Saturday, December 12, 2009

Breastfeeding Does NOT Cause Breasts to Sag

Source: Open Access Healthcare


Beautiful book cover of Lactancia Materna: guia para madres
English translation: Breastfeeding: A guide for mothers


While the benefits of breastfeeding are unquestionable, many new mothers choose not to for fear of sagging breasts. However, breastfeeding alone has no impact on a woman’s breast shape, according to a first-of-its-kind study presented today at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) Plastic Surgery 2007 conference in Baltimore.

“Many women who come in for breast surgery tell us their breasts are sagging, drooping or are less full because they breastfed,” said Brian Rinker, MD, ASPS Member Surgeon and study author. “Although the amount of sagging in the breasts appears to increase with each pregnancy, we’ve found that breastfeeding does not worsen the effect.”

The study examined 93 women who were pregnant one or more times prior to having cosmetic breast surgery. Fifty-eight percent of patients reported breastfeeding one or more of their children. The duration of breastfeeding ranged from 2 to 25 months, with an average of nine months. Fifty-five percent of respondents reported an adverse change in the shape of their breasts following pregnancy.

As the first study to examine what impacts breast shape in connection to pregnancy, plastic surgeons found that a history of breastfeeding, the number of children breastfed, the duration of each child’s breastfeeding, or the amount of weight gained during pregnancy were not significant predictors for losing breast shape. However, body mass index (BMI), the number of pregnancies, a larger pre-pregnancy bra size, smoking history, and age were significant risk factors for an increased degree of breast sagging.

Nearly 104,000 women had breast lifts in 2006, up 96 percent since 2000, according to the ASPS. In addition, more than 329,000 women had breast augmentation, making it the top surgical cosmetic procedure in 2006.

“Women may be reluctant to breastfeed because of this unfounded myth that doing so means the end of youthful breasts,” said Dr. Rinker. “Now, expectant mothers can relax knowing breastfeeding does not change the appearance of their breasts.”

Breast milk provides indisputable health benefits to infants. Research has shown breastfed infants have improved general health, growth and development as well as a lower risk of many acute and chronic illnesses than artificially fed infants.



End Note: Going bra-free at home is beneficial for a nursing mother's lymphatic system (which clears her body of waste) and also for her mammary glands and milk ducts. Allowing the breasts to 'breathe' without a bra also decreases risk for bacteria infection and thrush by allowing the nipple and areola to stay dry and cool (but not chapped). As is true with breastfeeding, going bra-free does not contribute to the sagging of breasts. For more on the health benefits of going without a bra as much as you are able to do so, see the excellent book Dressed to Kill.


For additional breastfeeding books, articles, and websites see: Breastfeeding Resources.


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29 comments:

  1. My breasts are very mismatched. I have one C+ cup and one B- cup. I breastfed with both of them equally for a decade. The smaller one is still pretty perky, and the other is droopy. I have to conclude based on my on experience that it's age and genetics more than anything. Not that I'm worried about it -- the obsession with barbie breasts in this culture is beyond me.

    I agree with you completely about the bras. My breastfeeding troubles disappeared when I stopped wearing a regular bra. Because my breasts are so lop-sided, I wear this "bra" (http://www.bluecanoe.com/e-store/prod_details.asp?pid=3111818359960&pcid=3101632436589) when I go out, it's very comfortable and not constricting.

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  2. I noticed just from pregnancy that my breasts ballooned to cartoony proportions. They deflated after birth quite a bit. I would think the stretching alone during pregnancy would be enough to cause some extra skin...or at least that sag that comes from having C boobs in D skin. They ballooned again during breastfeeding, but never more than during my pregnancies. I always blamed the sag on pregnancy, not nursing. I nursed 2 kids, for a total of 28 months.

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  3. Good to know going without a bra doesn't cause breasts to sag either, I always thought it did (but really dont care) I never wear a bra when i am at home..unless we have people over of course

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  4. Linda H- for whatever reason I found your post to be hilarious. It's a great comparison study (though maybe the sample size is a little small!) I have very mismatched boobs too. One is a F cup while the other could probably fit nicely into a D.

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  5. I love it! When I was buying nursing bras, the sales lady tried to tell me that the American Cancer Society suggests that women wear "at least a light support bra at all times, even while sleeping, to help reduce their risk of breast cancer." ?!?! I pretty much laughed in her face, for using such a ridiculous scare tactic to try to sell more bras. I only bought a few of their 'sleep' bras (for day use) and go without my bra as much as possible. I'm glad it won't cause saggy breasts, but I wasn't terribly worried anyway.

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  6. Loved the article but would like to add something. Don't let your bubs pull on your nipples too much! ie trying to feed and look around the corner at the same time- curious little things! I probably should have been more vigilant with feeding in less interesting places! Breastfeeding has not caused my breasts to sag but the nipple shape has changed in a way I would have preferred it not to. Mind you I have unusually prominent nipples, easy for feeding but also easy for a bit of stretching -lol. I still advocate breastfeeding and fed both kids 2 years each.

