Everything else

Boobs

An owner’s guide.

As for increasing the size of your breasts—creams, vitamins, exercises, etc., aren’t going to work. Birth control pills can make your breasts bigger, but only as a possible side effect that can go away as your body gets used to the shift in hormones or when you stop taking the pill. If you were male-assigned at birth, you can have some breast growth if you choose to take hormones. But please don’t take regular birth-control pills to get your dose of “female” hormones—doing so might give you dangerous blood clots, extra body hair, or a crazy amount of acne: all pretty good reasons to find a provider who is experienced in managing hormone therapy for women without a uterus. If there’s an LGBTQ center near you, they’ll have resources, and if there isn’t one in your town there is probably one in the next big city. There are also plenty of resources online, like the WPATH list of international providers, and the TS Roadmap section for younger people.

The most surefire way to make your breasts bigger or smaller is, of course, surgery. A BIG downside to this option is that it is hella expensive: in the U.S., without insurance, surgeon fees are in the $3500+ range—and that can be doubled once the hospita/clinic adds in their fees. If you can’t prove that your surgery is “physically required” (for instance, if your boobs are so heavy that they cause persistent back pain), it’s likely that your insurance plan won’t cover it, even if it’s actually totally necessary for your mental and emotional health. Similarly, the more your desired outcome goes against the sex that was assigned to you at birth, the harder it will be to get surgery to align your body with your preferred gender expression. That means if you’re a woman who wants larger breasts but was male-assigned at birth, you may have to search harder for a surgeon, and/or present multiple letters from therapists, before you can get get your boobs enlarged. Of all the breast-size surgeries, reductions are covered by insurance most often, especially if your breasts are so heavy that they’re painful. The criteria depend on your specific insurance, but most plans have weight requirements—they want your boob size to be unusually large for your weight, or else the reduction won’t be paid for. Other criteria include needing to prove that you’ve finished developing, that you’ve already tried other things like physical therapy or weight loss, and that your breast size is disproportionate to your total body surface area (through a formula called the Schnur Sliding Scale).

Even though some surgeons want to wait until you are done developing, most understand that waiting has its own risks, too. My friend Rachel identifies as a “feminist gentleman” and puts an alternative lifestyle haircut and pair of suspenders to shame. When she told one of her friends she was going to get top surgery (aka a double mastectomy), the first thing they blurted out was, “But then you can never breastfeed!” The risks of spending the rest of her life not being able to live comfortably in her body far outweighed the risk of losing access to something that she had never desired to begin with.

Breast augmentation (enlargement) surgery isn’t generally covered by insurance, but no matter what your gender, you don’t need to catch a bunch of static for it. Surgery that turns your A cups into a Cs does not come with a C in self-acceptance. There is enough room in feminism for you and your new, bigger bras!

The bigger a decision is, of course, the more information you’ll need to make a good choice—so get a lot of info, especially for permanent changes. Once you have all the information on the risks and benefits, you can weigh them out and decide for yourself. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t know what’s best for you. Because your body (consciousness-sustaining flesh suit) is the first and the last thing you got, and it’s your right to create it in the image you want.

It will take faith, bravery, and willful obliviousness to the opinions of others to come to terms with your breasts—whether you decide to change them or leave them alone. If you take an evening stroll through Rookie Towne you will meet many who have done it, too. On the subject of small breasts, listen to Anna and Laia. On asymmetry, Jamie. With regard to big breasts, Amy Rose went from having her screenname be “flatty24” to having that screenname AND Ds. Here, Sady comes to terms with her own small breasts and concludes: “Take care of your breasts. Be nice to them. Buy them pleasing little bra outfits, in the correct size. Do not berate them for their ways. Check in with them!… Your breasts will thank you, for your appreciation and support.” Testify! It’s worth noting that every person mentioned came to the same conclusion about their chest, which was, briefly: “Fuck it, it’s mine.” Or, briefly-er: “Fuck it.” The most direct route to feeling OK about your chest is to feel OK about your chest. Another example of a direct route is from the bottom to the top of mount Everest. As Cheryl Strayed, who hiked 1,100 miles from the Mojave Desert to the Oregon-Washington border, wrote: “We don’t reach the mountaintop from the mountaintop. We start at the bottom and climb up. Blood is involved.” ♦

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58 Comments

  • HaverchuckForPresident November 13th, 2012 3:33 PM

    “Take a break for a refreshing beverage”
    Rookie is my go-to, like, for life.

