More than 300,000 women get breast implants each year, helping them to feel more confident and beautiful. If you’ve had breast augmentation surgery and are expecting, you have probably wondered whether or not you will be able to successfully breastfeed your new baby.
Research shows that women who have breast implants are more likely to run into problems when nursing; however, even with these additional challenges, you still have a good chance of being able to successfully feed your new little one.
Possible Problems with Breastfeeding with Breast Implants
The type of surgery that you had for your breast implants will affect your ability to nurse. Sometimes an incision is made around the areola and is often called a “smile incision.” This incision can damage the nerves in the area, causing a loss of sensation in the nipples, areola and breast.
When your little one sucks on your breast, the motion normally triggers the nerves in your breast to send messages to the brain to release milk from the milk ducts. This is called the “let-down” response. If the nerves can’t communicate with the brain, the milk may not let down. If you still have sensation in your nipples, there is a good chance that you will be able to nurse.
Additionally, sometimes the incision may be made under the breast or in the armpit. This type of incision can sometimes damage the milk ducts, which will prevent milk from flowing to the nipples.
Breast Implant Placement
The placement of your implants can also affect your ability to breastfeed. Breast implants are commonly inserted between the chest muscles and breast tissue or under the chest muscles. If they were placed under the chest muscles, there is a less likely chance of damage to the milk ducts and nerves.
Reason for Getting Implants
Many women get breast implants every year for cosmetic reasons because they had small breasts and want to increase their size. Other women opt to get breast implants because their breasts never developed, were spaced too far apart, had a tubular appearance or were asymmetrical. In these cases, there may have not been enough glandular tissue necessary for milk production. If you aren’t able to breastfeed, it’s possibly due to the lack of glandular tissue rather than the breast implants.
When your milk first comes in, your breasts will become engorged. They will feel hard to the touch and slightly uncomfortable. Your body will eventually regulate your milk production and produce the perfect amount for your little one. In women who have had breast implants, this engorgement can be exaggerated, causing extreme engorgement, which can possibly lead to mastitis. Sometimes the milk ducts become blocked with the placement of the implants. If this occurs, the milk won’t be able to flow out of the nipples, causing the breasts to swell uncomfortably.
Tips for Successfully Breastfeeding with Implants
- Meet with a certified lactation consultant. Lactation consultants are specially trained and will be well-experienced with helping women with breast implants breastfeed their babies. Select one before your new little one arrives and get acquainted, if possible, to get any questions or concerns you may have addressed. Because you may have scar tissue from your breast implants that could make breastfeeding uncomfortable, the lactation consultant can also suggest ways to reduce this pain.
- Acquire a breast pump. Your breast implants may prevent your body from making all of the milk your little one needs. An electric breast pump can help you increase your milk supply.
- Breastfeed as often as possible. Your body makes breast milk based on “supply and demand.” The more milk your body thinks you need, the more milk it will make.
- Don’t be disappointed if you have to supplement with formula. Any breast milk you are able to provide your little one will help strengthen his or her immune system. Supplementing with formula may be an ideal solution if you want to breastfeed but aren’t producing enough milk.
Breast Implants and Milk Quality
Most breast implants are filled with either saltwater or silicone. You may worry that the fluid in your implants will leak and affect the quality of your breast milk. There is no evidence that implants affect milk quality.
When to Contact Your Health Care Provider
You won’t know how your breast implants affect your ability to nurse until your little one is here and you begin trying to breastfeed. If any of the following situations occur after your little one’s birth, contact your health care provider immediately for assistance:
- If it’s been five days after delivery and your milk hasn’t come in yet.
- Your baby has less than three bowel movements a day.
- After the fourth day, your baby has less than six wet diapers a day.
- Your baby nurses less than eight times per day.
- You have nipple pain in-between or during breastfeeding sessions.
- You feel a hardening or a lump on your breast.
- Your breasts are engorged and are accompanied by a fever, chills and/or pain.
- Your baby has any signs of dehydration. These signs include: sunken eyes, a sunken fontanel, shallow breathing or dry skin.
It may take a little extra effort on your part, but you will most likely be able to breastfeed your baby with breast implants. Talk with your doctor or lactation consultant about any concerns you may have. He or she will be able to help you as you navigate breastfeeding your new little one.