Breasts are an inspiring, versatile part of your body. They can make you look and feel wonderful, and if you begin breastfeeding, they become your personal milk-making machines. Their amazingly complex network of lobules, glands, and ducts supply adequate nutrition for your baby, but if you’ve had breast enhancement surgery, you might be concerned whether that will impact your ability to feed your little one. Can you breastfeed with implants, or will it hinder your ability to produce milk? Here’s what the experts want you to know.
Is it safe to breastfeed with implants?
The good news is, it’s totally doable. “Breastfeeding is absolutely possible for parents with breast augmentations,” Chrisie Rosenthal, IBCLC, certified lactation consultant with The Lactation Network, tells Romper.
That being said, there is a slightly higher chance that obstacles arise as a result of the surgery. “There is a higher risk of breastfeeding complications, including low milk supply issues, engorgement, vasospasms, and plugged ducts,” Rosenthal says. “But many parents who have had breast augmentations go on to breastfeed with no complications at all.”
There are several factors that impact the risk for breastfeeding complications, as Rosenthal explains, including the number of years it's been since the surgery and the type of incision. Below are some things that might come into play:
Placement of the implant
There are two placement options for breast augmentations: subglandular and submuscular/subpectoral. As Rosenthal explains, subglandular implants refer to “when the implants [are] placed over the muscle (pectoralis major) and below the breast tissue.” A submuscular placement is “when the implants are placed beneath the (pectoralis major) muscle,” and it “tends to have less effect on milk supply and fewer breastfeeding complications,” says Rosenthal.
Type of incision
Where the surgical incision took place can also factor into breastfeeding. “It just depends on where the incision was, and how many nerves and milk ducts were damaged in the surgery," Katy Linda, IBCLC, a certified lactation consultant, tells Romper.
“Typically during augmentation surgery, incisions are made in the armpit, in the crease under the breast, or around the areola,” Rosenthal explains. “Incisions made around the areola have the greatest risk of impact on breastfeeding, as those incisions may sever milk ducts and the nerves involved in breastfeeding.”
Incisions made near the areola don’t automatically lead to issues with nursing, though. “It's important to note that not all people who have incisions around the nipple experience breastfeeding challenges,” says Rosenthal. “And if they do experience challenges, IBCLCs can often help to triage those issues and maximize breastfeeding success.”
Length of time since the surgery
The length of time since you had your surgery also plays a part. “Over time, severed milk ducts and nerves affected by augmentation may regenerate and reconnect through processes called recanalization and reinnervation,” says Rosenthal. “Additionally, studies show with each subsequent child who is breastfed, milk volume increases and complications due to augmentation tend to decrease.”
Reason for the surgery
According to Linda, the reason you had the surgery in the first place may also be of impact. “Many women have breast augmentation because of small or uneven breasts,” Linda says, “which means they may already be at risk for insufficient glandular tissue (IGT) or hypoplasia.” In these cases, Linda suggests discussing your case with a good team of care providers.
“If you had a breast augmentation and plan on breastfeeding, it's best to connect with an IBCLC while pregnant to discuss your risk factors and create a plan for proactively addressing any issues that come up,” Rosenthal says.
Do breast implants impact milk supply?
Just to reiterate, breast implants don’t necessarily result in breastfeeding problems or milk supply issues — but they can certainly increase the likelihood in some instances. “One of the known complications of augmentations is that, in some cases, the surgery can impact milk production,” says Rosenthal. As listed above, this could be due to a number of different factors.
Many parents successfully breastfeed with a full milk supply while having implants, but the best-case scenario is that the surgery did not involve the nipple or areola. In any case, it’s important to reach out for support. “I'd recommend working with an IBCLC in pregnancy and after baby arrives, just to assure you are knowledgeable and prepared," IBCLC Angie Natero tells Romper.
Rosenthal seconds this, explaining that a lactation expert will be able to personalize their advice to you, your unique experience, and medical history, so that no matter the reason for milk production complications, you can successfully work through it. “If you had augmentation surgery and you're experiencing milk supply issues, your lactation consultant will work with you to maximize your supply, evaluate your feeding options, and help you reach your feeding goals,” says Rosenthal.
All in all, your amazing, multifunctional breasts should be completely capable of providing milk for your baby regardless of breast augmentation. And if complications do come up, you will likely be able to work through it with the aid of experts. Talking to a lactation consultant before your baby is born can give you the appropriate support and tools to enhance your breastfeeding journey.
Katy Linda, IBCLC, certified lactation consultant
Angie Natero, IBCLC, certified lactation consultant
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