When considering whether to breast or bottle-feed, Moms are often backed into a corner where they feel they have to choose between what is best for their child and what is best for their body.
The benefits of breastfeeding for the health of your baby are immense!
But the thought of sagging, deflated breasts makes women uneasy and can affect their self-esteem. It is a choice that could result in unnecessary guilt at a time when it is the last thing you need.
We wanted to take a closer look at what the physical impact of breastfeeding really is, and what you can do to give your body the best chance of coping with the physical demands.
The Myth of Breastfeeding Causing Breasts to Sag
Breastfeeding itself does not cause sagging (ptosis) of the breasts. Ptosis is more likely a factor of the pregnancy and breastfeeding, rather than the act of breastfeeding alone.
The ligaments that support breast tissue are stretched as the breasts enlarge, becoming heavier and fuller, preparing to receive milk for your baby (1).
Over an 8-year period, women receiving breast augmentations were interviewed to determine what the cause of their ptosis was. On average, the women were around 39 years old, and 93% had had at least one pregnancy, but of this group, only 58% had breastfed.
Upon reviewing their medical history, it seemed that the primary causes of breast sagging were contributed to age, body mass index (BMI), and smoking status, rather than breastfeeding (2).
The bottom line here is that going through pregnancy itself is a bigger contributor to sagging breasts and not breastfeeding. Age and your health also are major determinants of the rate at which your breasts may sag.
10 Tips to Prevent and Reverse Sagging Breasts
So, if pregnancy is the culprit, are women doomed to live with drooping, shapeless, saggy breasts?
While the only real ways to avoid breast ptosis are to never get pregnant and stop aging (which are, obviously, impossible), there are things you can do, both pre-pregnancy and post-pregnancy to minimize the effects on your breasts.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding are both amazing experiences for a woman. This will have some impact on your body, but a proactive approach to a healthy lifestyle can help your body deal with these demands and minimize the risk of saggy breasts.
1. Wear a Supportive Bra
There are many who claim that wearing a good, supportive bra can help prevent your breasts from sagging. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to support this claim.
There has not been a specific bra (such as a push-up) shown to be most effective at preventing breast ptosis.
You may choose to wear a bra to bed for comfort (and to prevent leakage on your sheets), but it will not hold your breasts in the perfect position throughout the night.
Now, that’s not to say that going without a bra will be the same effect as wearing one. You should definitely have proper support, especially as your breasts become heavy with milk.
Not wearing a bra may do more harm as gravity plays a major role in the stretching of breast tissue.
If you want to invest in a bra that may have the greatest potential of reducing sagging, find a supportive sports bra.
Exercise can wreak havoc on the tissues and ligaments surrounding the breasts, as they move three-dimensionally (vertical, horizontal, and lateral). Especially for women with larger breasts after breastfeeding.
2. Exercise Muscles Around the Breast Area
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including exercise, can help keep your skin strong and reduce the sagging of your breasts. While breasts are made primarily of fat, and there are no exercises that target them directly, there are muscles that surround the area.
By working these muscles, you can firm up your chest and potentially add a little bit of lift to your breasts (4).
A well-rounded workout that targets the chest area can make a huge difference. The following exercises will do wonders for your breast area and also assist with weight loss as your body recovers from your pregnancy.
- Round about Push Ups
- Standing Chest Presses & Pulls
- Tricep dips
- Bentover Ventral Raise & Squeezes
- Tip Toe Planks
- Diagonal Ventral Raises
- Plank Push Ups
But, this is just one part of your weight loss journey after pregnancy and breastfeeding.
3. Eat a Healthy Diet
The other major factor is your diet. If you want strong and glowing skin, you need to to eat well. Especially when you are still breastfeeding and pumping out breast milk every day. In fact, this can help with weight loss because of the calories being sucked out of your body with breast milk.
Nutritional deficiencies can also lead to sagging, so it is important to maintain a healthy diet and eat healthy where possible.
Protein helps muscles retain their strength and firmness, and ensuring you receive enough can help your breasts to keep their elasticity. Try to avoid excessive animal fats though and replace with good fats like olive oil.
Antioxidants can also help to reduce damage caused by free radicals, which are released as your tissues are broken down. Pomegranates and aloe vera are rich in antioxidants and a great choice for firming up your tissues (5).
Lots of green vegetables are also important to ensure the body can produce enough collagen to keep your skin looking healthy.
Aside from eating a balanced diet to provide your skin with the nutrients it needs, it is also critical to avoid excessive weight gain. It is common for that extra weight to go straight to the breasts and further heighten the fluctuation in your breast size.
Over time this leads to excess fatty tissue, more saggy breasts, and generally poorer health overall. Which can get in the way of enjoying your kids at all. So best to start this phase of your life with healthy habits.
4. Hydrate and Moisturize
It is a well-known fact that dry skin is unhealthy skin, prone to wrinkles, and the same goes for the skin of your breasts. Skin that is not properly cared for, whether it is dry or dehydrated, loses its elasticity and suppleness and is at a higher risk for those ugly stretch marks we women hate.
In order to keep your skin looking young and healthy, it is imperative that you moisturize and hydrate.
Moisturizing helps to create a barrier on our skin to keep water in, but moisturizing won’t help if your skin is dehydrated.
You can lotion up all day long, and your skin will just soak it up and want more. When you hydrate your skin, you increase its water content, which can then be locked in with a moisturizer (6).
While the best way to ensure your skin remains hydrated is to drink plenty of water (which you should be doing for your milk production and overall health anyway), this alone is not enough.
Our skin is the last organ to receive the nutrients we ingest, and that includes water (7).
