We hear a lot about how the body changes during and after pregnancy — the inevitable weight gain and rapidly evolving body shape, changes to the breasts, advent of skin conditions, and postpartum hair loss (to name a few). The changes someone experiences during and after breastfeeding, however, are much less discussed.
Needless to say, the breasts bear the brunt of breastfeeding, and some mothers who experience sagging breasts or a lack of fullness seek to alter their new breast shape or restore them to their pre-baby look, and a mastopexy (a.k.a. breast lift) is a cosmetic surgery procedure that can improve the shape, volume, and positioning of the chest. So, what happens when you get a breast lift after breastfeeding? The AEDITION asks the experts.
How Breastfeeding Changes the Breasts
Although breast changes vary from woman to woman, everyone encounters an increase in size during pregnancy. “The hormonal changes that occur — including estrogen and progesterone surges — cause the breast gland to increase in size,” says Umbareen Mahmood, MD, a board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon in New York City. Throughout pregnancy, the breasts will continue to get larger, and the changes do not stop there.
The breasts swell with the ability to produce milk during and after pregnancy, says Jacob Unger, MD, a Nashville-based board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon. The act of breastfeeding then exacerbates this cycle by expanding and contracting the breasts multiple times per day for the entire breastfeeding period. “At the end of the cycle, there is an involution of the parenchyma, or the milk-producing part of the breast,” he explains. “This, coupled with the fact that the skin is stretched many times, often results in a saggier and more empty-appearing breast.”
Getting a Breast Lift After Breastfeeding
For women who wish to restore or alter the appearance of their breasts after breastfeeding, a breast lift (performed alone or in tandem with another breast surgery) may be the way to go. To determine if you are a candidate for the procedure, your plastic surgeon will examine the current breast shape and position, focusing primarily on where the nipple and areola location is relative to the inframammary fold (i.e. the lower part of the breast where it meets the chest), Dr. Mahmood shares.
“The grades of breast ptosis, or drooping, are classified based on the nipple position relative to this fold,” she explains. There is a three-grade scale, and grade three ptosis is “when the nipple points straight down and approximately three centimeters below the fold,” Dr. Mahmood says. But it’s not just about the nipple. “Some patients have ‘pseudoptosis,’ which is when the nipple is still in a good position but the bottom of the breast is sagging,” she notes.
After assessing the grade of ptosis, a surgeon will discuss the best breast lift method for your degree of the sagging and ptosis. “The options can start with using radiofrequency energy to tighten the breasts in a scarless manner for mild ptosis, up to a much more involved procedure with various scar patterns to help tighten the breasts as necessary,” Dr. Unger explains.
Below are the most common surgical techniques:
Breast Lift Techniques:
- Crescent Lift: “A crescent lift involves a scar just along the top outer edge of the areola and is for patients who need minor nipple elevation,” Dr. Mahmood explains.
- Periareolar Lift: Best for patients with minor breast sagging, the incision is around the entire areola.
- Vertical Lift: Also known as a ‘lollipop lift,’ an incision is made around the areola and vertically down the breast fold. “It is best for patients with moderate nipple and breast sagging, pseudoptosis (when breast tissue underneath your nipples and areolae has sagged), and more extensive breast reshaping,” Dr. Mahmood says.
- Inverted-T Lift: “This is best for patients who have significant sagging of the breast tissue and nipple and those with grade three ptosis,” Dr. Mahmood explains. Also called an ‘anchor lift,’ it includes an incision around the areola, a vertical incision to the breast fold, and a curvilinear incision along the breast fold.
The Benefits of a Breast Lift After Breastfeeding
A more youthful breast shape and restored confidence are among the most common benefits post-breast lift. Patients also describe experiencing a “decrease in back pain, less under-the-breast sweating, and a reduction of rashes, bra grooving, and shoulder pain,” Dr. Unger shares.
Another benefit? The minimal maintenance involved. The results are permanent, though patients need to “maintain [their] weight and use a supportive bra,” Dr. Mahmood says. Generally speaking, women are encouraged to delay surgery until they are done having children, and it’s important to remember that the natural aging process will continue to be a factor. “Gravity is always present over time, and the breasts continue to stretch as you age,” Dr. Unger cautions.
More Related Articles
‘Try on’ aesthetic procedures and instantly visualize possible results with AEDIT and our patented 3D aesthetic simulator.