Advertisement

Will My Breasts Sag If I Breastfeed?

Will My Breasts Sag If I Breastfeed?

The answer may surprise you. Learn what contributes to sagging over time and what you can do about it.

When it comes to feeding your baby, you’ve probably heard that “breast is best.” The list of benefits associated with breastfeeding is, in fact, fairly long.

Research shows that breastmilk not only provides infants with helpful hormones and antibodies, it could also help reduce their risk for a slew of diseases, ranging from asthma and childhood leukemia to obesity, type 2 diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Not having to buy formula and sterilize bottles can also save time and money—two valuable resources for growing families.

Still, the decision to breast or bottle-feed your baby is a personal one. Breastfeeding can be a challenge for many women, particularly working mothers.

Many women also have understandable concerns about the toll that breastfeeding could take on the shape of their breasts. Are they really going to sag afterwards? If this is something that worries you, rest assured: Women’s breasts may begin to sag over time for a variety of reasons, but mounting research shows that breastfeeding isn’t one of them.

“Breastfeeding by itself has not been found to cause breast sagging, and it has a lot of benefits, so concerns about breast sagging shouldn’t prevent you from breastfeeding,” says Anita Register, DO, an OBGYN affiliated with LewisGale Hospital in Montgomery, Virginia.

That said, there are several factors that could contribute to breast sagging. “Some of them you can control, and others you can’t,” Dr. Register points out.

It’s pregnancy—not breastfeeding
Women who’ve been pregnant are more likely to develop sagging breasts regardless of whether or not they ever breastfeed a child.

Women’s bodies go through many changes during pregnancy, some of which affect their breasts. Hormones—such as prolactin, estrogen, progesterone and human growth hormone—help prepare the breasts for milk production. The normal fatty and supportive tissue of the breast is displaced by tissue needed to produce breastmilk. As a result, the breasts become larger and heavier.

The breasts are connected to muscle by the Cooper ligaments, which are flexible and enable the breasts to move. These ligaments stretch to accommodate the increase in breast size during pregnancy, which could contribute to sagging down the road. The risk for sagging may increase with every pregnancy, even if women opt to bottle-feed their babies.

Other risk factors beyond your control
Breasts may naturally sag over time as the skin loses elasticity. The likelihood that your breasts will sag and how severely they’ll droop, however, depends on some other variables that you can’t do much about, including:

  • Your DNA: Genetics is not only a big determinant of the size of your breasts but also their shape and whether or not you’ll lose firmness and skin elasticity over time.
  • Your age: Pregnancy isn’t the only factor that can cause the Cooper ligaments to stretch. This is also a normal part of aging. The older you get, the greater the odds that your breasts may begin to sag. As women approach menopause, their bodies produce less estrogen. This may cause the breasts to lose firmness and elasticity.
  • Gravity: Over time, the force of gravity stretches the breast ligaments, which can lead to sagging.
  • Your cup size: Larger breasts tend to be heavier and, thanks again to gravity, this could increase the odds that they’ll eventually sag. “A larger bra size puts you at a higher risk, and unfortunately that’s not something you’re able to control as much,” Register notes.

What you can control
Ladies, it’s important to remember that unlike potentially worrisome breast changes such as lumps, pain or nipple discharge, sagging isn’t a health risk or a problem that requires treatment. But if you are concerned about possible changes in your appearance, there are some healthy lifestyle adjustments you can make to help reduce breast sagging.  

Maintain a healthy weight. Breast size can increase along with weight gain since the breasts contain fat tissue, causing ligaments and skin to stretch. “Women who weigh more are at a higher risk, so weight loss is important, especially before pregnancy,” explains Register. Rapid weight loss, on the other hand, can reduce breast size and also lead to sagging and excess skin. Maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding major fluctuations on the scale can help prevent these issues.

Don’t smoke. If you smoke, it’s time to quit. Aside from the long list of health risks associated with the habit, there is some evidence that smoking increases the risk for breast sagging. Research suggests that smoking can affect skin elasticity and contribute to decreased breast density. 

Protect your skin from the sun. Over time, exposure to harmful UV rays takes a toll on the skin, leading to loss of elasticity. “In general, it can damage skin, decrease elasticity, and cause more wrinkling and sagging overall—with any part of your body,” Register explains.  

Build muscle. Breasts don't contain muscle, so you can’t correct sagging with exercise. But using weights to target the chest wall muscles could help give the breasts a fuller appearance, Register says. “Exercising and strength training the pectoral muscles will help lift the breasts up,” she explains.

If you do breastfeed, try this
Breastfeeding itself won’t cause your breasts to sag but wearing supportive, well-fitting bras, particularly during and after pregnancy and while exercising, could help, advises Register. The support they provide, she explains, may alleviate some of the stretching associated with increased breast volume that can contribute to sagging.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

Sources:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Making the decision to breastfeed.”
March of Dimes. “Breastfeeding Is Best”
B Rinker, M Veneracion, CP Walsh. “The effect of breastfeeding on breast aesthetics.” Aesthetic Surgery Journal. 2008 Sep-Oct;28(5):534-7.
B Rinker, M Veneracion, CP Walsh. “Breast Ptosis: causes and cure.” Annals of Plastic Surgery. 2010 May;64(5):579-84.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office on Women’s Health. “Your Guide to Breastfeeding”
Nicholas Eriksson, Geoffrey M Benton, Chuong B Do, et al. “Genetic variants associated with breast size also influence breast cancer risk.” BMC Medical Genetics. 13, 53 (2012).
U.S National Library of Medicine. “Aging changes in the breast”
C De Marco, G Invernizzi, R Miceli, et al. “Breast change perception in women after smoking cessation. A pilot study.” Turmori Journal. 2011 Sep-Oct;97(5):672-5.
Mayo Clinic. “Are sagging breasts inevitable after breast-feeding?”
American Academy of Pediatrics. “How Your Body Prepares For Breastfeeding.”
Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Sun Safety.”
Mayo Clinic. “Breast Lift.”
LM1 Butler, EB Gold, SM Conroy. “Active, but not passive cigarette smoking was inversely associated with mammographic density.” Cancer Causes Control. 2010 Feb;21(2):301-11.
KK Jacobsen, E Lynge, I Vejborg. “Cigarette smoking and mammographic density in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health cohort.” Cancer Causes Control. 2016 Feb;27(2):271-80.
Yngve Bremnes, Giske Ursin, Nils Bjurstam. “Different measures of smoking exposure and mammographic density in postmenopausal Norwegian women: a cross-sectional study.” Breast Cancer Research volume 9, Article number: R73 (2007).

Should You Freeze Your Eggs? 6 Things to Know Before You Do
Should You Freeze Your Eggs? 6 Things to Know Before You Do
Someday, Bachelorette fan favorite Kaitlyn Bristowe wants to have a baby—but only when she's ready. The 31-year-old recently opened up about freezing ...
Read More
When does pregnancy begin?
John K. Jain, MDJohn K. Jain, MD
In nature, the human egg only lives 24 hours after ovulation. It is during this time that sperm must...
More Answers
Why am I more prone to strains when I'm pregnant?
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MDDr. Mehmet Oz, MD
The hormone relaxin helps soften the connective tissues of the body - relaxing the pelvic joints, ri...
More Answers
Can I Exercise During Pregnancy?
Can I Exercise During Pregnancy?