Breastfeeding, or nursing, is something many mothers enjoy as it creates a unique bond with their infants. Breastfeeding should begin almost immediately after a child is born; professionals actually recommend that it be done within the first hour of your new baby’s life, and the more the baby is fed in its early days, the better for multiple reasons.
Nursing your child in the first few days is important because this is when your body will produce colostrum, a special type of milk that will help build up the infant’s immune system and so not get sick. Some mothers opt for formula instead of natural breastmilk, but breastmilk has been shown to be much more beneficial to a child than formula and the act of breastfeeding is beneficial not just to the nascent child’s health, but also to the mother’s health.
Unfortunately, a lot of women worry about the effect breastfeeding could have on their breasts, specifically the appearance of their breasts. Can nursing really make your breasts less attractive, or is this just a myth? We’ll cover all that and more in this article.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
First, to offset some possible negative effects of breastfeeding, let’s talk about all its benefits for both mother and child. It’s a good idea to feed your baby whenever he or she seems hungry in the first days of life as this can stimulate the production of more milk in your body which will help to build up a supply for the coming months. Plentiful breastfeeding can reduce your child’s risk of jaundice and help him or her to retain weight, which is obviously important.
Breastmilk, as opposed to formula, has an ideal mix of nutrients that are vital for your child’s wellbeing. It makes perfect sense that it would since it is expressly produced by Nature for the purpose of feeding an infant! The antibodies contained within help prop up your child’s developing immune system and so prevent the risk of things like allergies or asthma.
As for the mother, nursing has been shown to reduce her risk of developing breast cancer. It helps excess weight gained during pregnancy to decrease (something we all want!) and can help prevent uterine bleeding. An added bonus is that, since you won’t have to buy formula, it ultimately will save you money. So there are many positives (which is why organizations such as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly recommend it), but what about negative effects?
Will your breasts ever be the same after breastfeeding?
Some expectant mothers, or women desiring to become pregnant, have heard a lot of negative things about the effects breastfeeding will have upon the shape of their breasts. Fearing that their breasts will never be as shapely or perky again, they decide to opt for bottled milk or formula instead.
Unfortunately, they then miss out on all the benefits of natural breastfeeding listed above! You may have heard of something (informally) called “Saggy Breasts Syndrome” and be worried that your breasts will become like this. The medical term for sagging breasts is ptosis, and it’s helpful to remember that, especially if you’re aging, this can happen no matter what you do.
Let’s get something out of the way: it’s important to realize that your breasts may become a bit “droopy” in the first weeks after your baby is born, but this is due to the fact that they naturally increase in size after giving birth and during late pregnancy. Hormones cause the lobes of the milk-secreting glands to grow, and this increase in size will put more strain on what are called Cooper’s ligaments, the structures which attach breasts to the chest wall.
This is completely normal and your breasts will return to the size they were during pregnancy in a week or two, so don’t panic! Eventually, after weaning and when you return to your pre-pregnancy weight, your breasts will return to their pre-pregnancy size as well.
A 2008 study by the Aesthetic Surgery Journal showed that breast ptosis can’t be proven to be tied with breastfeeding. It confirmed that sagging has more to do with the rapid weight gain and loss in breasts, due to the influx of milk and natural growth of breasts discussed above. This study showed that the risk of sagging does tend to increase if the woman has been pregnant multiple times, however.
One factor that is suspected by some is that weaning too quickly can cause sagging breasts. It’s important to wean your child the right way! Many women, due to the demands of modern life (returning to work, etc.) can wean their children much too quickly. You want to wean your baby gradually, even in the 2-4 year range. Weaning too quickly can cause your baby to become distressed, and can negatively impact your baby’s health, so you really want to make sure you’re doing this correctly.
Make sure to talk to your doctor about all this and continue supplementing that with your own research. If you do things the right way, the risk of developing saggy breasts is not as high as you think, and the long-term benefits of natural breastfeeding for both you and your child shouldn’t be ignored!
What Else Can Cause Saggy Breasts?
Other factors have been thought to possibly cause saggy breasts. These include being overweight, becoming pregnant when older and smoking. Even having a large bra size before pregnancy has been tied to developing saggy breasts!
If your breasts do end up changing shape, please don’t worry so much about it. There are a lot of factors that can go into this, and all you can do is do everything in your power to avoid it. Even if your breasts do become less voluptuous, there’s always the option of cosmetic surgery to reduce excess skin and reshape the contours of your breasts.
Go easy on yourself; your body has just produced another human being, and that’s something to be proud of no matter what happens. Simply rest assured that you’re doing everything you can and that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh possible saggy breasts, which can be fixed anyway.