One of the saddest things I sometimes hear from women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant is that they intend to bottlefeed their baby because they’ve been warned, usually from their Mothers, that breastfeeding causes droopy, saggy breasts.
Even women who are in full support of breastfeeding seem to accept that the choice to feed their child naturally with the best Nature can provide will ultimately sacrifice the firmness of their breast tissue and that saggy breasts post nursing are just part of the package.
While every woman is different and certainly in some instances, pregnancy and breastfeeding can cause undesirable changes to the appearance of the bosom despite mom’s best efforts, there are definite strategies that women can implement prior to and during nursing that can greatly lessen the impact.
In fact, it is totally possible and even normal to nurse several children and have little to no change in the appearance of the bosom once weaning of the last child takes place.
Could Saggy Breasts Syndrome perhaps primarily be the result of the appalling diet of most nursing mothers and the modern, abrupt approach to weaning rather than the act of breastfeeding itself?
Avoid Saggy Breasts by Preparing Breast Tissue with Diet
The most important thing a woman can do prior to nursing is to adequately prepare the breasts for the stress and strain of nursing with a diet that results in very strong, elastic skin.
Of critical note is that a lowfat diet that eschews butter, cream, and other animal fats while including vegetable oils from factory produced, low cholesterol spreads, dressings and other processed foods is not going to result in the elastic breast skin that avoids Saggy Breast Syndrome.
The reason is that every single cell in your skin and body has a cell membrane that should ideally be composed of at least 50% saturated fat. When the cell membranes of the skin are composed of mostly saturated fat like they should be, they are strong, resilient, and highly elastic with much cell membrane integrity.
If you avoid saturated fats in the diet and misguidedly starve your skin of the saturated fat it needs, instead consuming factory produced vegetable fats like soy and canola oil that are used heavily in nearly all processed foods, the cell membranes of your skin will incorporate some of these processed fats resulting in skin cells that are more easily damaged and not of the proper shape for the stretching and straining of nursing.
Plenty of saturated fats in the diet is also key to avoiding stretch marks on the breasts when the milk rapidly comes pouring in shortly after baby is born. Skin cells with highly saturated cell membranes will be elastic and not easily damaged by this sudden strain!
Another critical fat that healthy skin needs is arachidonic acid. This fat is primarily found in egg yolks and butter, which so many women preparing for pregnancy and nursing mistakenly avoid! Women in traditional Chinese provinces like Chongqing know better, however, as they are encouraged to eat up to 10 eggs per day along with plenty of chicken and pork while nursing! Perhaps this is one reason why it is rare to see a traditional Chinese woman with children who has breasts down around her belly button.
Arachidonic acid (AA) is an underappreciated fat for maintaining healthy skin. Arachidonic acid is critical for the proper formation of the junctions between skin cells. Without enough arachidonic acid in the diet, skin cannot adequately maintain moisture and is more susceptible to damage as the water between cells evaporates from missing cell-to-cell junctions.
Ideal Weaning Age to Minimize Saggy Breasts
In addition to diet, the approach a woman employs to wean her child significantly impacts the perkiness versus sagginess of her bosoms at the conclusion of breastfeeding.
The modern approach to weaning is to parent initiate the process and do so fairly suddenly once the child starts eating solid foods or Mom goes back to work.
Weaning around the 4-6 month mark contributes greatly to saggy breasts as this is the very time when baby’s demands for breastmilk are the greatest. Stopping nursing at this point is not a good idea as it can cause inordinantly saggy breasts with much excess skin much in the same way as an obese person who undergoes gastric bypass surgery and loses weight faster than the body can handle usually ends up with pounds and pounds of excess skin that need to be removed by surgery years later.
The better way to wean is as gradually as possible, ideally somewhere between the 2-4 year mark. When weaning is very gradual with the demand for nursing by the child easing off slowly as his/her appetite for solid foods increases, the body has time to slowly shrink and reabsorb the breast tissue and skin that stretched and greatly expanded to accommodate large quantities of breastmilk when the child was an infant.
Think of the difference between someone who loses weight at a rapid pace which is what happens after gastric bypass surgery versus someone who loses weight more gradually with improvements in diet and exercise alone. In the first scenario, much excess, sagging skin that needs to be removed by surgery is the typical result; in the second scenario, excess skin problems are much less of an issue if at all.
Nursing a child until 2-4 years old mimics the practice of Traditional Societies which carefully spaced the birth of children to ensure the optimal health of each child as well as the provision of nutrient dense breastmilk with all the helpful immune boosting factors until the child was well beyond babyhood.
Careful attention and thought to the diet followed well before pregnancy and during nursing as well as a slow instead of fast approach to weaning can go a long way toward ensuring that your breasts provide not only optimal nutrition for your baby but also maintain their shape afterwards!
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist