create an ongoing sensation of pressure. If you have adjustable ones, that can be as intense or gentle as you want. Putting them on is only half the fun though – when you remove them, blood rushes to the area and heightens sensation even more.
Start by teasing your nipples until they’re rock hard. Then clamp as much flesh as possible – the more flesh, the less pinpoint the sensation (you can always get more concentrated). And never clamp just the nipple, it can cause tissue damage. Once they’re on, use your hands, tongue, and sex toys (try a feather tickler or external vibrator) to tease and well…titillate. <– pun intended obvi.
Breast play is part of breast health
Though mainstream medicine continues to focus on disease prevention and treatment, its well established that pleasure improves your health! From stress relief to better sleep, clearer skin to a cheerier mood—play is good for you.
Whatever size and shape your breasts are, whatever you call them, your breasts deserve to be cared for, adorned, and pleasured in whatever ways bring you the most freedom in pleasure.
Keep the conversation going!
- Leave a comment below with any questions about the care, keeping, & pleasuring of breasts.
- Share this post with the other breast-havers in your life. We aren’t not exaggerating when we say it could change or save their life.