If you had breast implants put in to augment the size of your breasts, you are not alone. Many women have had breast implants put in. In 2019 alone, about 300,000 women in the United States had breast implants inserted. Many women who have implants are of child-bearing age, so the question comes up whether you can successfully breastfeed if you’ve had implants put in.
The good news is that most women can breastfeed after breast augmentation surgery (which also called augmentation mammoplasty) but how successful you will be depends greatly on the type of surgery you had and how it was performed.
Most women who have breast implants usually produce a good supply of milk. The implants themselves usually do not interfere with breastfeeding because they are under your natural breast tissue and sometimes under chest muscle that is under the natural breast tissue.
Let’s discuss breast anatomy and milk production for a second. Milk is produced in the glandular tissue of your breast and travels to your nipples though tubes that are called milk ducts. If the milk ducts are blocked or cut, it can interfere with breastfeeding. There are nerves in your nipples that also play a role in breastfeeding. The feeling of your baby sucking at your breast increases your levels of prolactin and oxytocin, two hormones that are important in producing breast milk.
There are two basic kinds of implants: saline and silicone. Saline implants are filled with sterile salt water. Silicone implants are filled with silicone gel. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been no recent reports of problems in infants of mothers with silicone breast implants. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement indicating that its Committee on Drugs felt there was insufficient evidence to justify classifying silicone implants as a contraindication to breastfeeding.
Implants are inserted through an incision that can be placed in one of three locations. If the implant is inserted through either an incision in the fold under your breast or through an incision in your armpit, then your mild ducts and the nerves in your nipples are very unlikely to have been cut or damaged.
A third site for an incision is around the edge or the areola, the darker skin that surrounds your nipple. This incision may affect the milk ducts and nerves and may lead to a reduced amount of breast milk for your baby.
An implant can be inserted under the tissue of the breast or under the chest muscle that is under the breast tissue. Putting the implant below the muscle interferes less with breastfeeding than putting it under the breast tissue.
Another consideration to keep in mind is the reason why you got breast implants. Most women get breast implants because they want a larger bust. If you got implants because your breasts did not develop at all or were asymmetrical, you might have too little breast tissue to produce enough milk. If you had breast implants put in after mastectomy surgery to remove one or both breasts due to cancer, you will not be able to breastfeed on the side with the implant, or on both sides, if both breasts were removed.
If you have had your implants replaced, or any other surgery to your breasts to fix problems with your implants, you are more likely to experience issues with breastfeeding. Implants do not last forever. Most plastic surgeons advise women to replace their implants every 10 to 15 years. Women can also develop a condition called capsular contracture, where scar tissue forms around the implant.
If you have had any type of breast surgery—implants, breast reduction, or any surgery to remove a lump or cyst—and want to breastfeed, talk to your obstetrician or midwife about it during your pregnancy. If possible, provide them with the medical records of your surgery. Make sure your baby’s pediatrician knows you have had breast surgery and are breastfeeding so that he or she can pay closer attention to your baby’s growth.
An excellent resource for all mothers who breastfeed is a lactation consultant. Lactation consultants are health professionals specifically trained to teach a new mother how to breastfeed her baby and to help her deal with any problems concerning breastfeeding. Your obstetrician or midwife can usually recommend a local lactation consultant to you. You can also check the International Lactation Consultant Association for local consultants.
Another good resource for any woman who wants to breastfeed after any kind of breast surgery is BFAR.org, which promotes breastfeeding after any kind of breast surgery.
Because surgery to the breast may reduce the amount of milk you can produce, you should learn to judge how much milk your baby is getting. A lactation consultant can help you determine if your baby is getting enough milk. Usually, you can estimate whether your baby is getting enough breast milk by counting the number of wet and poopy diapers you need to change each day.
Remember, even if you are only able to produce some milk, breastfeeding is good for your baby. You may need to supplement your milk with formula, but even a small amount of breast milk provides your baby with antibodies and good nutrition.