For many women who undergo breast implant surgery, having kids is still a long way off. However, as women begin to think about starting a family, they may become worried that breastfeeding will be difficult, or even impossible. Fortunately, breastfeeding after breast implant surgery is not only a possibility, it also carries few risks. With that being said, there are a few factors that can make it difficult to breastfeed and decrease the likelihood of producing enough milk to feed an infant.

How Previous Breast Shape and Tissue Affects Breastfeeding After Breast Implants

Breast Shape

The likelihood of you being able to breastfeed after getting breast implants is closely related to your breast tissue before surgery. For instance, small breasts don’t necessarily mean small milk production, although it is often the case, especially if the breasts never fully matured. Breasts that were a tubular shape, widely spaced or asymmetrical may also make it difficult to breastfeed, but the surgery does not add an additional risk. These conditions can be a sign that there’s not enough glandular tissue to produce milk.

Preexisting Issues

Many women are not advised about their abilities to breastfeed prior to surgery and don’t realize that breastfeeding after breast implants won’t have an effect if these conditions are preexisting. For most women with these types of breast issues, breast implants won’t prevent them from breastfeeding. In fact, the majority of women with breast implants find that they are able to breastfeed successfully, although they may require additional supplementation from other sources. A lactation specialist can tell you about additional ways to supplement your baby’s nutrition.

How Breast Implant Surgery Affects Breastfeeding After Breast Implants

Breast implant surgery may pose some risk for breastfeeding after breast implants. However, in most cases, undergoing breast augmentation has no effect at all on your ability to breastfeed, assuming you were a candidate for breastfeeding before breast implants and your surgery was successful.

Certain breast implant procedures can interfere with your ability to be your baby’s sole source of nutrition. Many women are able to engage in breastfeeding after breast implants, but must also rely on some form of supplementation in addition to breast milk to ensure a healthy and thriving baby.

Surgery Incisions

Where your surgeon makes the incision can also affect your ability to breastfeed. For instance, incisions made in the armpit or in the fold under the breast are very unlikely to affect your ability to breastfeed. However, incisions that are placed around the areola may make it more difficult to breastfeed since it is more likely that milk ducts can become damaged and nerve damage can occur to the nipple. You will likely already know if you have nerve damage as a result of breast augmentation because you may experience reduced nipple sensation.

Breast implants are usually placed under the muscle, where they don’t come between milk ducts and nipples. Breast implants that are placed over the muscle are more likely to interfere with milk production.

When you have breast implant surgery, your surgeon will ask whether or not you already have children, or if you plan to have children, as this can impact the placement of the incision.

Other Risks Associated With Breastfeeding After Breast Implants

Silicone –  Don’t Fear

Some mothers-to-be fear that breast implants are dangerous or harmful for nursing due to silicone. However, studies have shown that there are actually higher levels of silicone in cow’s milk and infant formula than in the milk from mothers with silicone implants. Unless your breast implant ruptures directly into the milk duct, it is unlikely that your baby could consume silicone via breast milk. Incidents of this occurring are extremely rare.

Environmental factors likely play a stronger role in silicone found in infants than having a breastfeeding mother with breast implants. If you have older implants, or suspect that you have a leak, then consult with your surgeon to find out more about what options you have for removal.

Sagging

Another factor that many with breast augmentation fear will occur after breastfeeding is sagging. However, this is unlikely to occur as a result of breastfeeding. The appearance of your breast implants will probably not even change much after breastfeeding since sagging is mostly due to hormonal changes as a result of pregnancy, rather than from breastfeeding.

In most cases, you won’t know if you are capable of breastfeeding after breast implants until you try. However, many women can find reassurance by talking to a lactation specialist, who may recommend that you pump to further stimulate milk production. Electric pumps have been found to be helpful in boosting milk production when breastfeeding after breast augmentation.

Letting your doctor know ahead of time that you plan to breastfeed and telling your OB/GYN that you have undergone breast augmentation surgery can also help you feel better. Both of them can recommend alternatives and supplements to help you create a milk supply large enough to sustain your infant if you are unable to breastfeed.

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About Dr. Stephanie Cohen

Dr. Cohen specializes in breast lifts, augmentations, revisions and reductions as well as breast cancer reconstructions. A long time dream of Dr. Cohen’s was to travel to developing countries and provide expert surgical care to those who have no other possible access to medical care. This became a reality in 2007 when she became a founding member and Vice President of ISMS Operation Kids.