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Illustrations by Alexis Lira

Despite what you may have seen in popular media, there really is no “right” size when it comes to breasts. Like nipples and areolas, breasts come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

And while having a large bust may be a dream for some, it can be a burden for others.

Large breasts can be cumbersome when you’re jogging or even just trying to sleep on your stomach. The added weight can also be hard on your neck, shoulders, and back, resulting in chronic pain.

At the end of the day, how you feel is what matters most.

Take a look at these pictures of real breasts to get a sense of how varied they can really be, and read on to learn more about how to live comfortably with a large bust.

There isn’t an official designation, but some research suggests that anything equal to or larger than a D cup or 18 NZ/AUS (40 UK/US) band qualifies as large.

This data is derived from a small 2007 study of 50 people in Australia. The researchers were tasked with determining what qualifies as a “large bust” so the definition could be used in Australian oncology centers.

To get a sense of the scale, bra cup sizes now range from AA to K.

Generally speaking, “large” refers to anything above average. However, it ultimately comes down to whatever you feel is large for your frame.

Some people who have a naturally large bust find that their breast size is still proportionate to their torso and overall frame. Others may feel as though their bust is too large for their body.

It’s hard to say. For starters, research on bust size is incredibly limited.

According to another Australian study on breast volume and bra size, DD is the average professionally fitted cup size. The average band size is 12 NZ/AUS (34 UK/US). However, this study was small and only looked at 104 participants.

It’s also worth noting that an estimated 80 percent of people are wearing the wrong bra size.

Researchers in a small sample study found that 70 percent of participants wore a bra that was too small, while 10 percent wore a bra that was too big.

Although this study involved only 30 participants, this data lines up with other assessments of breast size and bra fit.

This means that the average professionally fitted bra cup and band size may actually be larger than a 12DD (34DD).

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Your bust size may change many times throughout your life.

For example, many people find that their breasts increase in size before or during menstruation. Your breasts may even continue to fluctuate in size throughout your monthly cycle.

Your breasts may continue to change in size and shape throughout your teens and early 20s.

Breast tissue contains fat, which means they’ll grow as your overall body weight increases. Your skin will stretch to compensate for your growing breasts. Your bust size should stabilize as you settle into your adult weight.

If you become pregnant, your breasts will go through a number of changes. They may swell considerably due to hormone changes or to prepare for lactation. Whether they retain their new size and shape or return to their previous state depends on several factors, including overall weight gain during pregnancy and whether you breastfed.

The final period of change occurs during menopause. Your breasts may deflate and become less firm as your body produces less estrogen.

Breasts are made up of fat and granular tissue. The more fat and tissue, the larger the bust and the heavier the overall weight. Because of this, large breasts often cause back, neck, and shoulder pain.

It isn’t uncommon for people with heavy breasts to develop deep indentations in their shoulders from the pressure of their bra straps.

In many cases, this pain can make it difficult to simply wear a bra, let alone exercise or perform other activities.

There have been a lot of inclusivity-driven developments in the bra world lately.

  • Thirdlove, for example, now offers bras in 70 different full- and half-cup sizes. Their fan favorite 24/7 Perfect Coverage Bra is available in band sizes 32 to 48 and cup sizes B to H. The straps are lined with memory foam, so they shouldn’t dig in.
  • Spanx is another great brand for people with large busts. Their full coverage Brallelujah! Full Coverage Bra offers comfort and support with the convenience of a front closure. Added bonuses include thick no-dig straps and a smoothing band.
  • If you want more lace in your life, consider Panache’s Envy Stretch Lace Full-Cup Bra. This option is available in cup sizes D to J.

Large breasts can be a real hinderance for physically active people. Back, neck, and shoulder pain keep many people out of the game entirely.

This lends itself to a vicious cycle. It can be difficult to manage your weight without physical activity, and weight gain may cause your breasts to increase in size.

Try this

There’s no relationship between the size of your breasts and how much milk they can produce. However, the size and weight of your breasts may make it a little more difficult to find the best positions to get a good latch.

Things to consider

  • If you haven’t already, try the cradle hold, cross-cradle hold, or laid-back positions.
  • If your breasts hang low, you probably won’t need a breastfeeding pillow. However, you may want a pillow to support your arms.
  • You may find it helpful to support your breast with your hand. Just make sure you don’t accidently lift your breast out of your baby’s mouth.

Breast reduction, or reduction mammoplasty, can be used to create a bust that’s more proportionate to your frame and alleviate discomfort.

Eligibility

Most people can elect to get breast reduction surgery. But in order for it to be covered by your insurance as a reconstructive procedure, you must have prior history of alternative treatments for pain related your breast size, such as massage therapy or chiropractic care.

Your insurance provider likely has a set list of criteria that must be met to demonstrate need. Your doctor or other healthcare provider can explain any unfulfilled requirements and advise you on next steps.

If you don’t have insurance or are unable to get the procedure approved, you can pay for the procedure out of pocket. The average cost for aesthetic candidates is $5,482. Some clinics may offer promotional discounts or special financing to help make the procedure more affordable.

Procedure

Your doctor will administer general anesthesia or intravenous sedation.

While you’re under, your surgeon will make an incision around each areola. They’ll likely use one of three incision techniques: circular, keyhole or racquet-shaped, or inverted T or anchor-shaped.

Although the incision lines will be visible, the scars can typically be concealed beneath a bra or bikini top.

Your surgeon will remove excess fat, granular tissue, and skin. They’ll also reposition your areolas to fit your new breast size and shape. The final step is to close the incisions.

If your breasts are causing you physical pain or emotional distress, make an appointment with a doctor or healthcare provider.

They can answer any questions and may be able to recommend physical therapy, chiropractic care, or other noninvasive therapies to help you find relief.

If you want to explore breast reduction, they can refer you to a dermatologist or plastic surgeon to discuss your options.

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