  • Mary the freak November 13th, 2012 3:37 PM

    Eep. I am so proud of having boobs. That sounds funny. I actually got a new dress yesterday, and I look like super huge boobs in it. :DD

    BOOBS RULE!

    http://birdiewearsatie.blogspot.com/

  • O. November 13th, 2012 3:39 PM

    Can’t stress how useful this article is, certainly saves me trying to discreetly peer at friends’ boobs to figure out if mine are ‘normal’ or not!

    I found a lump in my breast about two months ago and went to the doctor who referred me for a consultation. Turns out was a fibroadenoma which as it says above is really common.

    Definitely recommend going to the doctor, because ignorance isn’t bliss – before my consultation I totally freaked out ’cause obviously a lump equals cancer. Now I’m more educated about my body and so relieved!

  • Resh November 13th, 2012 3:43 PM

    “Boobs: A User’s Guide”. Now that’s what I call title! My bra size is a bit under the average for my age, but my super-tallness makes me look EXTRA-FLAT, so it’s hard to get to like them. My new uplifting phrase is right up there: “Fuck it: it’s mine” Thanks a lot, Lola :’) <3

    • Lola November 14th, 2012 6:19 PM

      yay! i highly recommend an application of FI,IM to pretty much any body hate situation.

  • RXLWK November 13th, 2012 3:43 PM

    This article is revolutionary. The fact that you are addressing such a huge young readership and expressing that body positivity, gender identity and emotional fortitude are all subject to individual agency is incredible. I am grabbing my tits with one hand and slow clapping you with the other.

  • Mollylou November 13th, 2012 3:55 PM

    I don’t just read Rookie because of the awesome & informative content. I read Rookie because it’s HILARIOUS! Who knew an article about boobs could be so funny? (Okay, boobs can kinda be a funny thing, but still.) Awesome job, Lola. And I really love the super-scientific diagram of a broccoli boob.

  • Maddy November 13th, 2012 3:56 PM

    I’ve had a lump in my breast for at least a year and it’s stressing me out now, mostly because I just had my yearly physical with a new doctor and I was cowardly/uncomfortable and didn’t mention it. I have a shot scheduled for May, but it might just be a nurse. There is absolutely ZERO chance I will ever tell my mom because I don’t talk to her about anything and that works fine for me. I was going to send in a question to some site, maybe Rookie, these past few days, but was scared the answer would be: “Tell your mom. Go to the doctor. Get a needle in your boob and find out you’re fine.”

    I’m stressing, please help.

    • Blythe November 13th, 2012 4:36 PM

      I’d maybe mention it to the nurse person. You gotta realize that these people see lots of naked bodies and super gross things and stuff and they WILL NOT BE FAZED by boobs. Seriously. They’ll be professional and then it’s much less embarrassing (take it from someone who got into a loud argument about birth control with a pharmacist). If you don’t want to do that, talk to a trusted adult! Oh my god, I sound like an advice column. Your dad, if he’s an option, would be fine. Taking care of your kid is more important than EW BOOBS. Or maybe an aunt/cousin/etc? Even a family friend can at least help you figure out what to do! Or one of your friends. It’s probably fine, and it’s probably just one of those ones they talked about that isn’t harmful, but you still should check. Even if it’s just for your peace of mind.

