Breast implants are a popular cosmetic surgery, with over 300,000 women opting for breast augmentation in the United States each year. However, if you are considering implants, one concern may be whether or not you’ll still be able to breastfeed a baby later on.
The good news is, research has shown that the majority of women with implants are able to successfully breastfeed after having a child. While implants can introduce some additional factors to be aware of, neither silicone nor saline implants prevent your body’s ability to produce milk and nurse.
With proper preparation and an understanding of how implants may impact the breastfeeding process, most mothers can provide their babies with the nourishment of breastmilk. Read on for a comprehensive guide on breastfeeding with implants.
Key Takeaways: Breastfeeding with Implants
- Research indicates most women with implants can successfully breastfeed and produce milk. Implants do not interfere with the breast tissue responsible for milk production.
- Incision type, implant placement, and surgical technique can impact milk production capabilities. Many surgeons now use an incision under the arm and procedures to avoid milk duct damage.
- Saline and silicone implants have similar breastfeeding success rates. Silicone gel implants do not pose risks or leach chemicals into breast milk.
- Some breastfeeding challenges like low milk supply may be more common with implants. Proper latching may also require adjustment. Seek help from lactation consultants.
- Breast and nipple changes from implants can occasionally obstruct milk flow or prevent a proper latch. Specific positions, manual expression, or medical intervention may assist.
- Implants can make breasts larger, heavier, or differently shaped, putting more strain on the back and shoulders during breastfeeding. Certain holds and pillows can help.
How Do Breast Implants Impact Breastfeeding?
Breast implants are inserted under the breast tissue or chest muscle, not in the milk ducts themselves. So simply having implants present does not directly obstruct the glands responsible for milk production and secretion during breastfeeding.
However, some secondary impacts of breast augmentation can create challenges with nursing a baby. The incision site, implant placement, and surgical techniques play a role in how much implants may potentially interfere with breastfeeding capabilities.
Incision Location Matters
There are several possible sites for the incision during breast augmentation surgery, including:
- In the crease under the breast (inframammary)
- Around the nipple (periareolar)
- In the armpit area (transaxillary)
Research indicates the transaxillary incision under the arm results in the highest breastfeeding success rates after implants. This technique avoids any cutting through breast tissue or milk ducts.
Periareolar incisions around the nipple are directly near milk ducts, so carry a higher chance of duct damage and leakage issues. Inframammary folds may also transect channels.
Many experienced surgeons today use the transaxillary technique for optimal breastfeeding outcomes post-implants.
Implant Placement Choices
Where the implant is positioned in the breast also impacts breastfeeding capability:
- Subglandular placement: In front of the pectoral chest muscle but behind the breast gland. More potential for duct interference.
- Submuscular placement: Behind the pectoral muscle and breast gland. Less duct disruption risk.
Submuscular implant placement tends to have higher breastfeeding success rates because it avoids glandular tissue. Some surgeons may opt for a “dual plane” approach that combines subglandular and submuscular placement.
Surgical Technique Matters
The tools and surgical technique used by the surgeon also influence breastfeeding outcomes with implants:
- Blunt dissection techniques carefully separate tissue minimizing duct damage.
- Using endoscopy and surgical mesh avoids large incisions through glandular tissue.
- Precise pocket sizing and implant positioning prevents pressure on milk ducts.
- Drain tubes reduce fluid buildup and scarring around milk glands after surgery.
Reputable surgeons will use meticulous dissection and implant placement techniques to preserve milk duct functioning for patients wanting to breastfeed post-surgery.
Can You Breastfeed with Silicone or Saline Implants?
The two main types of breast implants used are:
- Silicone gel implants – silicone outer shell filled with a viscous silicone gel.
- Saline implants – silicone shell filled with sterile saltwater solution.
Some mothers considering breastfeeding may worry about potential risks from silicone gel leaching into breastmilk. However, research has found no evidence of silicone transfer even with compromised or ruptured implants.
Silicone molecules are too large to pass through the bloodstream to breast milk. No negative impacts are seen in babies breastfed by mothers with silicone gel-filled implants.
Both saline and silicone breast implants have similar breastfeeding success rates in studies. The filler material does not affect milk production capability. The breastfeeding challenges faced are comparable between both implant types.
Overall, current research shows mothers with either saline or silicone implants can safely breastfeed their children without concerns aboutImplant rupture risks are also low, around 1-2% for silicone and 2-3% for saline implants over a 10 year period.
Breastfeeding Challenges with Implants
While most women with breast implants can eventually nurse successfully, potential difficulties are higher compared to women without implants. Some common breastfeeding problems with implants include:
Low Milk Supply
Issues with low milk supply or insufficient lactation are more frequent in women with breast implants.
Contributing factors may include:
- Surgical damage to milk ducts or nerves
- Scarring around breast tissue
- Chronic inflammation from the implant surgery
- Less glandular tissue displaced by the implant itself
Supplementing feedings with pumped milk or formula while taking galactogenics and using milk supply boosting techniques may help overcome low milk volume.
The different shape, weight, and feel of breasts with implants can make it harder for a baby to properly latch when nursing.
Specific positions, manual expression of milk before latching, using a nipple shield, or other specialty feeding methods may help the baby take enough breast into their mouth for a good seal.
Obstructed Milk Flow
Scar tissue build up around implants or duct damage from incisions can obstruct the release of milk during breastfeeding sessions.
Trying massage, warm compresses, certain holds, pumping before nursing, and medication can help clear clogged ducts and facilitate milk ejection.
Nipple Inversion or Retraction
Augmentation procedures, especially those with periareolar incisions, can cause nipples to invert or retract inward into the breast.
Inverted nipples make it difficult for the infant to grasp during breastfeeding. Nipple shields, pumping, and sometimes surgery may be needed for correction.
