Planning on breastfeeding and have (or plan to get) breast implants? Then you’re probably wondering, can you breastfeed with implants?
You might also be wondering how breast implants may affect breastfeeding.
I want to support your breastfeeding journey as best as possible – so you can succeed and reach your goals.
As a lactation consultant, I’m going to share with you the most common questions I’m asked about breastfeeding with implants.
Can You Breastfeed With Implants?
While breast surgery carries some risk of damage (for example, to the nerves), the answer to can you breastfeed with implants is yes!
Many women with breast implants do breastfeed successfully.
Below are seven frequently answered questions about breast implants:
#1: What Are The Different Types Of Breast Augmentation Surgery?
The main differences between breast augmentation surgery techniques include:
- Where the doctor places the implant. The implant is either placed above the pectoral muscle or below it.
- Where the doctor makes the incision. The incision can be close to or away from the areola.
#2: How Might Different Breast Augmentation Surgery Techniques Impact Breastfeeding?
If the incision is close to the areola there is a greater risk of damaging nerves that are important for the let-down reflex (milk ejection reflex).
The let-down reflex is important to allow the milk stored in the breast to be made available to the baby.
Hence, if your let-down reflex is affected (or doesn’t occur), then less milk gets removed from your breasts and this can affect your supply.
Also, if the implant is above the pectoral muscle, there is a greater risk of it affecting your milk making ability.
This is because if it is above the pectoral muscles, it can put pressure on the milk making (glandular tissue) in the breast.
This could somewhat inhibit the growth of glandular tissue in the breast (e.g. during pregnancy).
Also, if the implant is above the pectoral muscle it could also put pressure on milk ducts, reducing the flow of milk through them.
Breastmilk not flowing well? The reduced flow will result in less breastmilk being removed from the breast… meaning less milk will be made.
#3: How Can A Surgeon Increase My Chances Of Breastfeeding Successfully?
If you’re considering breast augmentation surgery, there are two things you can request to increase your chances breastfeeding successfully.
You can request for the doctor to:
- Place the breast implant below your pectoral muscle
- Make the incision somewhere other than near your areola. Your doctor could alternatively make the incision in your armpit, belly button or underneath your breast.
#4: Can Breast Implants Affect Milk Supply?
Breast augmentation surgery may affect supply.
But even the incision is near the areola and the implant is above your pectoral muscle, you still may be able to breastfeed successfully.
There are many factors related to breast augmentation surgery other than surgical technique that can affect your supply.
- The number of years since the surgery. While with breast reduction surgery some milk ducts and glandular tissue may be removed or damaged, this doesn’t typically occur with breast augmentation surgery. If the incision is around the areola however, nerves may be damaged. Fortunately, your nerves will regenerate (but very slowly). Years later, damaged nerves may be able to function (at least somewhat) again.
- Why you decided to have the surgery. Breast hypoplasia is a particular type of breast shape that can be associated with reduced ability to make milk. Women with breast hypoplasia tend to have long, narrow, asymmetrical and widely spaced breasts with large areolas. Did you have breast augmentation surgery due to breast hypoplasia? Then if you experience low supply, it may be due to this rather than anything to do with the actual surgery.
#5: Do Breast Implants Make It More Likely To Feel More Engorged When My Milk Comes In?
It’s possible that you may have a tendency to feel more engorged when your milk comes in if you have breast implants.
Especially if your implant is above your pectoral muscle, which may contribute to your breast not being drained as well.
If your breasts do become engorged, there is a lot you can do to help. Speak with an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor or see a lactation consultant.
#6: How Can I Maximise My Milk Supply After Breast Augmentation Surgery?
Since your milk supply is largely established in the early weeks, getting breastfeeding off to the best start possible can help maximise your supply.
Here are some ways to help to get breastfeeding off to the best start possible:
- Consider natural pain relief options for labour
- Skin-to-skin contact with your baby straight after birth, followed by rooming in with your baby
- Feeding your baby according to need
- Optimal positioning and attachment
- Avoiding supplementation unless medically indicated
Speaking with an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor or seeing a lactation consultant can help with individualised support and information to help maximise your supply too.
Despite getting breastfeeding off to the best start possible, if you still struggle to make enough milk, you could speak with your doctor about use of a galactagogue (a substance that increases milk supply).
For more information about medications and herbs to help increase milk supply, see The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk by Diana West and Lisa Marasco.
#7: What If Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work Out How I Wanted It To?
It is important to remember that ‘successful’ breastfeeding means different things for different mothers.
Breastfeeding is so much more than just about the milk. It is a relationship with a baby.
So, even if you find you are unable to make a full supply, if breastfeeding your baby makes you feel happy, then no matter how much (or little) milk you make, that is ‘successful’ breastfeeding.
Some mothers who don’t make a full supply, find using a breastfeeding supplementer (e.g. supplemental nursing system) helpful.
This is a device that allows a baby to receive supplemental milk while feeding from the breast.
For more information about see Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction Surgery by Diana West. Although this book is based on breastfeeding after breast reduction surgery, it’s still relevant for mothers who breastfeed after breast augmentation surgery.
West D, Marasco L 2009, The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk, McGraw Hill: New York.
I hope that answered your question of, can I breastfeed with implants? If you have any further questions, leave them in the comments section below.