Does breastfeeding cause sagging? Here’s what an expert says

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It is a well-known fact that breastfeeding benefits both the mother and her baby. Not only does it help meet the baby’s nutritional needs, but also creates a bond between the mother and the child. As such, “WHO and UNICEF recommend that children initiate breastfeeding within the first hour of birth and be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life – meaning no other foods or liquids are provided, including water,” the World Health Organization website reads.

But, like with all other things, there are many myths that surround the same — from breastfeeding making the breasts saggy to bigger breasts producing more milk. But is there truth to any?

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Dr Radhamany K, Clinical Professor and Head, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Amrita Hospital, spoke to indianexpress.com and busted various myths surrounding breastfeeding.

#Larger breasts make more milk

The size of the breast depends on the amount of fatty tissue present in the breasts. Women with smaller breasts have less fatty tissue and while those with larger breasts have more fatty tissue. “Irrespective of the breast sizes, all women are fully capable of producing a healthy supply of breast milk as that is produced by glandular tissue and not by fatty tissue,” said Dr Radhamany.

“However, women with smaller breasts may have to breastfeed more often due to the lesser amount of milk the breast tissue can hold,” she added.

Larger breasts make more milk is a myth. (Photo: Freepik)

#Breastfeeding causes the breasts to sag

According to Dr Radhamany, breastfeeding does not affect the shape or size of the breast. Breasts are affected by the natural increase in fullness during pregnancy and decrease in weight soon after. They, however, remain enlarged while breastfeeding. “After feeding, the breast slowly decreases in size. The ligaments that support a woman’s breast stretch as it gets heavier during pregnancy. After pregnancy, even if a woman doesn’t breastfeed, the stretching of ligaments might contribute to the sagging of the breast,” she informed.

#You can’t take medicines if you are breastfeeding

“Around 15% of the medicine usually gets transferred through breast milk out of which only 1-2% is absorbed by the infant,” she said. According to Dr Radhamany, paracetamol, asthma inhalers, vitamins, and most antibiotics are totally safe to take during breastfeeding. However, codeine, nasal decongestants, aspirin, herbal medicines, anticancer drugs, oral retinoids, iodine, amiodarone, statins, amphetamines, ergotamines (anti migraine agents) should be avoided.

Paracetamol, asthma inhalers, vitamins, and most antibiotics are totally safe to take during breastfeeding, says Dr Radhamany K, Clinical Professor and Head, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Amrita Hospital

“Feeding the baby just before the mother takes medicine results in receiving the lowest possible drug concentration by the baby. The risk of medication toxicity is higher in preterm and ill infants, but rare in infants over six months,” she said.

#Sick woman should not breastfeed

Dr Radhamany said that breastfeeding can be continued if the mother develops flu, fever, diarrhoea, vomiting, and mastitis. “Also, an added advantage is that it can transfer protective antibodies. In conditions like HIV, T cell lymphotropic virus type I or type II (HTLV-1/2), ebola virus breastfeeding is contraindicated. Following are the conditions where the mother may not be able to breastfeed eg: urosepsis, septicemia, pneumonia, PPH, shock and those requiring ICU care,” she added.

#Breastfeeding will prevent you from getting pregnant

“Ovulation can occur in around 50 per cent of breastfeeding women despite amenorrhea (absence of menstruation). Hence appropriate precautions must be taken. They remain amenorrhoeic if ovulation doesn’t occur,” she said.

“Breastfeeding as birth control is called the Lactational Amenorrhoea Method. When done perfectly, this method can be about as effective as hormonal contraceptives. Breastfeeding won’t prevent pregnancy if the baby is fed formula feed in addition to breast milk. The lactational Amenorrhoea Method has a failure rate of <2%. Formula feeding, pumping instead of nursing, and feeding solids to the baby, all reduce the effectiveness of lactational amenorrhoea as birth control,” she added.

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