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  7. For me I think most of my "sagging" (meaning my breasts don't look like they did when I was 19) has been caused (or heavily influenced) by the extreme engorgement I experienced post-birth. Stretching from a 34c to probably a K+ cup (and staying that size for probably 10-14 days with each child) isn't going to keep the girls perky lol But, I would have experienced engorgement had I breastfed or not.

    I love that my body has nourished my children with great success. I will admit there are times when I look in the mirror and wish my breasts would slurp back into place, or I will consider saving for a breast lift. I may some day, I can't say one way or another. If I do it will only be for my own comfort and satisfaction.

    I do love that this study is making it more widely known that nursing will not cause saggy breasts. Although... I can't say I understand choosing not to breastfeed over something so vain. To each their own I suppose.

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  8. your breasts will actually become more perky if you stop wearing a bra. the tendons in your chest that hold your breasts up become atrophied when they aren't being used.

    once they start to be needed again, they will yank them girls up.

    big boobed and bra free for 4 year and counting!

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  9. Hi, I breastfed 4 babies/toddlers. I was pregnant or breastfeeding for 13 to 14 years straight. I started with B cup A-B cup breasts & now have D-DD. I am more happy with my breasts now than I was before children (because I have some). I am anticipating that they will become more saggy when I eventually lose some weight, but for now I can't complain. I too avoid wearing a bra whenever I can & don't feel it has made any difference to my breast shape or saggyness. My sister started out with bigger breasts & only had & fed 1 baby/toddler for over 2 years. She has been unhappy with her breasts because they are noticeably saggy. I think there are a number of factors affecting saggyness & breastfeeding is not one of them.

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  10. Saggy boobs! Oh NO!! How terrifying!!! :o) Too bad that the mere thought of it causes some women to compromise their baby's well-being with formula. Sad that women are so easily discouraged and stressed out about their body image to begin with.

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  11. It is not true for me that breastfeeding does not change the breasts. I've breastfed three children for a combined total of 5.5 years so far. Milk has always flowed more easily from one side for me, and all three babies discovered that. The breast that produced more milk grew, and the other SHRANK. Previous to my first pregnancy, my breasts were already uneven--but the sizes were reversed. It wasn't the pregnancy that changed my breasts in this way; it was definitely the breastfeeding.
    (Lesson learned too late: Make your babies nurse on both sides evenly!)

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  12. Well, food for thought as I have been quite unhappy with my boobs now. I fed for 10mth only, dd weaned on her own and my breast went from nice D cup to saggy B-C and left me wondering what the next child will do to them:-) Now I can at least hope in some change in the future...

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  13. Tamara - milk supply (and demand certainly impacts supply) will change breasts while they are being used for nursing. Most babies prefer one side or the other - and there are even some who will only nurse from one side, not the other. So breasts become different sizes during the nursing days, and there is nothing wrong with this. In fact, of all the mothers I've met (I work as an LC) who tell me they are only nursing from 1 side, no one would ever know this until the person points it out and someone really takes a close look at their breast size. But in the end, feeding baby matters most, and breasts will return to their similar size when nursing days are over. I'd disagree with forcing a baby to nurse from both sides - always offer both, and you can offer the less preferred side FIRST (when baby is hungry or more eager) but if, in the end, only one side will do - that's okay. We have our nursing little ones for such a very short time.

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  14. my first child weaned from my right breast (always the slightly smaller one) first and I had just the one (left) breast going for the last few months of bf him. they did stay lop sided after he weaned for me allowing that. I wore a 'chicken fillet' in my right bra cup for 2+ years until I birthed my second and decided I was going to 'even' up my boobs!
    I fed more from the right side (hand expressed from left if it was a little engorged for waiting) and weaned from both at the same time and they were even and have stayed even nursing twice more and pregnant again. in fact I think the once smaller right boob is now the slightly bigger one!

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  15. I dare say NOT breastfeeding and/or weaning early/abruptly is more likely to cause sagging problems. They fill up and then return to "normal" much too quickly. Natural term nursing allows them to shrink back gradually as baby/toddler requires less milk, which gives the skin time to recover as well.

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  16. Of course, I posted this to my FB page only to have someone PM me about the exposed nipple showing *rollingeyes* Breast feeding 4th baby still!!!! (10+ months)

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  17. I found this so empowering to read some of these comments! As a young woman breastfeeding her 1st baby of 10mths i often look at my less perky breasts and sigh... but the reality is that this body is just a vessel, it ages, withers and perishes - daunting but true - What will live on is our children and our childrens children, genetically and emotionally influenced by the job we, as mothers, do today. Our cultures external obsession is not one to subscribe to at the expense of mother natures way. Great words but hard for even myself to follow at times... bloody vanity.

