Scared to breastfeed because of sagging breasts? A new study says not to worry! Go ahead and breastfeed those kids!
A new University of Kentucky study shows that breast feeding does not increase sagging of women’s breasts. A plastic surgeon named Dr. Brian Rinker studied 132 patients at UK Health Care Cosmetic Surgery Associates.
Do you panic at the thought of your nipples pointing to the ground upon the completion of your breastfeeding years? If so, you’re not alone. Sagging breasts is one of the biggest concerns for expectant women, and the anxiety is increased if you intend to breastfeed each child for a year or longer. While you can’t prevent changes to your body during and after pregnancy, there are some things you can do to support your breasts for the best possible outcome.
The Truth About Breastfeeding & Sagging Breasts
For generations, women have assumed that breastfeeding causes sagging breasts because the baby is pulling downward on the breast multiple times per day for a year or longer. Fortunately, research has shown that breastfeeding doesn’t have near as much downward pull as most women think. It turns out that the biggest contribution to sagging breasts is tissue changes that result from hormonal and weight fluctuations during pregnancy.
During pregnancy, your milk ducts expand and shrink naturally, depending on what phase of pregnancy and breastfeeding you’re in. That can lead to sagging in the breast tissues, sending your breasts in a downward spiral. You may also gain and lose weight quickly due to pregnancy, which further contributes to sagging breasts.
While you can’t change the hormonal fluctuations that go along with pregnancy, you can take steps to keep weight gain to a minimum. Start by remembering that you’re not technically eating for two throughout your pregnancy or while breastfeeding. You do need more nutrients than you would in other phases of life, but you can get that from nutrient-dense foods that are low in fat. Focus on the nutrients rather than loading up on calories.
The healthier you eat and the more you improve your activity level, the less likely you are to experience rapid weight gain and sagging breasts. A healthy lifestyle is also essential to raising a healthy baby and preventing or treating postpartum depression. If you’re already overweight or obese, your size is likely already contributing to sagging breasts before pregnancy is even a factor.
Other Ways to Prevent Breast Sagging:
Upright Breastfeeding Positions
While breastfeeding isn’t the overwhelming threat to your breasts that you may imagine, it doesn’t hurt to hold your baby in an upright position to limit the downward pull during feeding sessions. If you prefer to hold your baby across your front, use pillows to elevate the baby to nipple level. This will allow your baby to comfortably latch without tugging downward on your breast.
You may also try laying back on pillows or in a chair, resting your baby belly-to-belly on top of you. Slings, feeding pillows and other resources may help you come up with other positioning options.
Correct Your Posture
Make every effort to sit up straight during and between breastfeeding sessions. Leaning over can encourage more stretching in breast tissue, especially if you breastfeed while leaning forward to reach your breast to the baby’s mouth. Raise the baby up instead, and make sure to hold our shoulders back and your head high throughout the day. Keep your chest up where it belongs to encourage your breasts to stay upright.
The weaning process leads to hormonal and physical changes to your breasts. Those changes can lead to breast sagging. While there isn’t much you can do about your hormones, you can encourage a more gradual shift by weaning over time rather than suddenly drying up your breasts.
A gradual wean simply means that you start cutting back on breastfeeding sessions over time. Most mothers do this naturally when they start supplementing breastfeeding with solid foods or go back to work and start supplementing with bottles. The demand for breast milk slowly declines, allowing the breasts to change a little at a time. Rapid change can increase your risk of sagging.
The Bra Debate about Sagging Breast
“You must always wear a supportive bra.” You’ll see that piece of advice on many websites and blogs when the top of preventing breast sagging comes up. Holding your breasts up may sound like a great way to encourage them to sit high despite breastfeeding, but research is showing that bras aren’t always your most effective weapon.
When researchers followed hundreds of women for 15 years and studied their breast transformations, the results showed that wearing a bra didn’t prevent sagging breasts. In fact, the researchers stated that women who didn’t wear bras experienced less sagging than those who did. Wearing a bra may weaken the muscles that naturally hold the breasts up. Wear a bra that doesn’t fit properly, and you can cause even more damage and sagging over time.
So, should you wear a bra or not? That comes down to your personal comfort plus a variety of other factors that can contribute to breast sagging. You can probably give up thinking that you must wear a bra to stop your beasts from sagging. The larger your breasts are, the more prone you are to sagging and the more likely you will want to wear a bra for support. Just don’t count on it for preventative purposes.
If you do wear a bra, make sure that you’re giving your breasts plenty of bra-free time to maintain muscle tone. Also go for a professional bra sizing to ensure that our bras fit properly.
Give Up the Cigarettes
If you’re expecting a baby or are a new mother, you probably don’t smoke even if it was a habit prior to pregnancy. While the smoke is harmful to your baby, it’s also a risk factor for your breast tissue. Research has shown that smoking weakens skin tissue by reducing the flow of blood that reaches the surface of the skin. Weakened skin loses its firmness and elasticity, leading to wrinkles and sagging. That can occur not just in the breasts but all over your body with time.
Your skin will naturally lose collagen and elasticity with age. You don’t need smoking to accelerate the process, so giving up the smokes as soon as possible is best for your skin and your baby.
Strengthen Your Pectoralis Major Muscles
These muscles are underneath your breasts and are a major support network to keep them pointed in the right direction. While these muscles can easily weaken with age, you can do exercises that keep them strong and toned. Most exercises focused on the chest will give you the right results.
You don’t need to add long hours at the gym to your to-do list. You can start strengthening your chest muscles by doing push-ups or lifting dumbbells at home. If you need to start exercising to lose or maintain your weight, adding some chest exercises into your fitness routine is a great idea.
Self-Care Is Breast Care
Did you notice that many of the recommendations for breast care are the same recommendations that you would receive for general self-care? That is due to the nature of your breasts. They’re made up of tissue and skin cells that are impacted by the same factors as skin and tissue throughout your body. The loss of collagen that allows those fine lines to creep up around your eyes and mouth can contribute to sagging breast tissue as well.
Take care of your body, and you will naturally take care of your breasts. You might just add some habits to your self-care routine that are targeted directly to your breasts. Some example habits include:
- Adding chest exercises to your fitness routine. If you don’t currently exercise, now is the time to start doing pushups before bed or swinging the kettlebells between breastfeeding sessions.
- Selecting the most nutrient-dense foods possible rather than focusing on the number of calories consumed. Think of the nutrients slipping into your milk and nourishing your baby while encouraging your breasts to stand tall.
- Putting down the cigarettes and staying away from the alcohol. Your skin doesn’t need any additional excuse to sag.
- Use creams or lotions that contain collagen and other skin-firming ingredients. There are some lifting creams made just for the breasts, but make sure that you don’t pass the cream to your baby during breastfeeding sessions. You may use those more after your breastfeeding days or in preparation for your baby.
When you think about changes to your body after pregnancy and breastfeeding, keep your focus on the reasons you chose to breastfeed. Think about the many health benefits that your baby will enjoy for the rest of her life thanks to you making a sacrifice. Then do what you can to keep your body healthy from head to toe. Your breasts may surprise you by standing tall far longer than you expect.
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