Breast Implant and Breastfeeding
This article is extracted and summarised based on “Breastfeeding with Implants” from breastfeeding.support2, it should not be construed as medical advice. Information found online should always be discussed with your own IBCLC lactation consultant and doctor to ensure it is appropriate for you and your baby’s situation. Contact your doctor, paediatrician or health care provider with any concerns about your baby’s health and welfare.
Breastfeeding authors Wambach and Riordan1 refer to several studies that found only a third of mothers with implants were successful with breastfeeding.
While it is possible to breastfeed with implants but breast implants can affect a mother’s capacity to produce a full milk supply. Whether a mother will have a full or only a partial milk supply depends on;
1. the type of surgery involved and the amount of damage to nerves or breast tissue
2. whether there is any scarring in the milk ducts, and
3. how much functional milk-making (glandular) tissue is present both before and after the procedure.
As with every breastfeeding experience, success also depends on having the correct information about good latch, positioning and breastfeeding management. Knowing how to make more breast milk and wanting to succeed are also important.
HOW DO BREAST IMPLANTS AFFECT BREASTFEEDING?2
Breast implants can reduce a mother’s milk supply. The extent of damage depends on;
1. Location of the incision
The position of the cut (incision) and the surgical technique used to insert an implant affect how much damage there is to nerves, milk glands, ducts or the blood supply in the breast. For example, an incision around the edge of the areola (the darker skin around the nipple) is more likely to damage the nerve that is critical to nipple sensitivity and breastfeeding.
2. Surgical techniques
There are a number of different surgical techniques to insert an implant. Five commonly described incision techniques are the inframammary, axillary, periareolar, periumbilical and transabdominal techniques. The inframammary and axillary techniques are thought to have less impact on milk production.
3. Position and size of the implant
The breast is composed of glandular (milk-making) tissue above a layer of muscle. If the implant packet is placed between the glandular tissue and the muscle layer, it is said to be more likely to exert pressure on the ducts and glands which may interfere with milk flow and reduce milk production. Conversely, when the implant is placed beneath the muscle layer this is said to have less impact on milk production3.
4. Scar tissue and engorgement
Scar tissue as a result of the surgery may cause firmness in the breast, distortion and pain and can extend into milk ducts and affect the milk supply4. If milk can’t drain freely from the breast, women with breast implants may be more prone to excessive engorgement and mastitis5.
5. Changes to sensitivity
Following breast implant surgery some mothers find their breasts are very painful and incredibly sensitive even to normal touch making breastfeeding extremely difficult. Others may have a loss of feeling or numbness in the nipple due to damaged nerves. This can affect the reflex needed for milk production and make it difficult to know when a baby’s attachment at the breast (latch) feels comfortable.
6. Functional breast tissue
Where cosmetic or reconstructive surgery to enlarge a breast is due to abnormal breast development, there may be an underlying absence of functional breast tissue. In such a situation breastfeeding difficulties could be related to this rather than the breast implant surgery directly, but problems are likely to be compounded by implants6.
By starting with the lower pressure settings and ensuring the implant incision is not within or near the contact and coverage area of breast shield, Horigen Chicture 2212MB breast pump is one of the good choice due to its full structure soft liquid silicon breast shield and independent left/right pressure adjustment. However, it is advisable that every individual in concern to discuss with their surgeon on their own unique situation due to the various factors around this topic. This article serves only as reference.
2. https://breastfeeding.support/breastfeeding-with-implants/, Philippa Pearson-Glaze IBCLC, 2019