Does Breastfeeding Cause Saggy Breasts?

The Causes and Prevention of Sagging, Drooping, and Involution

Mother breastfeeding baby
Does breastfeeding cause your breasts to sag?. Stockbyte/Getty Images

Although breastfeeding tends to take all the blame for saggy breasts, it's not breastfeeding alone that causes the breasts to droop. Sagging is actually the result of pregnancy and other influences.

During pregnancy, the breasts go through changes and grow larger to prepare for breastfeeding. Then, after your baby is born, breast milk fills your breasts, stretching the skin even more. So once you wean your child, and the breast milk dries up, your breasts may appear smaller, less full, and even saggy.

But, these breast changes can happen even if you decide not to breastfeed.  

After pregnancy and breastfeeding, the breasts can return to the way they were before, remain larger, or become smaller. If the breast tissue shrink down, but the skin stays stretched, the breasts will look saggy. So, why do some women end up with saggy breasts and others don't? Here are some of the things can cause sagging.

What Causes Saggy Breasts?

How Many Times You've Been Pregnant: The more children you have, the more stretched out your breasts will become.

The Size and Shape of Your Pre-Pregnancy Breasts: Smaller breasts with a rounder bottom tend to hold their shape better than larger or narrow breasts.

The Amount of Weight You Gain: If you gain a lot of weight during your pregnancy, it can lead to larger, stretched out breasts. 

Smoking: Smoking causes the skin to lose elasticity, so smokers are more likely to develop saggy breasts.

Your Genetics: The genes you get from your family play a part in the size and shape or your breasts, the strength of your Cooper's ligaments, and your body weight.

Your Age: Regardless of pregnancy and breastfeeding, age will eventually catch up with every woman. Unfortunately, sagging is a just a normal part of the aging process.

Can You Prevent Your Breasts From Sagging?

Since there are so many factors that contribute to sagging, you can't completely prevent it. However, there are some things you can do to try to keep your breasts from drooping for as long as you can.

  • Wear a supportive braLigaments in your breasts, called Cooper's ligaments, lift and support your breasts. Over time, gravity pulls at the breasts — especially large breasts — stretching these ligaments and causing the breasts to sag.  To help prevent sagging, you can wear a supportive nursing bra throughout the day and at night during your pregnancy, and while you're breastfeeding.  A supportive bra can help to hold up your breasts, keep the ligaments from stretching, and prevent your skin from sagging.
  • Don't gain too much weight. The more you weight you gain during pregnancy and while you're breastfeeding, the larger and more stretched out your breasts may become. Then, later when you want to lose the weight, the stretched out skin will sag. 
  • Use a safe moisturizer. Healthy, moisturized skin may bounce back better than dry skin. Just be sure to choose a product that's safe for breastfeeding mothers, or ask your doctor for a recommendation. 
  • Try to lose your pregnancy weight slowly. When you lose weight quickly, it doesn't give your skin the chance to shrink down along with the weight loss. The skin can hang down and look saggy. Slowly losing weight is healthier, and it gives your skin the time to tighten up as your body shrinks in size. 
  • Don't smoke. If you smoke, try to quit. Not only does smoking contribute to saggy skin, but it's also dangerous for both you and your baby. 

What Is Breast Involution?

Involution is the return of the breasts to the way they were before pregnancy and breastfeeding. About six months after you stop breastfeeding, your breasts should appear similar to their former size and shape although they might be a little smaller or larger than they were before. 

Severe Breast Involution and Sagging

After weaning, some women experience a greater degree of involution compared to others. Sometimes the breast tissue that produces the breast milk shrinks all the way down, but the skin around the breast remains the same. In this case, the breasts may lose their shape and appear deflated, saggy, and droopy.  

Severe breast involution may be a cosmetic concern, but it's not a medical problem. When you decide to have another baby, your breast tissue will once again grow and make breast milk without an issue. If you do not become pregnant again, your breasts may become fuller and return to their previous shape in about three years or so.

Saggy Post-Breastfeeding Breasts and Plastic Surgery

If you do not wish to wait a few years, or if your breasts do not return to their former shape, and you are unhappy, plastic surgery is an option. Breast augmentation or a breast lift are two procedures that can restore the shape and size of your breasts. However, keep in mind that if at some point, you decide to have another baby, breast surgery can interfere with breastfeeding in the future. So, it's important to discuss this with your plastic surgeon.

 

Sources:

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.

Rinker, B., Veneracion, M., Walsh, CP. Breast Ptosis: Causes and Cure. Annals of Plastic Surgery: 2010 May;64(5):579-84.

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