Breast Implants and Breastfeeding

nurse helping new mother breastfeeding infant in hospital

Breastfeeding is a popular choice for many new mothers. Breast milk provides excellent nutritional and health benefits for infants, and breastfeeding can be a profound bonding experience between baby and mom. A trend these days is breast implants (also known as breast augmentation). Since some women opt for breast implants during their childbearing years, there are questions about whether or not a woman can breastfeed after she’s had implants.

Breast Implants and Breastfeeding – Can It Be Done?

Many women with breast implants are able to breastfeed, but this can depend on how the implant surgery was performed. If the surgical incision was made under the fold of the breast or through the armpit, there shouldn’t be any serious problem with breastfeeding, since implants can then be inserted without damaging milk ducts or nerves. If, however, the incision is made on or around the areola (the dark part of the breast surrounding the nipple), it increases the likelihood that milk ducts and nerves will be severed, which could limit milk production and impact a woman’s ability to breastfeed. Placement of breast implants can also play a part in breastfeeding, as pressure from the implants can damage milk ducts and nerves. Whatever the surgical procedure, if a woman with breast implants plans to breastfeed, she should work with a doctor or lactation consultant to monitor her milk production for several months, to make sure the baby is getting enough milk. If you’re thinking of having breast implants and also plan to have a child in the future and possibly breastfeed, be sure to let your plastic surgeon know this, so that special care will be taken to try not to damage milk ducts or major nerves.

Woman holding breast implants

Breast Implants and Breastfeeding – Potential Problems

Women with breast implants sometimes don’t produce enough milk to adequately nourish a baby through breastfeeding. Even though a baby may seem to be nursing normally, in some cases an insufficient amount of milk is made. This can be due to surgically severed milk ducts (more likely when surgical incisions are made around the nipple), pressure from the implants pushing against and closing ducts, or implants taking up space in the breast where milk would be stored. If nerves were damaged in surgery, this could affect the release of hormones (prolactin and oxytocin) that trigger the production and release of breast milk. Implants can also block a normal flow of breast milk. The added pressure of breasts that are full of milk can be painful, which might cause a woman to stop trying to breastfeed. Some women with implants are so worried about potential complications they don’t even try to breastfeed.

mother breasfeeding baby in bed

Breast Implants and Breastfeeding – A Risk to Baby?

Anxiety that their breast implants could somehow be harmful to a nursing baby keeps some women from considering breastfeeding. This stems in large part from the fear that chemical material inside the implant could somehow leak into the breast milk and then get into the baby’s system – this issue was of particular concern to women with silicone implants, but studies have shown that it is highly unlikely that silicone molecules, even if leaked from an implant, could get into milk ducts. Furthermore, most implants are currently made from a saline (salt) solution; not only is it doubtful that the saline could somehow pass into milk ducts, if it somehow did, ingested saline would not be harmful to an infant’s health. Even though there’s no real health risk to your baby, if you’re thinking of getting breast implants, you might want to consider waiting until after you’ve already had and breastfed children.