Many women hope to boost their confidence with breast augmentation (or implants). Implants are also popular to correct oddly shaped or mismatched breasts, and can be used in reconstructive surgery following a mastectomy. However, the breast was designed for more than creating a symmetrical outline, and if the woman has a baby she could have concerns about the feasibility of breastfeeding after augmentation.
Generally, there is no reason why a woman cannot breastfeed after breast augmentation. Of course, as in everything, the situation varies from individual to individual. Some women find breastfeeding easy, others find it more difficult for reasons that have nothing to do with augmentation. If you’re getting implants and hoping to breastfeed at some point in the future, it would be worthwhile discussing this with your surgeon and planning the procedure accordingly.
If the breasts were enlarged because they had not developed properly and were hypoplastic, they may not produce much milk anyway as there may not be enough of the glandular tissue necessary for producing milk. Research has indicated that women with hypoplastic breasts were 25 per cent more likely to have difficulty with breastfeeding, with or without implants.
Implants can be filled with saline (sterile salt water) or silicone. Both types of implants can have textured or smooth shells (made of silicone) and are available in different sizes. Some women prefer the feel of silicone gel implants, although if they leak the silicone can cause health problems. Saline implants are empty when inserted into the body, and then filled.
Breasts can be affected in different ways by augmentation. The nipples, for example, may be less sensitive, but this will not necessarily affect the flow of milk. Sensation in the nipples is a good sign that everything is working as it should, but even if full feeling has not returned after surgery the ability to breastfeed may not be affected.
How the surgery is carried out could affect breastfeeding. Incisions can be made under the breast or in the axilla (armpit) and this kind of surgery generally is compatible with breastfeeding. An incision around the areola however could affect being able to nurse as milk ducts and nerves may have been severed when the incisions were made.
If you have implants, possible conditions that may arise after birth include increased breast engorgement, chills, fever or pain. There is also the risk of mastitis. Scar tissue inside the breast from the surgery may make breastfeeding a little uncomfortable, at least at first.
It will not be possible to tell exactly how much breastfeeding has been affected until you try to do it. Engaging an expert in lactation to support your breastfeeding may be helpful as they can supply guidance on how to breastfeed successfully. They may recommend that in addition to nursing, using a breast pump may also be helpful to increase the production of milk.They will also be able to reassure you through each stage and help to manage any pain you might experience.
Breasts go through many changes during pregnancy and nursing. For women who want to be 100 per cent sure they can breastfeed, another idea is to wait until they have weaned their last child, and then work with a surgeon to achieve the breasts they desire.