      • Maddy November 13th, 2012 7:48 PM

        Ok, thanks. Yeah haha that’s pretty typical “advice column” stuff, but I’ll try to mention it. thanks :)

        • Blythe December 28th, 2012 6:12 PM

          This is all really funny to me now, because a bit after I wrote that comment, I found a lump in my breast! It’s a fibroadenoma, but a slightly worrisome one so they’re going to biopsy it.
          BUT THE POINT HERE is that now I can super officially tell you from personal experience that it’s not embarrassing at all.

    • hellorose November 13th, 2012 8:04 PM

      i agree with blythe. doctors and nurses see plenty of crazy things everyday and it is part of their job not to be fazed by it. i completely understand feeling awkward and uncomfortable about having someone look at and feel your boobs, but the setting is so clinical and any doctor or nurse will be so professional that it should barely feel any different than having them look down your throat or in your ear or do that knee tapping thing.

      chances are it’s one of the common and easily treatable things listed above so nothing to worry about, and needles won’t even come into it!

      if you feel like you can’t talk to your mum, then is there a school nurse you could chat to instead? any medical professional should treat anything you tell them as confidential so you could talk to your school nurse, or even your school counsellor without it becoming everybody’s business. you don’t even have to show them anything, just say ‘look, i’m a bit worried about this thing and what would you advise because i feel very uncomfortable about telling my doctor or my parents’.

      good luck!

    • sully-bean November 15th, 2012 1:42 PM

      Hi Maddy! *HUG* don’t stress, it’s okay! basically, SAME HERE and i went to the doctors and it wasn’t even awkward AT ALL like it doesn’t take that long and she just poked about and said it was okay. That’ll probably be the same for you! I PROMISE it isn’t bad. And you’ll feel so much better after, it’s like a weight off your chest! (LIKE MY PHRASING THERE? :D) Don’t worry, buttercup. <3 It's gonna be okay.

  • taliabc November 13th, 2012 3:59 PM

    OMG every time I read the comments from an article thingy, everyone’s like super glad you’d touched on that subject and i never really got it, but after this boob one, THANK YOU SO MUCH! I actually have had a cyst(benign) for some like, a year or something(I got it checked out and stuff with the ultrasound and everything) and this has totally reassured me about not being the only teenage girl with one aha, so thank you!! :-)

  • emine November 13th, 2012 4:04 PM

    After this article I actually felt like hugging my boobs. Thank you, Rookie! Honestly, the fact that you talk about the female body so often and so comfortably is one of my favorite things about you guys. I can’t count all the times I read an article regarding body issues and thinking OMG I’m not the only one! Lots and lots of love

  • jenaimarley November 13th, 2012 4:12 PM

    This is just so good. <3

    I feel like there are a lot of misconceptions about boobs! Like that not wearing a bra will give you saggy boobs in the future or that wearing bras will give you cancer. And of course the fear of abnormality.
    So it's nice to have a really practical and open approach to the subject of our lovely body parts!

    • mynamesambertoo November 13th, 2012 10:51 PM

      I wonder if wearing the wrong size bra, like if it is too small, can affect you? If you can’t afford to get new bras, I wonder how wearing a bra that is too small can affect your health? I also wondered if sleeping with your bra on is bad. I used to do that when I was in my early teens. Do u guys know? :~ /

  • Morning Moon November 13th, 2012 4:13 PM

    I hate having big boobs!!!!!!!!!

    • rachelcallari November 13th, 2012 8:06 PM

      I’ve always been self-conscious about my huge boobs. I used to want a reduction for that reason. I often felt like people over-sexualized me, and I hated the attention I got for them. Through the years I have learned how to handle that (often) negative attention, and begun to appreciate my body for the wonder that it is! However, it is encouraging to hear that insurance usually covers the surgery. I am still considering it for the future, because these days I have a lot of back problems. At a 32GG I think it should be justified… haha! Morning Moon, your tits are fantastic. Don’t let other peoples’ opinions impact the way you think of yourself!

