Do Breast Implants Result In Lower Breastfeeding Rates? [Study]

Do Breast Implants Result In Lower Breastfeeding Rates? [Study]

Breast augmentation (breast implant) surgery is one of the most common plastic surgery procedures in the world.

There has been an increase in the number of these procedures being performed in the past two decades, especially in high income countries, including Australia.

In 2011, 8000 Australian women underwent breast augmentation surgery.

It’s important for women to be able to make a fully informed decision about whether to get breast implants, including what potential affects it may have on their breastfeeding ability.

So, what does the research say with regards to the rates of breastfeeding initiation, breastfeeding on discharge from hospital and exclusive breastfeeding amongst women with breast implants?

Mixed Results Of Breastfeeding Rates Amongst Women With Breast Implants

Research about the rates of breastfeeding amongst women who’ve had breast augmentation is very limited.

Nonetheless, a 2014 systematic review of a small number of studies found a 40% decrease in the likelihood of exclusive breastfeeding among women with breast implants, compared to those without. No details were provided with regards to the duration of exclusive breastfeeding. This review also found similar rates of breastfeeding initiation for women with and without breast implants.

A more recent study (2015) found women with breast implants were less likely to provide their babies with any breastmilk at the time of hospital discharge. At discharge, 79% of women with breast implants provided any breastmilk to their babies, compared to 88.5% of women without breast implants.

However, it was also found that for women whose babies received any breastmilk, there was no association between breast implants and rates of exclusive breastfeeding.

What are some of the possible reasons for potentially reduced breastfeeding rates among women with breast implants?

Here are 4 possible reasons:

#1: Underlying Breast Hypoplasia

It’s been suggested that if breast hypoplasia (which may mean insufficient glandular tissue) is the cause of women receiving breast augmentation surgery, this could be a reason for reduced breastfeeding rates among women with breast implants.

However, the 2015 study linked above found that among women who got breast implants between births, any breastfeeding dropped from 87% in the “before implants” birth to 72% in the “after implants” birth. This demonstrated ability to provide breastmilk before the augmentation surgery suggests that hypoplasia is unlikely to be the explanation for lower breastfeeding rates among women with breast implants.

#2: Concern About Materials In The Implants Being Passed Onto Baby

Another possible reason is women with breast implants may worry about transmitting silicone or materials from the implants onto their babies through their breastmilk.

Several health outcomes have been studied among women with silicone breast implants including of the breastfed babies. Such studies have not established any adverse health outcomes for the women or their breastfed babies.

#3: Concern About Undoing Some Of Results Of the Augmentation Surgery

Another possible reason might be that some women may worry (or may have even been told by their surgeon), that breastfeeding could undo some of the satisfactory results of the augmentation surgery.

#4: Damage To Breast Structures

It’s possible that if milk ducts, milk-making tissue or nerves of the breast are damaged by the surgery, this could impact upon a woman’s ability to breastfeed.

More research is needed, but it seems like breast augmentation surgery may reduce the overall rate of breastfeeding. There’s every chance however that if you have breast implants and breastfeeding is important to you, you will be able to breastfeed. Many women with breast implants breastfeed successfully.

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Renee Kam is a mother of two daughters, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.

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