IN this interview, Dr(Mrs) Onayiga Olaitan, Medical Director, Lagos-based Queen of Mercy Medical Centre, addresses health misconceptions surrounding bras.
By Josephine Agbonkhese
CAN wearing bras to bed harm the breasts or result in cancer?
The answer to that will be a yes and a no. Based on different school of thoughts, there is a possible link but that has not been confirmed. There are some school of thoughts who claim wearing a bra to bed can impede on some of the lymphatics and these are things that carry away toxins from the body; especially when the bras are tight.
And when you have excess storage of toxins in the body, that could result in cancer. Although, this has not been confirmed. Some, though on the minority, also claim you can actually prevent cancer by wearing bras regularly.
There are bras that are referred to as good and bad bras; which should women avoid?
When you say bad bras, what you would be talking about are the under-wired bras because most of them tend to be tight. Because of the wires in them, they can impede on your skin and cause some form of conditions, thereby preventing flow of toxins.
They could also cause marks on the skin which are not so good. If you now repeatedly wear these bras and you already have discolorations on the skin and the bra is not so clean, it could result in infections like mastitis, boils or redness which, if not properly treated, can lead to worse conditions.
While most bras that have no wires tend to be a bit loose so they do not ‘pack’ the breasts like most people want, there are still a few firm ones that can do the job without constricting or preventing drainage of toxins or leaving marks on the skin. In all, bras without under-wires are better.
How about in terms of the material with which the bra was made?
Cotton bras are better because they allow the breasts breathe; the breast is a living organ, you know. But when you constantly use non-cotton bras, they could impair your health, result in heat rashes and promote the risk of infections.
Can breastfeeding make the breasts droop like women actually say?
There is a way a woman should breastfeed her baby. If you go through the normal position for breastfeeding, there is the likelihood that the breasts might not sag. However, in majority of women, breastfeeding makes the breast sag. This is because during the process of lactation, the breasts would have enlarged with a lot of milk collection in it.
Eventually, after about a year when you have weaned your baby and the breast has to go back to its original size, there is the tendency that it is going to sag because of the space the milk had occupied before. But for some women, the sagging is more likely to happen if they don’t sit properly during breastfeeding; in a way that the child does not have to stretch the breast to feed.
Is there a possibility of the breasts returning back to shape after breastfeeding, if a woman wears certain bras consistently?
There is a possibility but it is not to the normal size. What happens in a sagged breast is that the tissues are already loose, so, wearing some bras like the ‘packing’ bras, could actually help to reduce the looseness. As such, we can also reduce the sagging but not bring the breast back to normal totally. It is advised that while a woman is breastfeeding, she should not leave her breast without bras because during these period, the breast is loose. So, it is better you wear bras so that they help to keep the tissues in the breasts firm.
But most women believe wearing a bra while still breastfeeding would weaken milk flow…
That is not true. The mechanism of breastfeeding and breastmilk production has nothing to do with bras. When the child puts the mouth to suckle, there are some messages that are sent to some parts of the brain and automatically, you have the release of hormones and the milk automatically comes out. So, the only thing that can impede breast milk’s flow is if the child is not sucking properly. But once the child is sucking properly, whether you wear tight bras or not does not matter; that will even help prevent the breast from getting unnecessarily engorged.
What’s wrong in a woman not wearing a bra at all?
It depends on the breasts’ size. If a lady does not wear a bra regardless of whether her breasts are small, it can still sag. Wearing bras help to give the breasts the right shape and contour and help prevent unnecessary sagging. Ideally, a woman should wear a bra. It’s only at night you are given the room to allow your breasts breathe, or maybe when you’re indoor. But once you get the right bras that are very comfortable, you can wear them anytime.
How best can we take care of our bras?
First, you get the best types of bras and the right size that will fit you. That can help prevent all these problems we are talking about. Also, try to wash your bras at least every day. Most people believe they can repeat bras but that’s wrong.
Once you wear a bra, wash it, spread and allow to dry because it is something that is going to be worn in a concealed area; under another clothing. So, it should not be wet because anything damp can promote the growth of infections. You should also try to replace them every six months.