During pregnancy most women experience an increase in their breast size.
Whilst breastfeeding, the change can be even more pronounced and depending on milk supply and feeding patterns, regular change is to be expected.
The breast goes through significant change during both pregnancy and nursing.
The increase and associated change will cause the skin to stretch and contract, putting a fair degree of stress on the skin to adapt based on breast mass. Once you do stop feeding, a loss of mass could create sagging.
The ability for the skin to recover from stretch is largely down to genetics and the physics of weight and stress the skin is put under.
Whilst there’s no miracle cure for sagging, a few things can help prevent extensive sagging and preserve a younger more youthful appearance after pregnancy.
Why do breasts sag after pregnancy/nursing?
Our breasts are attached to our muscles by Cooper’s Ligaments. The ligaments are like large rubber bands that hold the breast into position.
Tension on the ligaments starts as early as pregnancy. It is during the first trimester that most women will experience a rapid increase in breast size.
- The increased size and weight of the breast puts added strain onto the ligaments causing them to stretch slightly (sag).
- When a women’s milk comes in, her milk ducts grown in size, resulting in a larger heavier breast. This adds a greater strain on the ligaments causing them to stretch even further.
- Over time the Cooper’s ligaments will begin to lose their elasticity much like a rubber band that has been stretched for a long period of time.
- Women who breastfeed for extended periods of time will possibly put added pressure on the ligaments, resulting in sag.
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 sugar, alcohol and nicotine weakens the skin structure causing premature sagging.
- As we age our body loses elasticity faster. Research has suggested that women who fall pregnant and breastfeed in their 30’s have an increased risk of breast sagging. If you fall pregnant later in life, it’s more likely that your breasts would have naturally lowered due to age and lifestyle choices.
What can I do to help prevent my breasts from sagging?
We’ve all heard the saying ‘play the cards you’re dealt with!’
Well, we can always help deter genetics and time, or we can help them along the way with poor lifestyle choices, unhealthy eating habits, exercising (or even just bouncing) without support and others listed in this article.
The aim is to keep the ligaments in tact for as long as possible. So, how do prevent sagging breasts now and in the future?
1. Wear a good supportive bra
Wearing a good maternity and nursing bra during pregnancy and while breastfeeding is important.
A woman’s bust will weigh significantly more (up to 33% more of the same size) and will need to be supported.
A good supportive bra should fit correctly. It should feel comfortable and hold your breasts firmly in place in an upright position.
We recommend you get fitted to ensure you are wearing the right size.
When your breasts are undergoing the most rapid and dramatic change, this is the time when a good supportive bra is needed 24 hours a day, to help your ligaments.
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There is debate that wearing a bra more often actually makes your breast sag was trialled on pre-pubescent girls of varying sizes, stages of development, sizes and amounts of general exercise.
It has been trialled that if you are developing breasts, then wearing a bra 50% of the time will help your ligaments naturally strengthen, but this is not true for when the increase in weight and size is over a very short amount of time – aka when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
This is also not true for when you have larger breasts or do a number of exercises on a daily basis. Think about slowly lowering an orange inside a stocking, compared to dropping one in there. Ouch!
A supportive bra is the key to maintaining the firmness of the bust as this will support the breasts when under strain during the times of influx. This can be during exercise, premenstrual increase, pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Wear a well supported and structured bra when you are exercising. The ligaments are under more strain than usual when you exercise. This is the most crucial time when you should be wearing a well supported and 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.
- Wear a bra when you sleep. This is particular pertininant (mind the pun) if you have a fuller bust. Not only do you want to help the ligaments that hold your breasts vertical, but to help them when your bust is going to fall out the sides (of the that cute tank top) too.
There’s no proof that a bra will stop you from sagging at all, but the more support you give your puppies, the less likely that age and other factors will take their hold.
2. Eat healthy food
Basically, a healthy diet will help retain healthy skin and reduces the risk of obesity. An unhealthy weight can lead to additional fat stores and an increased bust size.
- It’s been tested that foods high in antioxidants (red wine, chocolate, berries, beetroot, green tea etc) actually rid your body of toxins. If toxins are present then there is more likely to be a lack of collagen in your skin. This the thing that degenerates as you age and keeps your outermost layer plump and full. Think Angelina Jolie lips when she was 19.
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- If you don’t think you are getting all the vitamins and minerals that you need, then try some supplements that are good for your skin and collagen boosting properties. It’s difficult to eat collagen as your body makes it. When you get older, the ability to make it becomes less. 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 required other minerals such as Vitamin C, zinc and copper. Add these minerals and vitamin C to your diet by eating citrus fruits, guavas, bell peppers, kiwifruit, 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 at the same pace and retract with the lessening of the body below. 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. Keep your skin hydrated
Other ways to support your skins natural elasticity is to moisturise and hydrate.
What’s the difference? Hydration is from the inside out (drinking water basically) and moisturization is topical.
Imagine trying to reduce wrinkles on a let balloon by only rubbing in moisturizer. But if you fill it with water, the wrinkles disappear.
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!
Moisturizing your skin and avoiding it from drying out will help it cope better with the stretch & loss of mass cycles.
- 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 moisturizer 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 moisturizers, you can opt for a natural non-oily dermatological moisturizer.
4. Sleep on your back
If you can sleep on your back, this is debatably the best position to sleep in as your breasts are not being squashed on your stomach and not being folded together or hanging if you are sleeping on your side.
We recommend a sleeping bra for not only support when sleeping.
Yes, you do move around a lot when you sleep.
Some women find sleeping in a sleep bra on warmer nights more comfortable as the bra will absorb any sweat that can occur during the night.
Opt for a bra that is high in cotton or bamboo for such evenings.
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 bust’s 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 décolletage, 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 can cause your breast tissue to stretch (sag).
Smoking 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. Yep.
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 it was previously (or even higher).
The procedure is similar to 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 minimize unnecessary weight gain.
If you are new to exercise, and need to lose weight, start off slow to ensure weight loss is gradual. This will also help prevent skin tissue build up in too short a period of time.
Make sure to wear a supportive bra at all times when doing vigorous exercise.
Although you cannot change the shape of your breasts, you can build and tone the pectoral muscles (the muscles that your breasts sit on) to help your breasts have a strong and toned platform.
Strengthening these muscles as well as the muscles in your core, back and shoulders can help the appearance of sag by improving overall tone and posture.
What exercises will help to firm up my saggy breasts?
Cardio work alone will not tone and build muscle mass. In order to help firm excess skin, particularly around your chest area, you will need to participate in some type of weight or resistance training.
Join a gym and discuss with your PT your problem areas. Specific exercises will be given to help target and tone your chest.
It is important to remember that you will never completely eliminate saggy breasts, toning and strengthening the area will help to improve the appearance but will never completely eliminate the problem.
What should I do when I stop breastfeeding?
You will notice over time that your breasts will decrease not only in size, but mass too. Most women find that after breastfeeding they are a completely new bra size compared to what they were pre pregnancy.
It is my recommendation that you should go and get fitted by a professional bra fitter when you old bras no longer fit properly. This will help to ensure your breasts continue to be properly supported and reduce any further sag.
A good fitting bra will help to lift your breasts into place and provide them with much needed support and comfort.
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