Breast augmentation is easily one of the most popular plastic surgery procedures around. An improvement in the volume and shape of the breasts can greatly improve the self-image and confidence in a woman. However, some women are hesitant about breast augmentation because of one important concern: Will breast implants affect breastfeeding in the future?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions regarding breast implants and is also one of the main concerns holding many women back. The answer may be surprising to some, but it is indeed possible to breastfeed safely after breast augmentation. In fact, breast augmentation should not affect breastfeeding at all if performed well.
To understand why this is so, let us address the 2 main myths on how breast augmentation may appear to affect breastfeeding and explain why they are of little concern.
Myths and misconceptions regarding breast augmentation and breastfeeding
Myth 1: Breast augmentation surgery and breast implants will inevitably damage the milk glands and ducts/reduce breast milk production
Strictly speaking, this is not entirely false, as it is indeed possible for the surgery to disturb or damage the milk glands and ducts in the breast. However, this is extremely unlikely to happen. Based on a recent published study involving 200 mothers and their infants, the rates of successful breastfeeding of those with and without breast implants were 93% and 99% respectively. As we can see, the rate of successful breastfeeding is still fairly high in women in breast implants, with only a very small different as compared to women without.
The reason behind this is that the most common approach of breast augmentation is the inframammary approach, where the implant is inserted from an insert within the folds under the breast. This incision is distant from most the milk glands and ducts in the breast tissue located around the nipple-areola complex, and is unlikely to damage them. Furthermore, silicone breast implants are usually placed behind the chest muscle (pectoralis major) or in between the breast tissue and the muscle. In either case, there is minimal disturbance to the milk glands and milk ducts of the tissue. Hence, there is little to no concern about the surgery damaging and disturbing the milk supply.
Myth 2: The silicone gel in the implants will leak/leach into the breast milk
On the other hand, there are also concerns about the silicone gel filling leaching into the breastmilk, affecting it quality. Although this may be a concern in the past, research has shown that modern breast implants do no leach harmful chemicals into breastmilk. There are no significant differences in silicone levels between women with and without breast implants. In fact, silicone contents of both are much lower when compared to most infant formula milk in the market! From these, it is clear that breast augmentation and implants have little to no influence on the quality of breast milk produced.
Things to take note of if you intend to breastfeed after breast augmentation
- Surgical approach/Location of the incisions
As the milk glands and ducts are mostly located around the nipple-areola complex, having the incision site as far from this area will significantly reduce the chances of damaging these tissues. As mentioned, the most common inframammary approach already takes this into consideration. However, there are approaches where the incision site is much closer to, or even on the edge of the areola. It is important avoid this as it has high risks of damaging milk glands and ducts, as well as nerves which are important in triggering the let-down reflex in breastfeeding.
- Location and size of the implants
The presence of the implant can exert pressure on the milk glands and ducts in the breast and interfere with milk production and flow. This interference however, can be reduced in 2 ways. Firstly, the implant should be placed beneath the pectoralis major muscle. This will reduce the direct pressure exerted on by the implant on the milk glands and ducts. Secondly, the implant should not be too large as large implants tend to exert more pressure.
- Continue to breastfeed even if milk supply is not optimal
Most women are indeed able to breastfeed successfully with breast implants. However, the milk supply may be insufficient as some breastfeeding tissue may be disturbed during the surgery. In this case, it is important to continue breastfeeding as much as possible despite the insufficient supply. The suckling infant can stimulate the production of breastfeeding hormones in the mother, and lead to the development of new glandular tissue, eventually improving the milk supply. It is important to note that this development is not immediate however. During this time, the mother can supplement the infant’s diet with formula milk in addition to breast milk to ensure that the baby receives enough nutrition.
Now that we have a better understanding on breast augmentation surgery and breast implants, it should become clear that there are little risks of developing breastfeeding complications. However, we are not completely dismissing these risks. It is indeed true that breast augmentation can interfere with breastfeeding in some cases. However, most, if not all of these issues can be avoided with preparation and good surgical techniques. During the consultation, inform the plastic surgeon that you intend to breastfeed after the surgery. Our surgeon will take this into consideration to offer you the most suitable approach and professional advice. As long as you take the necessary precautions, breastfeeding with a breast implant is not only possible, but very safe for both the mother and the infant.