When people think about Breastfeeding, quite a few things come to mind. Bonding, natural, maternal, big boobs – and of course, the dreaded sag after Breastfeeding. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories, or even lived the tale – but I’m here to tell you a secret…. it’s not true. Well, not exactly true.
What is true is that breasts change, especially through the course of pregnancy and breastfeeding. Hormones run roughshod through your body and through your skin, swelling the delicate flesh of not only your abdomen, but your breasts as well. Ducts grow, thrive and morph into milk delivery systems, pushing and pulling that same flesh into new and enormous proportions. The wax and wane of the skin is daunting, and one would be forgiven for assuming it is this process that can result in a less that desirable, firm, rack when all is said and done.
But it is more than that, much more. Mainly – it’s hormones. Seriously. Even if you NEVER breastfed, you would still see changes in your breast structure and firmness after a pregnancy. Remember all the changes your body – and most especially your breasts – went through over the last 9 months? Wait, it’s 10 months. 40 weeks. 40 divided by 4 is 10. Marketing people, marketing! Yeah, yeah.. I know they mean 9 FULL months, but come on. It’s 40 weeks. Or 38 – 42 weeks gestation if we are being honest. Ugh – can you tell I was a bit bitter about that? But I digress…
So, the changes that have occurred to your breasts are due more to hormones and the actual pregnancy than to breastfeeding. Oh, breastfeeding DOES contribute – but it is not the sole factor in the final shape and firmness, or the only cause of the dreaded sag. Also, breastfeeding sag is preventable – mostly.
What really causes Sagging
The lactation process is a full life cycle within your body, one that begins the moment you conceive and ends when the final stage, Lactation Involution, takes place. Involution is the retraction and cessation of milk production, when the glands reduce and the ducts shrink to pre-pregnancy size. It normally begins about 40 days after the LAST nursing session occurs. At that point, the supply and demand aspect of Lactation has completed, signaling the body that no more milk is required.
Involution is the key to maintaining a healthy looking rack after breastfeeding – by making involution a gradual process. A Gradual weaning, either child led or mother encouraged, which takes place over a longer period of time, allows the body’s natural elasticity to reassert itself and slowly ease the constant swelling to more manageable levels. By steadily reducing the number of feedings over time, your body slowly starts producing less milk, which will make the eventual cessation of production easier and less jarring hormonally.
What other steps you can take
Along with slow weaning or Baby Led Weaning, there are other, important, steps you can take to reduce sag or prevent it all together.
- Wear a supportive Nursing Bra
- Exercise (especially the pectoral muscles)
- Drink Plenty of water
- Keep your breasts moisturized (only use lanolin or other baby friendly ointment on your nipples)
- Keep good posture, both while breastfeeding and when not.
Some long term breast changes are normal and to be expected after breastfeeding cessation, but with proper preparation and exercise, the dreaded sag can be prevented.