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Breastfeeding Leads to Sagging Breasts: Fact or Fiction?

Breastfeeding Leads to Sagging Breasts: Fact or Fiction?

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Many new mothers decide not to breastfeed because they are afraid that their breasts will sag. Those that do breastfeed often blame breastfeeding for their sagging breasts. After repeatedly hearing breast lift patients explain that they wanted the surgery to correct what breastfeeding had done to their breasts, Lexington, Kentucky plastic surgeon Brian D. Rinker decided to put this old wives' tale to the test.

The Yale-educated doctor interviewed 132 patients who visited the University of Kentucky's plastic surgery clinic between 1998 and 2006 for a breast augmentation or breast lift consultation. Researchers noted each woman's age, BMI (body mass index), pre-pregnancy bra cup size, breastfeeding history, weight gain or loss during pregnancy, and smoking history.

Of the 132 women, 93 had at least one term pregnancy before considering breast lift surgery. Out of these 93 women, 54 breastfed at least one child and 51 believed that their breasts changed in size and shape following their pregnancy.

The Results

Dr. Rinker presented his findings in a report titled "The Effect of Breastfeeding upon Breast Aesthetics" at the annual meeting of the American Society for Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) in October 2007 in Baltimore. In the report, he concludes that breastfeeding does not contribute to breast ptosis (the medical term for breast sagging). According to Dr. Rinker, the factors that adversely affect the appearance of a woman's breasts include a larger pre-pregnancy cup size and a higher number of pregnancies.

Age and a history of smoking were also determined to increase the degree of breast sagging. Both age and cigarette smoking are associated with the loss of skin elasticity, which may well account for their role in breast ptosis.

The Breast Choice

Dr. Rinker's study could aid breastfeeding advocates in their struggle to banish the beliefs that lead women to prefer the bottle over the breast. Organizations such as La Leche League International, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization (WHO) have issued statements extolling the benefits of breastfeeding.

According to La Leche League International, human breast milk is tailor-made to meet the specific needs of human babies. In addition to providing all the necessary nutrients to help babies grow strong and develop properly, breast milk is full of antibodies that protect them from illnesses. It also decreases a baby's risk of developing allergies or cavities later in life. And the benefits of breastfeeding aren't just restricted to babies. La Leche reports reduced rates of breast and ovarian cancer in mothers who breastfeed.

Ultimately, it is a mother's choice whether or not to breastfeed her baby, but studies such as Dr. Rinker's can help mothers to make educated choices.

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