Cooper’s ligaments are bands of tough, fibrous, flexible connective tissue that shape and support your breasts. They’re named for Astley Cooper, the British surgeon who described them in 1840. They’re also known as the suspensory ligaments of Cooper and the fibrocollagenous septa. These ligaments help to maintain the shape and structural integrity of your breasts.

Normally you can’t feel Cooper’s ligaments since they’re delicate. However, it’s possible for them to become distorted if cancerous tumors grow on the ligaments. This can result in noticeable changes in breast contours. This can include swelling or flattening, bulges, or dimples. There may also be retraction in some areas.

Cooper’s ligaments are found under the skin of the breast, through and around the breast tissue. They connect to the tissue surrounding the chest muscles.

These ligaments maintain the shape and structure of your breasts and help to prevent sagging. Cooper’s ligaments support the breasts on the chest wall, maintain their contour, and keep them in position.

It’s natural for Cooper’s ligaments to stretch out over time, causing your breasts to droop. This can be due to genetic factors, body mass index, and the size of your breasts. Age, weight fluctuation, and cigarette smoking can also influence sagging. Lower levels of elastin, estrogen, and collagen due to aging also play a part.

Having multiple pregnancies can cause your breasts to sag, since the skin is stretched during your pregnancy and while lactating. This causes Cooper’s ligaments to stretch and loosen. Plus, postpartum hormonal changes cause depleted milk glands to diminish.

When Cooper’s ligaments are stretched, they eventually lose strength. Without the support of these ligaments, the breast tissue sags under its own weight since it’s heavier than the fat around it.

There are several exercises that you can do to help strengthen, firm, and tone the chest area that’s attached to the Cooper’s ligaments. This may help to prevent sagging and even lift your chest muscles, slowing down the process of sagging.

Be consistent with your practice in order to see the best results. Here are a few exercises you can add to your workout routine.

Pec flys

via Gfycat

  1. Lie on your back with bent knees. Your feet should remain flat on the floor.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and extend your arms straight up with the insides of your wrists facing each other. Your shoulders, elbows, and wrists should be in one line.
  3. Slowly lower your arms to the side, keeping your elbow slightly bent.
  4. Then return your arms to the starting position.
  5. Do 2–3 sets of 15–20 reps.

Bent over row

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  1. Stand with your feet a little wider than your hips and your knees slightly bent.
  2. Hinge at the hips to bend forward slightly and extend your arms down with the insides of your wrists facing each other.
  3. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, slowly raise the weights up to your chest, drawing your shoulder blades together, and pull your elbows back until your hands end near your ribcage.
  4. Then lower the weights to the starting position while keeping your arms close to your sides.
  5. Support your lower back by engaging your abdominals and keeping your neck relaxed.
  6. Do 2–3 sets of 12–15 reps.

Chest stretch

via Gfycat

  1. Interlace your fingers behind your back with your palms pressing into each other.
  2. Keep your arms straight and lift your hands up as high you can.
  3. Maintain this position for 5 breaths, feeling the stretch in your shoulders and chest.
  4. Slowly release to the starting position.
  5. Do 2–3 sets of 8 reps.

Push-ups

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  1. Come onto your knees, drop your hips, and bring your hands under your shoulders with your fingers facing forward.
  2. Keeping your spine straight, bend at the elbows to lower your chest to the floor.
  3. Then, return to the starting position. Keep your head, neck, and spine in one line the whole time.
  4. Increase the difficulty by lifting your knees and coming onto your toes with your heels lifted.
  5. Widen your legs if you want to make it easier.
  6. Do 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps.

Chest presses

via Gfycat

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at chest level with your palms facing forward.
  3. Engage your abdominals as you fully extend your arms above your chest.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position.
  5. Do 2–3 sets of 12–15 reps.

Lying dumbbell rows

via Gfycat

  1. Lie on your stomach on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Place your feet on the floor on either side of the bench.
  3. Bend your elbows and raise the dumbbells toward your waist.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position.
  5. Do 2–3 sets of 10–15 reps.

Cooper’s ligaments will naturally stretch out over time. But you can still take steps to maintain your breasts’ shape and firmness and slow down the process. This is important because once your breast ligaments are stretched, it can’t be reversed or repaired, even with surgery.

Invest in bras that are supportive and fit you well. This is especially important while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. A quality bra can help to support your ligaments and support the weight of full, heavy breasts. Make sure the bra isn’t too tight since this can cause clogged milk ducts and mastitis.

Practice good posture to help support the strength of Cooper’s ligaments. Stand or sit with a straight back to help keep the weight of your breasts from coming forward. This relieves some of the pressure from the ligaments.

Maintain a healthy weight and aim to keep your weight as consistent as possible.

You may want to get a hormone test to determine if low estrogen levels are a factor.

Wear sunscreen on any part of your breasts that is exposed to sunlight. This helps to prevent the loss of collagen and elastin.

Massage your breasts a few times per week to increase blood flood and stimulate collagen production.

Sagging breasts are inevitable to some degree over time, but it’s possible to slow down the process and maintain the shape of your breasts. Take excellent care of your body and start as early as possible. Once Cooper’s ligaments are stretched, it can’t be reversed.

Follow an exercise program that focuses on strengthening Cooper’s ligaments as well as your whole body.

Keep in mind that women’s bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and breast appearance is not an indicator of health. The most important thing is to make choices that support your physical and emotional well-being.