It is best to supplement your water intake with a topical hydrating agent before applying moisturizer. When selecting a moisturizer, choose something with shea or cocoa butter, or something vitamin E based (8).
5. Focus on Posture
Not only does bad breastfeeding posture wreck your back, but it can also wreak havoc on your breasts.
Constantly leaning over your child, multiple times a day which adds up to several hours, causes gravity to pull on your full, milk-laden breasts which can lead to stretching of the skin and tissues, and eventually lead to sagging.
It is recommended that rather than bringing yourself to your child to feed, bring the baby to you. Choose a comfortable position in which you are supported, whether it be sitting or lying down, as well as a good hold for your baby.
It can help to have someone with you at first to let you know when you look like you might be in an awkward position, which is likely to happen quite often for the first few months as your baby is so small (9).
A nursing pillow is also a great investment for these early stages. It gives you a place to lay your child comfortably and rest your arm as you support their head. You can remain sitting upright while having your baby at a good level.
As your child gets older and bigger, you will find it easier to nurse without the extra support as you will not need to lean over as far anymore. Finally, always keep your posture in mind after you nurse, sitting and walking upright.
6. Lose (and Gain) Weight Efficiently
As mentioned above, BMI plays a major factor in how much your breasts will sag over time. The more fat you have, the more your breast tissue will stretch and have a harder time going back to normal.
During and after pregnancy, it is inevitable that your weight will fluctuate, but the rate at which that happens can have a positive or negative effect on your post-pregnancy breasts.
While you should gain weight during pregnancy (to reduce the risk of premature labor or low birth weight), the amount you should gain depends on your pre-pregnancy BMI (11). Gaining this weight at a steady pace, over the entirety of your pregnancy, causes less strain on your body and allows it make the necessary changes at a slower rate.
After you give birth, it is understandable that you want to get rid of the baby weight as soon as possible. However, it has been shown that just as gaining weight gradually can reduce stress on the body the same is true for weight loss.
Do it slowly and your body can adapt, repair, and adjust. Your skin may appear tighter and reduce the risk of excess skin.
With an appropriate diet and exercise, you will likely lose about 2-4 pounds a month (after the initial baby and fluid expulsion) (12). If you maintain that healthy lifestyle then all you need is time to get back to your old self.
So, you may not be able to fit into those pre-pregnancy jeans for at least 6 months, but you are doing right by yourself, and your baby (who needs you to eat appropriately to produce milk), by taking it slow.
7. Hot and Cold Water Exposure
A simple trick that you can incorporate into your day is to finish your shower with 30 seconds of cold water exposure.
The change from warm to cold water caused your pores to close rapidly and also boosts blood flow in the body. This will help your skin have a healthy glow as it detoxifies and rejuvenates.
Cold showers are not for everyone. But if you can manage even 5-10 seconds every day your breast appearance may reward you.
8. Sleep on your Back
When you roll around at night time you will find that some positions leave your breasts hanging in unusual positions for hours at a time. This can lead to ligaments straining over time and your skin may start to show more pronounced stretch marks.
There are special sleep bras that can help your breasts stay in position. Your milk-producing boobs could get in the way of a comfortable night’s sleep if they are just rolling around. But you can also minimize the movement by just sleeping on your back.
This is not for everyone though. In fact, I don’t think I have ever seen a woman just sleep on her back throughout the night. So perhaps the sleep bra is a more realistic option to support your breasts.
9. Avoid Sunburn
If you are in a hurry to get back into your bikini and spend some time at the beach then perhaps also take something light you can use to cover up, and some high-quality sunscreen.
Your skin is thinner around the breasts and is more susceptible to damage from the UV rays of the sun and can lead to a loss of skin elasticity.
You can still enjoy a day at the beach of course, but avoid long periods of direct exposure as this will weaken your skin and lead to sagging breasts.
10. Wean Slowly
It is important that you wean gradually so that your breasts do not just deflate like a balloon.
You can decrease the amount of breast milk your body produces by spacing out your feeding and pumping sessions and dropping the total number of sessions in the day.
This will also reduce the chances of you experiencing the pain associated with full breasts, which can lead to conditions like mastitis or clogged milk ducts.
You have to re-train your body and give it the time it needs to adjust.
Breast Changes After Breastfeeding
When you stop breastfeeding it might be necessary to update your undergarments. Your breast size will be fluctuating again and it may not just return to your pre-pregnancy size.
It is important to ensure that you have fully a supportive bra and that you slow down any further sagging.
Many women also consider plastic surgery when they finish breastfeeding. A breast lift, or breast reduction, can improve breast shape and overall appearance.
In the past, there may have been a stigma associated with this. But the modern mama will often opt for this kind of corrective surgery after pregnancy and breastfeeding.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel content with your body and every mother is entitled to do something for herself. Especially if you have been through a number of pregnancies and your breastfeeding boobs have had years of demands placed on them.
Be sure to speak to your doctor about your options here if you are considering it.
While you cannot avoid saggy boobs after pregnancy, if you follow the steps in this article you can at least minimize the impact on your body throughout your breastfeeding journey.
As a mother who did not focus on breast health, I have come to the realization that I will never look the way I did prior to becoming pregnant. But I’m okay with that.
If this is you as well, I can tell you it helps to have a healthy outlook on the situation. Your body tells a story. Every scar, every wrinkle on your skin, and every gray hair.
What better story to tell than that of your babies that you carried for nine months, and the time you shared together.
You will come to realize that a few stretch marks and a bit of sagging are but a minor sacrifice when you’ve welcomed a little more joy into your life.
But, follow these ten steps in this article and you can delay the onset of saggy breasts a little bit longer.