Breastfeeding With Breast Implants: Just The Facts
Whether it’s reconstructive surgery or for cosmetic reasons, if and why a woman chooses to get breast implants or any breast surgery is a highly personal decision that shouldn’t be up for speculation or debate.
Perhaps you are considering a breast augmentation, or maybe you already have implants and are wondering if you will still be able to nurse your baby. Either way, we wanted to provide you with some factual and unbiased information to help you navigate the considerations and potential challenges of nursing with breast implants.
Is It Safe?
Although research is still limited, there have been no recent reports of clinical problems in infants of mothers with silicone breast implants. Furthermore, in 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement regarding the Transfer of Drugs and Other Chemicals into Human Milk. This statement indicated that the Committee on Drugs felt there was insufficient evidence to justify classifying breast implants as a contraindication to breastfeeding.
However, this sentiment is still up for debate. According to Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, Sixth Edition, Wambach and Spencer, 2020, several older studies concluded that only a third of mothers with implants were successful with breastfeeding. Thankfully, more recent studies show lower complication rates.
Despite the lack of evidence to support the argument that breast implants serve as a direct contradiction to breastfeeding, it is still important to acknowledge that breast implants themselves still come with a risk of complications ranging in severity that are unrelated to nursing. These risks should be carefully considered prior to surgery.
Incision and Implant Location Matters
The periareolar incision, an incision site located on the edge of the nipple, is not recommended for women who plan to breastfeed in the future. This is due to a higher risk of damaging nerves, milk glands, ducts, and reducing blood supply to the breast. This can make breastfeeding more difficult and, in some cases, impossible.
Thankfully, less invasive incision sites such as trans-axillary (through the armpit) or Inframammary (under the fold of the breast) can help preserve the milk ducts and reduce the risk of damage. These options should be discussed with a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon prior to surgery.
Aside from the incision site, the implant location can also greatly impact a woman’s ability to breastfeed. Breast implants are surgically placed in one of two areas: either under the chest muscles or directly above them.
According to Breastfeeding After Breast Augmentation Surgery, West, 2007, breast implants placed UNDER the muscle help preserve glandular tissue and has less of an impact on milk production and expression.
Alternatively, breast implants placed above the muscle may exert more pressure on the ducts and glands and ultimately interfere with milk flow and production.
Check The Latch
Depending on the size and shape of your implants, your baby may have a difficult time latching. Luckily, these challenges can often be worked through by trying different techniques or working with a Certified Lactation Consultant.
Typically, a proper latch is one in which that baby’s mouth covers the areola. Some signs that you have achieved an optimal latch include being able to hear your baby swallow, no significant pain in the breast or nipples, and that your breast appears smooth with no ripples or wrinkles when feeding.
What about Breast Reductions?
Much like breast implants, there are no guarantees on whether or not a breast reduction will impact a woman’s ability to breastfeed. This is due to variables such as personal anatomy, the amount of tissues removed and the surgical technique used.
During breast reduction surgery, glandular tissue is removed- which means so are some milk ducts and nerves. Furthermore, the nipple may be relocated for aesthetic reasons. All of these components may impact the breast’s ability to produce and express milk.
Thankfully, there are new surgical techniques that can help preserve glandular tissue so that women who wish to breastfeed are still able to cultivate a substantial milk supply. If you are considering getting a breast reduction but still plan to nurse in the future, it is important to discuss this with your surgeon so the appropriate steps can be taken to preserve the integrity of the glandular tissue.