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Moms Don't Breastfeed For Fear of Sagging

A study of moms 18-25 found that half of them did not plan to breastfeed. The most common reason:  Vanity. They don’t want to ruin their boobs.

Putting aside the obvious concerns about prioritizing one’s appearance over one’s infant’s optimal food source, there is a fundamental problem with this line of reasoning.

Experts say that breast sagging is not caused by breastfeeding, but by something else…

PREGNANCY.

You know how your boobs get bigger when you’re pregnant? Well, it’s that expansion, and the eventual contraction, that leads breasts in a southward direction. They swell when you’re pregnant, and the skin stretches to their new girth. Then, later, they go back to “normal”, except the skin they’re in doesn’t shrink up entirely. So the excess skin leads to a looser, sometimes saggier breast shape. Breastfeeding keeps breasts fuller for longer, so it actually delays the sagging for awhile (and takes the rap in the process.)

It’s true that breasts can get bigger in the initial engorgement phase. But this happens whether you end up breastfeeding or not, and the short term stretching is less substantial than the nine months of fullness most women experience in pregnancy. As far as I know there are no longitudinal studies of breast firmness in formula vs. breastfeeders to back up this theory, but it is the most widely given theory on the cause of breast sagging.

I’m not surprised to hear that preservation of perky breasts is such a big factor in people’s decisions about baby feeding. Most of us have grown up with the idea of breasts as primarily a source of entertainment, rather than a source of food. Women are very invested in their breasts being attractive, both for self-image and as an attraction for men.

In interpreting the study, health officials noted that a fair number of women find that breastfeeding actually helps their body confidence postpartum as it can—but doesn’t always—help with weight loss. They also acknowledged that more education about breastfeeding as it relates to both babies and mothers was clearly in order.

photo: Justin Taylor/flickr

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