Written by Allison Nunez, CBS, student IBCLC
Peer-review by Katie Oshita, RN, IBCLC
There is a common misconception that if you have had breast surgery – reduction, lift, or enhancement – you will not be able to breastfeed or produce milk for your baby. The truth is that there are many reasons that a mama may not be able to breastfeed or produce milk for their baby. A breast augmentation does not automatically mean you cannot. There are plenty of women who have successfully breastfed their littles after undergoing breast surgery!
Breast augmentation is the #1 cosmetic surgery in America and the methods have changed quite a bit over the past few decades. Some of these changes have helped to increase the likelihood of success in a women’s breastfeeding journey.
The motivation behind undergoing breast surgery is not always purely cosmetic. Some of these reasons might include abnormalities such as hypoplastic breasts (minimal glandular/milk producing tissue for example), Poland Syndrome & Turner Syndrome which may already pose a threat to breastfeeding. In cases like these, breast augmentation might not be the main reason for the disruption in milk production. We could get deeper into that, but that would be a whole new topic!
Now, if we look specifically at the anatomy is the breast, one of the most significant drivers of milk supply, other than the mammary tissue and milk ducts, is the 4th intercostal nerve which works to help stimulate the pituitary gland (where prolactin is released). Prolactin is the hormone that helps increase breast size and create milk during and after pregnancy. Therefore, if nerves are damaged during surgery, that can affect feeling within the breast. Stimulation of the breast is hugely important to the production of milk, so the loss of feeling can result in lower supply.
If you have had a breast enhancement, your chances of successfully breastfeeding increase with a subpectoral implant (behind the pectoral muscle) vs. subglandular implant (in front of the pectoral muscle). The incision site is also important to note. As mentioned above, stimulation of the breast and nerve function is crucial, therefore an incision around the nipple may give you more trouble than an incision that was made under the breast fold, in the armpit or through the belly button.
It is important to make informed decisions on breast surgery before having children as it may have a negative effect on a woman’s breastfeeding experience in the future. However, with good education and help from a lactation consultant, a woman with any breast augmentation will have a higher chance of success in their breastfeeding and milk-making journey! Remember that each drop of breastmilk counts and your LOVE as a mother is what that baby needs most.
Reach out to an IBCLC before and after you have your baby, and set yourself up for the highest chance of success!
If you are a survivor of a lumpectomy or mastectomy and need support during your baby-feeding experience, please reach out to Dr. Rachel Wang, MD, CLC. Dr. Wang specializes in breast surgical oncology, benign breast disease, breastfeeding medicine and maternal complications of lactation: https://www.mymarinhealth.org/find-a-provider/rachel-l-yang-md/