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Breastfeeding after implants is possible. Find out what challenges you might face and how to overcome them to nurse your baby.
There's a good chance you can breastfeed after having breast implants, though you may face some challenges, such as problems with milk supply. A lactation consultant can help identify issues and show you how to address them, so you can provide your baby with as much breast milk as possible.
If you're considering, but haven't yet had, augmentation surgery and may want to breastfeed in the future, talk to a breast surgeon as well as a lactation consultant about how implants could affect your ability to breastfeed.
Will breastfeeding with implants be difficult?
Here are the problems you might face:
Low milk supply: Depending on how your augmentation surgery was done (see "Will breast implants affect my milk production?" below), you may have trouble producing enough breast milk to exclusively breastfeed. According to the Institute of Medicine, women who have had breast implants are three times as likely as other women to have a low milk supply.
Inhibited letdown: If your nipples lost sensitivity, you may have less-effective letdown and lower milk production.
Sore nipples: If your nipples are more sensitive than normal, you may develop sore nipples, which make breastfeeding painful.
Mastitis: Women with implants are at greater risk for mastitis.
Engorged breasts: Women with implants are at greater risk for exaggerated breast engorgement.
Will breast implants affect my milk production?
They can. But even if the surgery damages the milk-making parts of the breasts, most mothers are still able to produce some breastmilk – and any amount is beneficial for your baby.
The following factors can affect your milk supply if you have breast implants:
The type of incision you had. Some surgical techniques cause more damage to milk ducts, glandular tissue, and nerves than other techniques.
Incisions made around the areola (the circle of pigmented skin around your nipple) are more likely to sever milk ducts and affect the nerves that play a role in breastfeeding.
Incisions that are made under the breast (where the breast meets the chest wall) or through the armpit usually cause little damage. Damaged ducts, glands, and nerves can sometimes repair themselves, but it happens gradually with each monthly cycle. The more time that passes between getting implants and becoming pregnant, the more likely the damaged tissue is to heal and produce milk.
Numbness or pain in your nipple or breast as a result of implants makes it more likely that you have some nerve damage. (The scar tissue your body forms in response to the implant may cause pain or numbness. If this scarring extends into the milk ducts it may impair supply.)
Where the implants are placed. Implants can be placed under or over the layer of muscle in your breasts. When they're over the muscle, they're more likely to put pressure on milk ducts and glands, which could slow down milk production.
Why you had the surgery. If you had surgery because you had underdeveloped (hypoplastic) breasts, you may have trouble producing enough milk. (This would be the case whether or not you had breast augmentation.) Even though the implants increased your breast size, the functional structures required for breastfeeding are still underdeveloped.
If you had breast augmentation after a mastectomy, you will not be able to breastfeed on that side, due to the loss of breast tissue and glands that produce milk. It is possible, however, to exclusively breastfeed with one breast.
When you had the surgery. Nipple sensation can take up to two years to return after surgery. Also, the average time from placement of the implants to revisions (replacing the implants) is seven years. Revisions can further damage nerves and tissue, and increase the risk of challenges with milk production.
Could my breast implants harm my baby?
There's not much conclusive research on this. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states, "Research is limited; however, there have been no recent reports of clinical problems in infants of mothers with silicone breast implants."
The Institute of Medicine reports that silicone or any harmful substance has not been found in the breast milk of women with implants. In fact, the levels of silicon in infant formula were found to be much higher than in the breast milk of women with or without implants.
Even if a little silicone did get into your milk, it's very unlikely to harm your baby. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, silicone is safe for an infant to ingest.
What if I can't produce enough milk?
If your milk supply isn't quite enough to meet your baby's needs, you'll need to supplement with formula or donor milk. If you have to supplement, remember that any amount of breast milk that you're able to provide for your baby is beneficial.
What can I do to breastfeed successfully if I have breast implants?
Work with a lactation consultant. She can help you get off to a good start by making sure your baby has a good latch and is well positioned for nursing. She can also give you tips for dealing with nipple sensitivity. If you're feeling anxious or want to get some questions answered in advance, consider meeting with a lactation consultant before your baby is born.
Nurse your baby often. The more often your baby nurses, the more often your body will get the signal to produce more milk. Your lactation consultant may suggest using a breast pump between feedings, too, to strengthen the message.
Tell your baby's doctor about your surgery. She'll need to keep a close eye on your baby's weight gain to make sure he's getting enough to eat.
Will breastfeeding ruin my implants?
No, breastfeeding shouldn't affect your implants or the appearance of your augmented breasts.
I'm thinking about getting breast implants. Should I wait until after I'm finished breastfeeding?
Yes, waiting is a good idea. If you're thinking about getting breast implants and want to be able to nurse your babies, postponing surgery until after you've weaned your last child will make it easier for you to breastfeed and establish a good milk supply.