Undergoing a breast augmentation does not necessarily mean that your ability to successfully breastfeed will be negatively affected.
However, there is a risk that nerves, milk ducts and milk glands could be damaged during surgery, and so women are advised to research all the available options thoroughly before committing to a breast implant procedure.
Impact of nerve, duct and gland damage
If nerves are injured this will decrease the feeling in the nipple area, which could reduce the let-down response (where milk is released from the glands to the milk ducts in preparation to feed the baby). The amount of milk produced can also be reduced if milk ducts are damaged.
In addition, implants can potentially pinch milk ducts and block the flow of breast milk.
Elements to consider
If you are planning on breastfeeding following a breast augmentation surgery, there are a few elements to consider that could help minimise the risk to your ability to naturally feed your baby:
- Type of implant
- Placement of the implant
- Surgical technique
1. Type of implant
There are two main types of implants that are used in the UK, saline gel implants or silicone gel implants.
Saline gel implants are filled with saline water, which healthcare providers believe has no harmful effect if it becomes mixed with breast milk.
In addition, silicone gel implants are also believed to have no harmful impact if the silicone becomes mixed with breast milk.
However, both types of implant have their pros and cons with regard to the effect they can have on your health. For more information on which type of implant is safest for you, read our blog post: Silicone vs. saline breast implants: which is safest?.
2. Placement of the implant
There are two locations in which your breast implant can be placed: underneath the chest muscle and in-between the breast tissue and chest muscle.
It is believed that implants that lie beneath the chest muscle are less likely to cause damage to milk ducts and nerves, and so have less impact on milk production.
Implants placed between the chest muscle and breast tissue are said to exert more pressure on the milk ducts and glands, which can interfere with the production and flow of breast milk.
3. Surgical technique
The process whereby your surgeon inserts your implant is also worth considering in addition to the location of the implant.
Below, we’ll explain the different surgical techniques and how they could affect your ability to breastfeed.
The most commonly used technique for breast augmentation, the inframammary technique involves making an incision underneath the breast, or along the breast fold, in order to insert the implant. By leaving the glandular tissue and nerves intact, this method can have minimal impact on milk production.
Periareolar incision technique
The periareolar incision technique makes an incision around the edge of the nipple and the areola in order to insert the implant. This has been associated with an increased risk of nerve damage and damage to the milk ducts and glands. Nerve damage can affect the neurohormonal reflex that is needed to make and release breast milk.
Axillary enlargement is where the incision is made under the arm – near the armpit – and the implant is then placed under the chest muscle. This technique leaves nerves and glandular tissue intact and is less likely to cause any damage that could affect breastfeeding.
If you have any concerns or questions about breastfeeding following surgery, you are advised to consult with your doctor or surgeon.