Breastfeeding with implants following augmentation surgery

Can I breastfeed after having a breast augmentation with implants?

The short answer is: yes. Many women have breast implants before they have children, and most women with breast implants can breastfeed successfully.

Australian breastfeeding statistics indicate that 96% of all mothers (with or without implants) initiate breastfeeding at birth. By three months old, 39% of babies are still exclusively breastfed. This drops to 15% of babies at five months.

If you’re one of the millions of women in their 20s and 30s who have breast implants, and you’re planning to breastfeed, you might wonder whether or not implants will impact your ability to do so. In this article, specialist plastic surgeon Dr David Sharp – who performs breast augmentation surgery in Brisbane and Ipswich – answers some commonly asked questions about the safety of breastfeeding after augmentation surgery.

During breast augmentation surgery, breast implants are placed between your chest wall and your muscle/breast tissue, avoiding interference with the breast ducts or mammary glands from which milk is excreted.

While some glandular tissue is dissected during breast augmentation, there is no excision of breast tissue, which should enable normal milk production after surgery.

breast reduction breastfeeding

Research shows that a woman with aesthetic breast implants has a 75% chance of breastfeeding if desired, regardless of the type and the volume of the implant and the surgical approach. She has an 82% probability of breastfeeding with implants placed under the muscle (sub-pectoral).

Most breast augmentations performed by Dr Sharp are sub-pectoral, or dual plane, as this is his preferred implant placement location.

Interestingly, this study found that there were no significant differences between different surgical approaches, and most women with breast implants were able to establish breastfeeding. However, it found that a higher number of women who didn’t have implants established exclusive breastfeeding; this can be due to choice, pre-existing breast development issues or surgical complications.

Should I wait to have babies before having breast augmentation surgery?

There isn’t a correct answer to this question, as it speaks to the woman’s individual preferences, enjoyment of her body and reproductive goals.

We recommend women consider the following questions if they are considering breast augmentation surgery prior to breastfeeding:

– Am I comfortable with the idea of my breasts changing shape after I breastfeed?
– If my breasts change shape or size, I might like how they look even more – some women find they sit more naturally and feel softer. But it’s also possible that I might be disappointed with how they look. There’s no way to definitively predict how breastfeeding will impact the appearance of your breasts. How will I feel if this happens?
– If I am unhappy with how my breasts look after breastfeeding, will I want to have my breast augmentation redone, and if so;
– Will I be ok with that possibility – emotionally and financially?

Ultimately, whether a woman has implants or not:

– Some women find breastfeeding difficult or impossible
– Some women don’t want to breastfeed
– Most women with implants will require removal and replacement at some point in time, whether they breastfeed or not
– It is up to the individual woman to weigh up whether or not the pleasure she gains from having implants will outweigh her concerns about potential breastfeeding issues
– Your body, your choice: no one should pressure a woman into having breast implants. Nor should she feel pressured into breastfeeding.

Will breastfeeding ruin my implants?

No. However, changes are to be expected after breastfeeding – whether you have implants or not! Breastfeeding usually depletes volume, stretches the skin and changes the shape, colour and projection of the nipple-areola complex. Some ‘bounce back’ better than others, and a number of factors play into this including age, skin elasticity/condition, genetics, natural pre-breastfeeding anatomy, how long you breastfeed for and breast size.

Breast implants usually require replacing; every decade or so is the most common interval in our clinics’ experience. Therefore, many women who have implants placed in their 20’s, followed by pregnancy and breastfeeding, find that by the time they are ready for removal and replacement, their natural breast anatomy has also changed due to lactation as well. Read more about breast implant removal and replacement here. 

Things to be aware of if you plan to breastfeed after having augmentation surgery

Nipple sensation can be temporarily reduced – or heightened – following breast augmentation surgery. In the 24 months following, nerves regenerate and sensation improves, but for some women full sensation does not return.

The nerves around your nipples play a role in breastfeeding; the sensation of a baby sucking on the breast increases the levels of hormones prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin triggers the production of breast milk, while oxytocin triggers the letdown. When these nerves are damaged, sensation can be reduced, but most mothers find they can still produce milk and get let downs – they might just not feel them as strongly. 

Importantly, when performing breast augmentation surgery, Dr Sharp places incisions in the inframammary fold, which ensures the least possible disruption to the milk ducts and nerves.

Early engorgement is normal when breast milk ‘comes in’ and some women with implants find nipple attachment can be tricky when their breast is too hard and full. For this reason, a consultation with a lactation consultant prior to giving birth, or during the early breastfeeding period, is helpful, to show you how to comfortably reduce engorgement and regulate milk supply, creating the right sucking attachment to minimise nipple discomfort.

It is also important to consider pre-existing breast development issues that were there before augmentation surgery. If you had small but normally-developed breasts before your augmentation, chances are you are a good candidate for breastfeeding. But some women get implants because their breasts did not develop normally; in some cases, a lack of natural glandular breast tissue might impact the ability to breastfeed.

Anatomically oversized breast implants are more likely to cause complications, which could make it more difficult to breastfeed.

Is it safe to breastfeed with implants?

Qualified specialist plastic surgeons stay abreast of the latest research and safety recommendations for breast implants, and are at the forefront of research into breast implant safety. There is no research to show that breastfeeding with silicone implants impacts babies’ health. There is no evidence of increased risk of birth defects in babies born to mothers with breast implants.

A 2007 study that measured silicon levels did not find higher levels in breast milk in mothers with silicone implants compared to those without. Silicon is a component in silicone.

If you are a first time mum, breastfeeding can be stressful and we recommend consulting with a lactation consultant before you give birth, if possible. To locate a consultant near you, the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s website is a good place to start.

Want to learn more about breast implants and augmentation surgery? Contact our friendly patient support team.