How Breast Implants Impact Breastfeeding


Breast augmentation is one of the most popular cosmetic surgeries. About 5% of American women undergo implant-specific breast augmentation. While few women doubt the aesthetic benefits of getting breast implants, many questions the impact this operation can have on their breast’s functions. For child-bearing aged women, their ability to breastfeed naturally is a concern.

Breastfeeding, even for mothers without breast implants, can be difficult. The mother’s ability to produce enough milk to nourish her infant is determined by many factors. If a mother gets a breast augmentation, common side effects do not automatically rule out their ability to produce milk. Oftentimes, the decisions made about the surgery impact the ease of breastfeeding. 

Saline vs. Silicone

One of the major decisions a woman undergoing breast augmentation needs to make is if they want a saline or silicone breast implant. While silicon has a more natural appearance, the implants are made of plastic and pose a higher risk if they leak. Saline water implant leakage doesn’t pose a threat to the mother or infant during breastfeeding, but they don’t have as natural of an appearance or feel as silicone implants.

Implant Placement

After choosing the type of implant, women have the option to choose where the implant will be placed. Certain procedures make breastfeeding easier. For instance, the inframammary incision places the implant in the fold underneath the breast. This option emerges with the least amount of side effects, including less nerve damage, minimal scar visibility, and can be done above or below the muscular tissue. 

Another option is the transaxillary method. This method places the implant in an incision made in the armpit and can also be done above or below the muscular tissue. This procedure also does not have a great impact on the ability to breastfeed. The periareolar procedure, however, may impact the mother’s ability to breastfeed. With periareolar breast implants, the milk ducts and glands are cut. The subsequent damage is irreversible, making breastfeeding more difficult. 

When the mother becomes pregnant, there may be loss of sensation where the incisions are made. This can affect the mother’s let down response. Let down response is when milk glands release breastmilk to the milk ducts for the baby. If the procedure damages her milk ducts, there will be a decrease in her milk production. Implants can also pinch milk ducts, which causes swelling and blocks milk flow. This should not discourage expectant mothers who want to breastfeed. Even with these symptoms, a pregnant woman will know if she can produce milk as she gets closer to her delivery date. 

Breastfeeding Tips

Breast milk is made up of nutrients and antibodies necessary to build an infant’s immune system. Once a woman realizes she can produce milk, it is important to make sure she can sustain it. There are several ways to ensure proper milk flow, including: 

Breastfeed often

Typically, newborns eat every few hours. This causes the breast to consistently produce enough milk. Breastfeeding, on both breasts, tells the body to produce more milk and guarantees their supply isn’t low. If the baby is not eating as often as the milk is being produced, invest in a breast pump. This way, the milk can be stored and minimal engorgement. When breasts are engorged, they are swollen and can be very painful. If you do not have a pump, hand-expressing into a bottle is sufficient. 

Master latching

Oftentimes, infants do not get enough milk because they aren’t latched properly. For a good latch, make sure the baby’s mouth is wide open while putting their mouth on the nipple. If their mouth covers an inch of the nipple, they are latched properly. If they cannot naturally find the nipple, hold their head and guide them toward the breast. 

Some signs of a proper latch are the infant will take long mouthfuls, they can get milk as soon as they latch on, and their swallowing is audible. Early on, infants getting enough milk should have up to eight wet diapers and three to four bowel movements. Most hospitals have lactation specialists that can assist with latching techniques. Once the baby learns to latch, they can get more out of their feeding, triggering the body to produce more milk. 

Add certain foods to increase milk

If milk production is low, certain foods can increase supply. For instance, oats are a great source of iron that helps nursing mothers lactate. Garlic is another great way to increase milk supply. Add a spoonful of garlic to food or swallow it with honey. Fenugreek is a great herb for increasing milk supply. Simply add the powder to a smoothie or drink fenugreek tea. Most cases of both long and short-term use of fenugreek have little-to-no side effects. 

In conjunction with a healthy diet and incorporating these foods, it is important to stay hydrated. Drinking water is necessary to produce adequate amounts of milk and replace the fluids the body loses during nursing. On average, lactating mothers should drink up to 3 liters of water per day for proper hydration. 

Breastfeeding is still possible after getting breast implants. If any issues are breastfeeding, consult a lactation specialist and nurse as often and as best as possible. There are nutrients in breastmilk, regardless of the amount of milk a mother can supply. If breast augmentation-related complications prohibit a mother from breastfeeding, supplementing with formula is a viable alternative. If the baby is not initially having six to eight wet diapers per day, the baby is not gaining weight, or their bowels have not changed to yellow after shedding their meconium, healthcare professionals may advise the nursing mother to use formula. 

Women should consider childbearing before getting breast implants. Knowing that she wants to breastfeed will influence which procedure will have the least impact on her ability to nurse. The proper procedure, in conjunction with proper rest, diet, and hydration, will help naturally breastfeed with implants.

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