The challenges of being on call for a hungry tummy makes breastfeeding an annoyance sometimes, but for most mothers it still counts as a happy experience. Then, after months of having a baby suckle at the breast, the worry of sagging breasts seems to become a reality. But is age, weight, diet, exercise, or genetics ‒ rather than breastfeeding ‒ the actual cause of your breasts bowing to gravity?
Sagging Breasts And The Breastfeeding Theory
For generations, the notion that breastfeeding could cause breasts to sag has done the rounds in hush tones among mums-to-be. The reality though is that breastfeeding itself does not cause your breasts to sag. Other changes that happen concurrently with pregnancy may be to blame.
One study presented at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ Baltimore Conference in 2007 found that women who breastfed versus those who used formula showed no difference in terms of breast firmness or sagging.1
A recent study shows that not only does breastfeeding not cause your breasts to sag, it might even help to make the skin on your breasts healthier. Researchers have also studied pairs of twins to see what factors impacted breast skin, size, fullness, and even sagging. They found that those who had nursed a baby had a less attractive shape and size of the areola, but the skin on the breast was of better quality. They also surmised that this was because breastfeeding triggered an internal hormone replacement effect of sorts which benefited the body.2
Pregnancy Versus Breastfeeding: Which Is The Culprit?
When you are pregnant, your breasts grow larger and the milk flow causes the underlying tissue as well as the skin on the breast to stretch. Milk glands shrink back to their original size when they are empty, after you stop breastfeeding. This can sometimes leave the breasts looking a bit stretched. In addition, the increased breast size that comes with weight gain causes ligaments around the breast to stretch and make the breast sag.
What can cause your breasts to sag more when compared to others is how many times you have been pregnant, the size of your breasts pre-pregnancy, your age, your body mass index (BMI), and your history of smoking.3
Breastfeeding: Doing More Good Than Harm
Besides helping provide the baby with all its nutritional requirements, breastfeeding also helps the mother. One study showed that moms who breastfed their children had a lower risk of ovarian cancer as well as breast cancer in the premenopausal stage. They also had a lower incidence of osteoporosis and hip fracture after menopause.4
Prevent Sagging Breasts
While there may not be much you can do to prevent the side effects of pregnancy, you can help limit the sagging.
- Wear supportive undergarments that are the right fit as you gain weight and change size through pregnancy and after. It is a good idea to get yourself fitted to your new size by a lingerie specialist.
- Limit weight gain to 25 to 30 pounds to prevent your breasts from becoming too big, which can cause them to sag more later.
- Moisturize your breasts often. The Twins Study found that this was a significant factor in keeping breasts looking good. The moisturizer can help prevent sagging by keeping the skin pliable.5
- Exercise to help breasts and the muscle in the surrounding area regain their strength and suppleness.
- Avoiding smoking is also a good idea. Smoking causes the elastin needed to keep the breasts from sagging to break down. Without adequate support, the breast begins to yield to gravity.6
For the sake of the tremendous health benefits to the baby, and for some of the potential benefits to the mother, it appears that breastfeeding may still be the smart choice for many women. Especially when it seems to have been acquitted of the charge of being the cause of sagging breasts.