Women, sometimes, avoid breastfeeding because they are concerned about the impact it may have on the appearance of their breasts. However, research has shown that breastfeeding doesn’t negatively affect breast size or volume and is not a risk factor for sagging breasts after pregnancy, said Dr Lovleena Nadir, Rosewalk Hospital.
Factors that contribute to breast sagging are:
*Pregnancy, due to hormonal changes, is in fact the biggest cause of sagging breasts and not breastfeeding. Due to the stretching of the Cooper’s ligaments (that help attach breasts to chest muscles and hold them in position) and loss of skin elasticity during pregnancy, the risk of sagging increases. It increases with each pregnancy and happens irrespective of whether baby is breastfed or not.
*Women who have larger breasts are more vulnerable to the effect of gravity.
*Multiple pregnancies increase the risk of sagging irrespective of breast feeding.
*Smoking contributes to breast sagging as nicotine breaks down elastin (a protein that maintains the elasticity of the skin and helps the skin to stretch and recover).
*Other causes include ageing, collagen deficiency, estrogen deficiency, overexposure to the sun, increased BMI, and rapid weight loss.
“So, a bit of sag is inevitable but to maintain optimal breast health during pregnancy and lactation, following certain tips may prove useful,” said Dr Nadir.
*A correctly fitting, supporting bra is important to counteract the effect of gravity and to provide support. Increase in breast size can strain the supporting ligaments. After weaning the baby, breasts decrease in mass and size. A well-fitting bra is useful in maintaining breast shape.
*Maintain healthy weight: Slow weight loss after childbirth helps the body to adapt. Losing half a kg per week is adequate.
*Eating a well-balanced diet with adequate protein, promotes healthy collagen production and keeps to maintain health of the skin.
*Foods rich in antioxidants including fruits and green leafy vegetables help to detox and maintain the integrity and appearance of the skin.
*Boost estrogen production: Add soy, flaxseeds, tofu and other foods containing phytoestrogens to your diet to maintain volume of breasts.
*Regular breast massage helps to increase blood flow and cellular growth.
*Stay hydrated: Drink 2-3 litres of water per day. Hydration keeps your skin healthy and plump.
*Limit dehydrating beverages like tea, coffee, aerated drinks and alcohol.
*Protect yourself from UV rays of the sun: Wear high protection sunscreen to protect your skin and maintain skin’s elasticity.
*Moisturise and exfoliate your skin.
*Include regular physical activity. Consider adding chest presses, push ups and strength training to your exercise routine.
*Practise good posture.
*Wean off your baby slowly.