Does breastfeeding cause saggy breasts?

by Jessica Faye Hinton on January 20, 2011

I should begin by saying that this post is meant to open a frank conversation on the merits of widely held belief, spread anecdotally, that breastfeeding causes sagging breasts.

It was inspired by a recent encounter with my new breasts in an excessively lit Macys dressing room. It was New Years day, and I was trying on bras to fit my newly formed breasts.

In fitting a strap over my shoulder, I caught a glimpse of them for, what seemed like, the first time since pregnancy. I turned away, then turned back, thinking that what I was seeing was not really me, but someone else. (Yes, as you know, I do have problems with mirrors.)

I asked, perhaps aloud, “Who is that woman?” I knew upon enunciating “woman” that she was me.

(sigh)

I still didn’t want to believe it, however. So, I then asked, “What happened to her (or my) breasts?” And “Why didn’t she (or I) see this (or them) sooner?”

Up until that unwanted encounter, I was convinced that it was pregnancy, not breastfeeding, that causes a woman’s breasts to, well, creep southward. I said this, as you may recall, in the post “Obnoxious Comments and Clever Responses: Breastfeeding,” and I continued to cite this fact (as elaborated by numerous studies pointed to by breastfeeding advocates) to any mom who is even remotely considering not breastfeeding for the sake of her breasts.

But, let me play devil’s advocate for a second and ask, what if? What if, despite the research that says otherwise, breastfeeding does cause a woman’s breasts to sag more than if she had not breastfed at all?

In speaking with some other breastfeeding moms about their very changed breasts upon weaning their children, I heard the following:

a) “My baby pulled on them too much during feedings…”
b) “I was too rough when expressing milk with my hand…”
c) “I attempted to feed my baby too often while in his car seat..”
d) “I didn’t wear bras (like I was supposed to) at night…”

“…and THIS is why my breasts are more saggy/deflated/covered with stretch marks/etc.”

Because I have enjoyed my experience in nursing my daughter and value the benefits of breastfeeding more than the possible downfalls of possibly lumpy, sagging, or deflated breasts, I’m ok with the possible “truth” that it is breastfeeding that leads to more, well, uh, changes (yes, that sounds best).

And, if a new mom interested in breastfeeding came to me with concerns about its impact on the shape of her breasts, I would likely lie and refer her to the numerous studies produced that prove that breastfeeding is not be blamed. This , after all, or at least it seems, is the most appropriate, scientifically supported response. It is the necessary response to prevent women from choosing to care about how their breasts look while trying on bras in a well-lit Macys department store. Right? Right?!

If you are (or were) a breastfeeding mom, how did your breasts change post-weaning your child? Is there any truth to the widely believed myth that breastfeeding causes saggy breasts?

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