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  18. I'm 26 and I'm on my fourth pregnancy. I tandem nursed my 4 & 3 year old and weaned when I became pregnant with twins. Having loosing my twin pregnancy at 24 weeks I pumped for two weeks and then my breasts did the unexpected. They became teeny tiny fried eggs!! My breasts started out as a small B before pregnancy, then jumped to a large C while nursing and pregnant, but after it was all said and done I ended up a A- with hardly anything there and lots of loose skin. Now that I'm pregnant again, they have filled out and look gorgeous. I just may have to keep nursing for as long as I can to avoid going back to the fried eggs. I have considered getting a breast lift to remove the extra skin that's left over from all the stretching. I'm ok with the tiny breasts, easier to manage, no bras, and less fat for toxins to build up and create cancers, I just can't stand all that extra skin!

    I'd love to find research on methods women could do to avoid the fried egg breasts after pregnancy and nursing so we don't have to just live with it or resort to surgery.

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  19. I nursed three boys for a sum of 7 years.

    My little not quite A breasts surged to F or G cups after birth (for a week or so, great hard bowling balls of breast) and stayed at Cs while I was nursing. Since those days, I am back down to a not-quite-A and quite saggy. It is pretty hard to believe that having active boys pulling on them and having them remain larger than normal for seven years overall didn't contribute to the sagginess.

    That said, I'd do it again tomorrow. Feeding babies is what they are for!

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  20. As the researchers mentioned -- it is hormones, pregnancy (and the hormones of pregnancy, and then the hormones changing post-pregnancy), as well as age (and overall body size and breast construction in the first place) which causes breasts to sag or not sag as much as women grow older... It is not the act of breastfeeding itself. Formula feeding mothers who have several children and have never nursed a baby also get saggy boobs -- from hormones, pregnancy, postpartum hormones, body make up and age...

    Maybe, just maybe, that is how breasts are supposed to be in the first place.

    How many times have you seen a chimpanzee or ape or some other mammal who sits upright to nurse her young with 'perky' full breasts? Hmmm...

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  21. Hey ladys- I would have to say i was 19 when i got prego had 34C perky boobs- when i got prego they went to a 36DD plus being RH- I gained about 80 pounds from 105 pounds that i was.. After i stopped breastfeeding my first for 14 months my boobs when to a 36D and stayed nice and perky- Now after second pregnancy boobs went up to DDD then by birth went back down to 36D have been breastfeeding for almost 16 months and they have only went down about a half inch i notice but the husband is very happy. and so is my lil healthy breastfed babies <3 Now i am currently a small D cup With women boobs thats all :D

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  22. I nursed 3 children for 9 months / 8 months and 18 months. My B cups have not sagged :)

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  23. I'm still nursing my 12 month old. I have a cracking pair of boobs! My partner says that they look womanly! I'm a J cup post natal and I was an H cup before pregnancy. If anything, I wish my areole would go back smaller, but I'm not that bothered. My OH loves them and so does my baby! I'm not planning on changing either of them! :-)

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  24. I have a question...I'm perfectly willing to go braless, but what about when I start leaking (feeding a 3wk old)? Yesterday I was trying on some bras and milk was dripping on the floor. (I fed my baby as soon afterwards as I could.)

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  25. Thank you for posting this article. Important would also be to discuss breast changes after pregnancy and breastfeeding, where women develops breast pain that is cycle related. Since having my second child, I always get burning and dull aching in the same breast mid cycle. I never had this after I had my first child. It drives me crazy and I honestly do not understand it 100%. I have been to two doctors who both told me I had PMS? I was given an herbal remedy for it that has not helped. Also had an ultrasound, they did not find anything. No lumps in my breasts either....I think it is important for women to also understand their bodies after pregnancy, lots of changes.....

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  26. I loved not wearing a bra with B cup sized. Now after pregnancy I'm a D and it's not as comfortable as it used to be. :(

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  27. LOVE this article, comments, and gorgeous picture! My mother in law swears by wearing extremely supportive bras while breastfeeding, says it will prevent sagging, but I'm prone to mastitis if I wear anything constrictive. I didn't wear bras much with first child, but thought I would this time, 'til plugged ducts started.
    It's always best to listen to your body, and there are LOTS of sources with evidence that wearing bras will INCREASE sagging eventually. Of course, the bra industry hates that kind of info....

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  28. Wonderful article to dispel myths! The only argument I’d make is the last line: Research has shown breastfed infants have improved general health, growth and development as well as a lower risk of many acute and chronic illnesses than artificially fed infants. The truth is that breastfed infants have normal health, growth and development and formula fed babies have poorer health, growth and development and higher risk of many acute and chronic illnesses. We need to stop comparing breastfeeding to formula as if formula were the norm and breastfeeding is “better.” Breastfeeding is the norm, what we were created to do, anything less than that is just that...less than and risky!

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    Replies
    1. So very true! We always need to be aware of our language. Human milk for human babies is the baseline... all else is, unfortunately, sub-par as far as health and development goes.

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