      • mynamesambertoo November 13th, 2012 11:08 PM

        I think my mom is an H Rachel. She had a lot of the concerns you expressed. We are experiencing financial problems to some degree, and my mom complains about how expensive the bras are for the higher up letters. She even has to order hers from catalogs/online to get the ones that have special made straps for better support. They are as much as $60. The cheaper bras also leave friction scars around her shoulders. But don’t get too frustrated. I think some women, like the writers at Rookie, and maybe some influential women/organizations are noticing these problems more and more and are taking steps to address it!

        • rachelcallari November 14th, 2012 10:19 AM

          Yes, the bras are VERY expensive, Amber. I am required to spend an average of $70 on each bra. I own two at a time: one sports bra, and one regular bra. I have to replace them on an average of every 5 months, because they wear out from the stress put on them. I have to go to a specialty store in my town (so grateful that we have one where I live.) Thank you for the encouragement. I am so glad that this is beginning to be addressed! And I love that girls aren’t so afraid to talk about stuff like this anymore.

  • Newyorkbeats November 13th, 2012 4:14 PM

    Oh god haha, it really does feel like broccoli.

  • creepchic November 13th, 2012 4:38 PM

    The best part of my day was reading the phrase “breast lashes.” Love it.

    • Yasmin November 13th, 2012 5:45 PM

      Seriously. “Breastlashes” reframes the concept in such a nice way that c””’:

  • Blythe November 13th, 2012 4:39 PM

    I don’t know what you’re on about, but ultrasounds do hurt! I’ve had to get my heart ultrasounded twice, and my heart is, ya know, under a boob. Maybe it was because I was at a pediatric cardiologist’s place (I’m 16) or maybe the guy doing it had never been near a boob before, but ow. Obviously, you should get an ultrasound if you need it, but it’s probably going to be uncomfortable at the least.

  • Anna F. November 13th, 2012 5:38 PM

    How many of you were mushing your boobs as you read this?

  • imogan November 13th, 2012 5:46 PM

    This is really good! I personally think there isn’t much awareness given to teenagers, with good reason as well as bad, but I’m glad that rookie has done this article! Thank you!

  • Abby November 13th, 2012 6:07 PM

    After you said it felt like broccoli I grabbed my boobs and started feeling them because obviously I had to find out if you were serious… and my roommate was like, “Abby… wh-…. what are you doing….?” oops… lol

  • Olivia November 13th, 2012 6:41 PM

    Broccoli boob diagram so good holy shit

  • 062131 November 13th, 2012 7:37 PM

    This is so so very interesting, thank you Lola!
    I’m also taking a look at the links, like the one about binding, and really admiring the community & support for people who don’t feel comfortable in their bodies and/or gender. (not very sure about which terms to use)

  • i-like-autumn November 13th, 2012 7:54 PM

    BOOBS!

    I want to shout out to all the peeps having trouble talking about boobs- it’s okay. I was afraid to talk about my boobs for a long time, too. Only about a year ago I became really comfortable with & talking about my boobs.

    Oh, if you don’t like calling them boobs, give them a NAME. I call my boobs a variety of names, ranging from la ladies to boobage to titties. I found that when I talked about “la ladies” to my mom & doctor, I was a lot more comfortable about it.

    Autumn
    i-like-autumn.tumblr.com

    PS: Broccoli diagram takes the cake.

  • kellyraeofsunshine November 13th, 2012 8:02 PM

    The broccoli image is killing me! I had a cyst removed a couple years ago that I used to call my “little corn.” I became a little attached to it and even had them print out the ultrasound of it for me. It’s on my mirror :D

  • Moxx November 13th, 2012 8:11 PM

    “my little corn” oh my god you’re great <3

  • Moxx November 13th, 2012 8:21 PM

    Once again, thank you for addressing the important topic of breasts.

    I am still coming to terms with mine, but it’s so good to know that others have done it and have learned to feel fine.
    I still think the biggest part of the solution to breast discomfort (not physical discomfort- that’s a different problem) would be for people to stop being so weird about “female” breasts.
    People need to stop making dumb remarks and jokes about peoples’ bodies. It just feels terrible, and sometimes they don’t even realize what they’re doing because it’s considered such a “normal” and “ok” thing to do.

