Many women hold the belief that nursing their babies is directly linked to changes in the firmness of their breasts. However research indicates that whether a woman chooses to breastfeed or not has little to no effect on the degree of “sagging” she experiences after pregnancy. Research shows that it is largely the changes that a woman’s breasts go through during pregnancy itself that leads to sagging, not whether the woman breastfeeds.
First, a little biology
Breasts have no muscle tissue. Rather, they are composed of fat, connective tissue and the milk producing system. The breasts are supported and connected to the chest by Cooper’s ligaments which naturally lengthen and stretch over time. Stretching of these ligaments is exacerbated by weight gain, and excessive movement of the breasts, such as during vigorous exercise if not properly supported.
During pregnancy your body prepares for the baby by starting the lactation (milk producing) process. Your breasts will become bigger and heavier as the milk glands develop. It is this increase in size along with other factors such as skin elasticity, smoking (which weakens skin elasticity), number of pregnancies and larger pre-pregnancy breast size, that scientists have found to contribute to sagging.
If a woman chooses not to breastfeed, or as the baby is weaned, milk production slows and eventually stops. Since milk producing glands comprise a greater proportion of the breast during lactation than fat, when lactation ends a woman will usually experience some decrease in volume. In some women this decrease in volume is temporary as fatty tissue will increase. In other women it is a permanent change.
So what does all this mean?
Basically, the research shows that once a woman decides to have a baby, the volume and firmness of her breasts after pregnancy is dependent on genetics and lifestyle factors rather than whether or not she chooses to breastfeed. However there are a few things you can do to minimize breast changes.
1. Moisturize. This improves skin elasticity, so while you’re rubbing cocoa butter on that tummy don’t forget the ”girls”.
2. Avoid wide weight fluctuations outside of pregnancy. When a woman is not pregnant or lactating the size of her breasts are largely determined by the amount of fatty tissue. Wide weight fluctuations will cause the breasts to increase and decrease in size which could put strain on the Cooper’s ligaments.
3. Wear a supportive bra that fits you now. Not one that fit 3 months ago or one that you will grow into. Bras that are too small or too big cannot do the job they are meant to do.
If you are not sure how to tell if your bras fit correctly don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a fit consultation. We’d also love to hear from mamas on what your experience has been so drop us a line.