Positions for Breastfeeding with Implants
The increased weight and fuller shape of breasts with implants can cause discomfort and strain on the back, neck, and shoulders when nursing a baby.
Trying different positions can take some pressure off the upper body and help support the baby’s head at the breast for a proper latch.
Helpful breastfeeding positions with implants include:
- Cradle hold – Supporting more of the breast weight in the arm and hand on that side. Use pillows under elbow for comfort.
- Side-lying – Allows breast to fall away from chest wall and avoids compression. Helps for nipple retraction issues.
- Football hold – Baby approaches from the side which takes strain off the shoulders.
- Laid-back – Semi-reclining takes the force of gravity off breasts. Can help heavier implants.
Experiment with pillows, stools, and foot rests to find comfortable positions that work with the size, shape, and placement of your breast implants. The position may need to be adjusted as the child grows.
Pumping Tips for Mothers with Implants
Using a breast pump can help stimulate milk production and address any breastfeeding difficulties for mothers with implants. Pumping tips include:
- Try double electric pumping to maximize output, especially if supply is low
- Massage breasts when pumping to help drain milk from all ducts
- Use heat, massage, and hand expression before pumping to ease flow if plugged ducts are an issue
- Consider using a hospital grade pump if supply is insufficient
- Pump after feedings to fully empty breasts if the baby cannot fully drain the breasts
- Pump milk to mix with formula if supplementation is needed
Meeting with a lactation consultant can provide individualized advice on using pumps, encouraging let-downs, and overcoming low supply with implants.
Consulting Lactation Specialists for Help
Seeking assistance from lactation specialists is highly recommended for expecting mothers with breast implants. They can:
- Suggest techniques to optimize milk production before and after birth based on implant placement.
- Recommend pumps and supplies to have on hand.
- Show positions to help baby latch and nurse with enhanced breasts.
- Provide exercises to stretch breast tissue prenatally.
- Give tips to clear clogged ducts and prevent mastitis.
- Develop supplemental feeding plans if milk supply is low.
- Assess for potential revision needs if implant position severely impedes nursing.
Most lactation consultants are trained to address the unique needs of augmented breasts. They can be an invaluable resource for overcoming challenges.
Can Breast Implants Be Revised to Improve Breastfeeding?
In rare cases where implants severely inhibit successful breastfeeding, surgical revision may be an option.
Potential revision procedures include:
- Removing and replacing implants through a more optimal incision site.
- Changing implant size, profile, or position to prevent compression on milk ducts.
- Moving implants from sub glandular to submuscular placement.
- Releasing significant scar tissue constricting breast tissue.
- Fat grafting to increase natural breast tissue if lacking.
For revisions, the best timing is typically after pregnancy and completing breastfeeding future children.
Implant removal without replacement to support breastfeeding is rarely pursued due to aesthetic concerns.
Preparing for Breastfeeding with Implants
Proper preparation during and after pregnancy can set mothers with implants up for the best chances of nursing success. Helpful tips include:
- Discuss plans for breastfeeding with your surgeon prior to any implant procedure.
- Attend La Leche League meetings during pregnancy to learn positioning, holds, and techniques.
- Do breast massage and pumping prenatally to expand tissue and encourage milk duct development.
- See a lactation consultant in the third trimester to establish a breastfeeding plan.
- Have recommended pumps, nipple shields, pillows, and supplements ready before birth.
- Seek help within the first week postpartum if struggling with latching or milk supply.
- Limit supplemental feeding early on to stimulate your own production.
- Express milk after nursing sessions for the first few months if supply is low.
With preparation, coaching, support, patience, and perseverance, most mothers with implants can overcome challenges and successfully breastfeed their babies.
Breast Implants and Breastfeeding FAQs
Still have questions about breastfeeding with breast augmentation? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
Can I breastfeed if I have a breast lift and implants?
Breast lifts involve removing excess skin and reshaping breast tissue. While incisions are made around the areola, many women are still able to breastfeed after lift and augmentation procedures, especially when performed together. Milk ducts are usually left intact.
Do under the muscle implants affect breastfeeding?
Submuscular implant placement behind the pectoral chest muscle is generally preferred for successful breastfeeding outcomes. Compression on milk glands tends to be less compared to above the muscle placement.
Can I breastfeed if I have ruptured silicone gel implants?
Yes, even with a ruptured silicone implant that is leaking, the silicone gel does not enter breast milk. Breastfeeding is considered safe and not shown to harm infants and children. Reports of silicone transfer are extremely rare.
Will I produce less milk with implants?
Some women with implants do struggle more with low milk supply. Reasons may include scar tissue, less glandular tissue, nerve damage, or constant pressure on ducts from large implants. Methods to optimize production can counteract these issues.
Do I need a breast lift after pregnancy if I have implants?
It depends on factors like implant placement, pre-pregnancy breast characteristics, and how your breasts change after nursing. A mastopexy to reshape breasts and lift nipples may be desired by some mothers after they are done breastfeeding children.
Breastfeeding Successfully with Implants is Possible
Research has shown that the large majority of women who give birth after getting breast implants are capable of producing milk and adequately breastfeeding their babies. With proper surgical technique, incision placement, implant position, and postoperative breast care, functioning milk ducts remain intact.
While some additional challenges like low milk supply or latching difficulties may be more likely, mothers can overcome these with preparation, support, and persistence. By working with lactation consultants, trying different techniques, and being patient, successful breastfeeding is achievable for those with implants.
For expecting mothers considering breastfeeding after augmentation, the key is carefully selecting your surgeon, following all recovery recommendations, and having realistic expectations if challenges arise. With the right help and support network, breast implants do not have to be a barrier to providing breastmilk.