    Thanks again Rookie for being honest and supportive c:

  • Hannah November 13th, 2012 8:27 PM

    One time when I was in middle school, a girl told me I was going to hate having “big boobs” and that she was so lucky to have “small boobs” because my back was always going to hurt and hers wouldn’t. In fact, we have nearly the same boob size now, and neither of us have backaches over our boobs. So, fuck it and enjoy your tits ladies.

  • caro nation November 13th, 2012 8:29 PM

    When I saw this article, I instinctively and Tracy Jordan-esquely screamed “COMPUTER, I ALREADY KNOW HOW TO HAVE BOOBS!” at the screen.

    • Anaheed November 13th, 2012 9:30 PM

      Aaaah you just made me laugh so hard.

  • Emma S. November 13th, 2012 8:55 PM

    Lola, you are fab, and also, super hot grandma. xoxox

  • Lily November 13th, 2012 11:25 PM

    I beyond love this. Can we get like a vaginas: an owners guide to go with this??

  • Thoroughly Modern Natalie November 14th, 2012 1:10 AM

    Hey Rookies,

    Long time reader, first time commenter. I cannot tell you how crucial the part you guys are playing in opening the conversation on women’s issues, be it dealing with the male gaze to this very approachable, “Your boobs and You” guide.

    That’s why I wanted to tell you (and your readers) about a rare, aggressive, and often misdiagnosed form of breast cancer that not many women know about called Inflammatory Breast Cancer.

    Often misdiagnosed as a rash, IBC will not wait until you’re in your forties. There are cases of teenagers dying from this disease because they didn’t know what it was and in some cases, were too embarrassed to ask for help.

    Common symptoms include a bumpy rash that resembles an orange peel, an inverted nipple, discoloration (red or bruised appearance) and an increase in size of the infected breast.

    Please take the time to educate yourselves. Cancer.org has a good introductory page dedicated to IBC that is really clear about how to spot it, survival rates, etc.

    Much love to your and your boobs,
    Natalie

  • purrr November 14th, 2012 5:42 AM

    also, it’s cool to see rookie move towards being trans~friendly. when i saw the name of the article i thought that it would be only about assigned-at-birth-girls but no – all those callouts have been slowly molding rookie to one of the safest places online. YAY.

  • Musette November 14th, 2012 5:59 AM

    Great article! The only thing I’d add is that you talk about making your boobs smaller with binding or surgery, but you only offer surgery as an option for making them bigger…. but there are some pretty awesome +2 size bras etc out there- they obviously can’t make them 5 times bigger but they’re pretty effective!

  • Matheus November 14th, 2012 7:43 AM

    hi, im a guy from brazil, and i love this post, lola you are so funny! my right boob start growing, just the right one! My doctor says that I’m with excess estrogen. It’s a big change in my body that I’m accepting with open arms and mind and I’m loving it. I intend to go to the doctor now to control estrogen so nothing bad happens but I want them (or just the right one) grow. I’ve even made some pictures to send to you, photos of my first bra. soon I will send to you. w love xx

  • teeny November 14th, 2012 10:02 AM

    Actually, breastfeeding after breast surgery is possible, even in the case of top surgery. Check out Trevor’s amazing story of breastfeeding his son: http://www.milkjunkies.net/p/my-story.html

    And another resource: http://bfar.org/index.shtml

    I am not questioning any individual’s decision to NOT reproduce or breastfeed, but couldn’t let that common assumption go unchallenged!

  • Microbyte1 November 14th, 2012 11:28 AM

    yeah! i kinda needed and article like this , thanks !

