During pregnancy and breastfeeding, women experience dramatic and rapid breast changes. In fact the most they’ll experience in their whole lives! Many women worry that breastfeeding will make them have saggy boobs, but in actual fact, it’s the changes that occur during pregnancy that are more likely to be the culprit.
The dramatic increase in size and subsequent fluctuations will cause the skin to stretch and contract. This puts a fair degree of stress on the skin as it has to adapt based on breast mass. Just like your pregnant belly, the ability for the skin to recover from stretch is largely down to genetics and the stress increased breast size and weight puts on the skin.
While there’s no miracle cure for sagging, a few things can help keep it to a minimum and preserve a younger more youthful appearance after pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Why do breasts sag after pregnancy/nursing?
Our breasts are attached to our muscles by Cooper’s Ligaments, which are like large rubber bands that hold the breast into position.
Tension on the ligaments starts as early as the first trimester, which is when most women experience a rapid increase in breast size.
- The increased size and weight of the breast puts added strain on the ligaments, causing them to stretch slightly.
- As a woman’s milk comes in, her milk ducts grow. This results in an ever larger, heavier breast and increased strain on the ligaments.
- Over time the ligaments begin to lose their elasticity, much like a rubber band that has been stretched for a long period of time without being able to contract.
- A woman’s milk comes in regardless of whether she intends to breastfeed, so this strain is unavoidable. However the continuous size fluctuations experienced during breastfeeding have the potential to contribute to sag if the ligaments are unsupported.
What other factors can cause breasts to sag?
An unhealthy diet and age are two other factors that can lead to premature sagging of the breast.
- A diet high in refined sugars, alcohol and processed foods weakens the skin structure and can lead to premature sagging.
- As we age our body loses elasticity faster. Research has suggested that women who fall pregnant and breastfeed in their 30s have an increased risk of breast sagging as the elasticity in their breasts is already declining.
What can I do to help prevent my breasts from sagging?
1. Wear a good, supportive bra
A supportive bra is the key to maintaining the firmness of the bust, as this will support the breasts when under strain. This can be during exercise, premenstrual increase, pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Wearing a good maternity and nursing bra during pregnancy and breastfeeding is non-negotiable. A woman’s bust will weigh significantly more than a non-breastfeeding breast of the same size (up to 33% more, in fact). We recommend you get fitted to ensure you are wearing the right size, so your ligaments don’t have to pick up all the slack.
You might also like: 9 Qualities You Should Look For In A Good Nursing Bra
- Bounce be gone! The ligaments are under more strain than usual when you exercise, so it is crucial to wear a supportive and well-structured bra. Please ensure that the straps and underband are done up to their correct position to limit any bounce. More bounce means more sag.
- If you are just running to catch the bus or bouquet — make sure you hold onto the girls if your bra isn’t adequate for the event.
- Wear a bra when you sleep. This is particularly pertinent if you have a fuller bust. Your ligaments need to be supported whether they’re hanging vertically or to the sides.
2. Eat healthy food
A healthy diet will help retain healthy skin, collagen levels and reduce the risk of obesity. An unhealthy weight can lead to additional fat stores and an increased bust size.
- It’s been shown that foods high in antioxidants (red wine, chocolate, berries, beetroot, green tea, etc) actually rid your body of toxins. If toxins are present, you’re more likely to have a lack of collagen in your skin, aka the thing that keeps the outermost layer of your skin plump and full.
- Your body makes collagen by combining amino acids from nutrient and protein rich foods you eat such as beef, chicken, fish, beans, eggs, tofu and some dairy products.
- The process also requires other minerals such as Vitamin C, zinc and copper. Add these to your diet by eating citrus fruits, guavas, capsicum, kiwi fruit, strawberries, oranges, papayas, broccoli, tomatoes, kale and snow peas.
- Avoid quick weight loss or weight gain. When weight is lost quickly the skin doesn’t have the ability to react as quickly as the changes take place. This can also be true for breastfeeding – which is why we are told to wean slowly as this will be less likely to result in sagging of the breast. The skin and ligaments will have more time and ability to strengthen with the slow reduction of tissue rather than a dramatic quick deflation.
3. Hydrate & moisturise
Other ways to support your skin’s natural elasticity are to moisturise and hydrate.
Drink plenty of water
Keeping your body well hydrated will help to ensure your skin remains youthful and nourished, reducing your risks of wrinkling and dehydration. A healthy skin will perform better. Avoid dehydrating drinks such as tea, coffee, soft drinks and alcohol.
Moisturising your skin and keeping it from drying out will help it cope better with fluctuations.
- When showering, try not to use water that is too hot as this can dry the skin out.
- Use a soap that is natural and doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals.
- Apply a moisturiser to your skin daily after your shower.
- Natural coconut oil or shea butter will keep your skin dewy and soft.
- If you don’t like oily moisturisers, you can opt for a natural oil-free dermatological moisturiser.
4. Sleep on your back
In order to reduce the strain on your ligaments, try sleeping on your back. If you find this too uncomfortable or you’re pregnant, try sleeping on your side while wearing a sleep bra for extra support.
5. Protect them from the sun
If you know you will be out and about in the sun, it’s best to wear a high protection sunscreen to not only save your skin’s elasticity, but also protect you from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Your decolletage skin is thinner and more penetrable than on your arms and legs, so cover up if you know you’re going to be exposed.
If you want to wear a low cut top and show off your cleavage, go for it, but protect them at the same time.
The sun’s UV rays are just as damaging as time itself so if you want to keep your perkiness in your breasts, stay covered.
6. Say no to smoking
Smoking nicotine breaks down the protein in your skin called elastin. Elastin is responsible for the elastic capabilities of your skin. Basically to stretch and recover.
Think about a pair of briefs that doesn’t have any elastic left in them. So, if you’re thinking about lighting up, think again.
7. If all else fails, then there is a breast lift surgery
This is called a mastopexy procedure.
Basically, the excess skin is removed and tightened. This lifts the breasts back to where they were previously (or even higher).
The procedure is similar to a breast reduction but without the removal of the fatty tissue underneath.
Regular exercise will help to keep your skin firm and will help to reduce the amount of body fat you carry. Light to moderate levels of exercise during pregnancy is recommended too, to help minimise unnecessary weight gain.
Make sure to wear a supportive bra at all times when doing vigorous exercise.
Strengthening your pectoral muscles (the ones under your breasts) as well as the muscles in your core, back and shoulders can help reduce the appearance of sag by improving overall tone and posture.
9. Be refitted after breastfeeding
You will notice over time that your breasts will decrease not only in size, but in mass too. Most women find that after breastfeeding they are a completely new bra size compared to what they were pre-pregnancy.
It is recommended to be fitted by a professional bra fitter when your old bras no longer fit properly. This will help to ensure your breasts continue to be properly supported and reduce any further sag.
A well fitting bra will help to lift your breasts into place and provide them with much needed support and comfort.
If you follow these basic steps, not only will you be leading a healthy lifestyle, but you may not have to worry as much about breast sagging. Just like grey hair and wrinkles, sagging of the skin in general is inevitable with age, but we can try to delay it as much as possible.