8 Things You Need To Know About Breastfeeding With Breast Implants

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Can You Breastfeed With Breast Implants?
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Can — and SHOULD — you?

By Laurel Elis Niedospial

Considering our longstanding fascination with bosoms, it should come as no surprise that breast augmentation is the most popular cosmetic surgery in the United States. Nearly 300,000 women in 2016 decided to use implants to change the look, size, and shape of their breasts.

Since the majority of women who choose to undergo this procedure do so while within their childbearing years, the discussion about breastfeeding with implants is a pertinent one. However, the answer as to whether or not a woman can breastfeed after augmentation is complicated.

While breastfeeding is conceivable with implants, there are a variety of factors that can hinder nursing.

Cosmetic surgeon Dr. Corwin Martin tells POPSUGAR, "There are four approaches to place breast implants: inframammary, periareolar, transaxillary, and transumbilical. The only incision that could possibly impede breastfeeding would be the periareolar approach." The location of the incision, size, placement of the implant, and amount of time that has passed can all affect breastfeeding.

In addition to speaking with Martin, POPSUGAR also reached out to Cara Cardenas, a Registered Nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and Ashley, a mother in Kansas who breastfed after augmentation. All of our interviewees confirmed that while it is possible to nurse post-augmentation, there are a few factors that could encourage or hinder milk production.

 

1. Understand the types of surgery and potential complications. 

If breastfeeding is a goal, how the surgery is performed is important. Martin explained: "This incision is made directly into the gland itself, which could possibly sever the ducts and nerves that supply the gland, leading to reduced milk production. Secondly, placing the implant in a subglandular plane rather than a submuscular plane can lead to less milk production due to direct pressure."

Of the four potential access points for breast implants — under the nipple, through the armpit, through the naval, and under the breast — Martin recommends against going in under the nipple, the periareolar approach, as it greatly decreases a successful breastfeeding experience

 

2. The reason behind the surgery makes a difference. 

Women get breast implants for a variety of reasons. While many just want to have a larger chest to fill out clothing better or to feel more confident, for some women, breast augmentation can help fix lifelong developmental problems.

"A woman's milk-making capabilities can be affected by a breast augmentation, depending on the reason for the augmentation itself," Cardenas told POPSUGAR. "If a woman got the breast augmentation due to a lack of breast development during puberty, a woman's milk supply may not come in as expected . . . not because of the breast augmentation itself, but because of the lack of glandular (milk-making) tissue that was present before the surgery." 

 

3. Time is on your side. 

Any surgery is going to require major healing and a painful recovery, and breast augmentation is no different. Thankfully, allowing for the breast to heal will help increase a woman's chances to produce milk. "The longer time has passed since a woman's surgery," Cardenas stated, "the more time there is for the nerves and milk ducts to regenerate, increasing chances for breastfeeding success."

If possible, allowing five years for the breasts to heal will give them a chance to regenerate.

 

4. The more pregnancies the better. 

With each pregnancy, the chances of being able to produce milk increases. "A woman who has had multiple term pregnancies since her surgery will have increased glandular tissue with each pregnancy, increasing her milk-making capacity," Cardenas confirmed.

Even if supply was low during an earlier pregnancy, the breast tissue essentially can be redeveloped, thanks to the wonders of pregnancy. 

 

5. Augmentation won't impede production, but it can cause pain. 

Any woman who has breastfed her baby knows how painful engorgement can be. Unfortunately, while the implant itself doesn't restrict milk flow, it can cause additional feelings of tenderness. "Because of the extra space the implant takes up in the breast, there can be more discomfort during the engorgement phase of early lactation," Cardenas explained. "Some of the severed milk ducts may no longer have an outlet and thus plugged ducts are more common."

This was partially true for Ashley. "When I nursed, I had a wonderful milk supply, but my engorgement was very bad, along with frequent plugged milk ducts," she stated. However, there is also the possibility that overpumping to increase milk supply could have caused the clogged ducts. 

 

6. Size does matter. 

If a woman desires an extra-large chest and wants to breastfeed, she may want to reconsider. "The size of the implant can possibly impede milk production. The larger or more projection an implant has can 'squeeze' the gland between the skin and the implant, also causing less milk production," Martin said. 

 

7. How you nurse may change. 

During the engorgement phase, certain nursing positions may help to ease discomfort and encourage production. A mother might find that shaping her breast like a sideways sandwich with her free hand during latch on might "help the baby to latch more deeply/comfortably in the early weeks when engorgement makes the breast, areola, and nipples very taut and inelastic," she told POPSUGAR.

Once the engorgement settles and breastfeeding habits become stable, a mother with implants should be able to feed however she sees fit.

 

8. Have a strong group of supportive people. 

All mothers who want to nurse should have a community of people who understand and value that decision. For a woman with implants, this is even more important to discuss with doctors, coparents, and lactation consultants early on.

Cardenas recommends mothers identify their "breastfeeding support team before the baby is born and especially with a high-risk factor such as breast augmentation. That way, moms have the support they need in place and problems can be identified early on to set the mother and baby up to meet their feeding goals."

 

 

This article was originally published at PopSugar. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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