  • spudzine November 14th, 2012 1:38 PM

    OMG I love this guide so much! I never really felt like I knew much about my own boobs, so this sure came in handy!

    http://spudzine.tumblr.com/

  • sully-bean November 14th, 2012 4:13 PM

    CAN I PLEASE JUST SAY THAT COMING HOME AFTER SCHOOL AND GOING ON ROOKIE IS ACTUALLY THE HIGHLIGHT OF MY DAY.
    AND ARTICLES LIKE THIS MAKE ME WANT TO BE A WRITER BECAUSE, THIS IS JUST THE BEST. I LOVE ROOKIE SO MUCH OMFG YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST PEOPLE EVER AND I JUST FEEL SO MUCH MORE CONFIDENT AND HAPPY SINCE I STARTED READING A FEW MONTHS AGO AND JUST OMFG I’M SO GRATEFUL FOR EVERYTHING YOU DO. THANK YOU SO, SO SOSOSOSO MUCH. <3

  • Zan November 14th, 2012 4:28 PM

    Great article!
    So I’m actually a gynecological teaching associate (GTA), which means I use my own body to teach med students to give breast and pelvic exams. Basically I spend a ton of time talking and thinking about this stuff. The only things I would add are that, first, 98% of malignant tumors are initially found by women themselves, so despite the new recommendations it’s best to keep doing self-exams. Also (did you mention this? I may have missed it), you want to do the exam at the same time every month, 3-4 days after you START your period. That’s the point of your cycle with the least tenderness and fewest fibrocystic changes, and you want to do it at the same time so you don’t freak yourself out about a lump that is actually a totally normal monthly change.
    Yay self-exams! I recommend doing a self-pelvic too, if possible; it’s very exciting to see your cervix for the first time! If you have an OBGYN you can ask to hold a hand mirror during your regular check up so you can see what’s going on, and learn what’s ‘normal’ for you.

  • Lolly November 14th, 2012 4:47 PM

    Comment on the last paragraphs: a properly-fitted bra can make all the difference. When you get the proportions right, a DD cup is not big.

    Yup. Not a typo there. A proper DD cup is on the small, dainty end. It’s what most people would think of as an A or B cup.

    More and more bra-makers are going up to a K cup. I used to wear a DD cup, because it was the only thing I could find to go over my medium-lookin’ boobs. The problem there was that I was wearing a DD cup made for a band that was much too loose for me. When I got the band tight enough to stop riding up my back, I needed to readjust the proportions. Now I wear anything from a 28FF to 28GG. My boobs still look medium. They’re much more lifted, though, and my shoulders don’t hurt any more.

    So, as far as bras go, research how to get them fitting properly, and above all, don’t assume the cup size range stops at DD.

  • rhymeswithorange November 15th, 2012 12:59 AM

    Standing ovation

  • mynamesambertoo November 15th, 2012 12:11 PM

    Oh yea! Since it is November and the theme for this month is invention, thank you to Tavi and her team for their passion for discovery that led to the invention of Rookie Magazine! :)

  • lacecat November 15th, 2012 9:32 PM

    I finally had time to read this article. Although this was a very interesting thing to read, the song “My Humps” just kept on popping in my head! haha

  • mayaautumn November 19th, 2012 1:05 PM

    this was really informative and well-written! the type of article that just makes me love rookie so much:)
    and i also luv luv luv the broccoli boob pic ~^.^~

    http://mayathapapaya.tumblr.com

  • Justin Case November 19th, 2012 8:07 PM

    Can I just add something?

    I really feel like this owner’s guide is not complete without an explicit utterance of YOU CAN LIVE WITHOUT A BRA.

    Seriously, I understand it isn’t for everyone, but I have what I like to call ‘portable boobs’, small enough to go around with carefree, and I really wish someone had told me sooner that no, nipples are not ugly or indecent, and that there was no need to use those things in order to appear to have smooth, nipple-less, perfectly round globes on my chest, instead of my own pointy pair.

    I hated bras, never felt comfortable or free in them, but I felt sure I would be shunned if I ditched them. And then I did anyway and now, quite literally, feel 5838 times better about my body.

    Life without a bra is wonderful for me, so I really hope anyone else in my old situation can be made aware that bralessness is totally an option!

  • Candysays February 12th, 2013 3:27 AM

    You guys should do a piece on how to accept having small boobs……if you haven’t already