Had a breast augmentation and now pregnant or planning to start a family? You may be wondering if it will affect your breastfeeding journey.
Dr. Anthony Tang, Consultant Breast Oncoplastic Surgeon, The Breast Clinic, and Ms Chen Liqin, Senior IBCLC, Hegen Lactation Centre, share about breastfeeding with implants, how breast implants affect milk supply and whether breastfeeding with implants is safe for the breastfed baby.
What is breast augmentation and what does it encompass?
Breast augmentation refers to a surgical procedure to increase the size of the breast, usually with silicone or saline implants. The surgeon usually makes an incision under the breast, under the areolar, or in the armpit after which the implant is inserted either under the breast on top of the chest muscle (pectoralis) or under the muscle.
Breastfeeding with implants
Most mothers who have undergone breast augmentation can still breastfeed normally, although some may have difficulty, perhaps more from those who had incisions around the areolar or area where the viability of the milk ducts is impacted. Unfortunately, it is not possible to predict who will have difficulty, until the mother tries to breastfeed.
There are no known associated risks for babies breastfeeding from mothers with breast implants. It is completely safe for the baby to breastfeed, or feed from pumped breast milk. The presence of platinum in silicone and saline implants is a toxic metal; however, there is no evidence to date that suggests breastfeeding with silicone implants is dangerous to the baby. A study measuring silicone levels did not indicate higher levels in breastmilk from women with implants when compared to women without implants (FDA, 2021).
Another concern mothers with breast implants may have is whether their milk supply will be affected. Breast implants may affect the amount of breast milk you’re able to produce. But in some, milk supply isn’t affected at all. This depends on the type of surgery that serves the nerves in the breast and nipple that are stimulated by nursing (Riordan, J. (2005). It is however worth noting that breast implantation surgery may cause damage to ducts, glandular tissue, or innervation of the breast. Capsular contracture, hematoma formation, infection, or pain can turn breastfeeding into a painful experience for some women (Schiff, M. et al., 2014; Cheng, FQ, et al., 2018).
Mothers may worry about the effect breastfeeding may have on their implants. There is no evidence to support this, so mothers can breastfeed and pump without any risk of alternating their augmentation or changing the aesthetics of their breasts (Rosson, G. D. & Rosenblum, N. 2021).
Should mothers with breast implants experience any complications with breastfeeding such as engorgement, they can relieve the fullness by a frequent latch or by expressing breast milk and cold compress to relieve pressure (Riordan, J. 2005). If they experience mastitis, it is important they seek help without delay, either with a lactation consultant or breast surgeon depending on the situation. All infections/mastitis should be treated quickly with antibiotics so that the infection does not affect the implant.
Support is Key
Most women with breast augmentation can successfully breastfeed provided they are properly educated and given the right support and resources. It is therefore essential for the healthcare provider to discuss the potential impact of surgery on breastfeeding. Support is the key! The prenatal period is the best time to get the right resources to prepare mothers for a positive breastfeeding experience.
Hegen Lactation Centre is one such resource centre that offers prenatal lactation consultations in a safe, private and relaxed setting. Book here for your consultation with Lactation Consultant, Ms. Low Peck Kee, and let her support you on your breastfeeding journey.
Cheng, FG., Dai, SP. & Wang, CY. (2018), Does Breast Implants Influence Breastfeeding? A Meta-Analysis of Comparative Studies, <https://doi.org/10.1177/0890334418776654 >
Riordan, J. (2005), Breastfeeding and Human Lactation. Third Edition. Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Inc.
Rosson, G. D. & Rosenblum, N. (2021) Think You Can’t Breastfeed After Implants? Think Again, <https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/think-you-cant-breastfeed-after-implants-think-again>
Schiff, M., Algert, C.S., Ampt, A. et al. The impact of cosmetic breast implants on breastfeeding: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int Breastfeed J9,17 (2014).