Breast implant surgery is the top choice for women in the U.S. who want to balance breast appearance and enhance self-confidence. However, for women of childbearing age, the decision to have augmentation isn’t the only consideration. Many women also wonder how having implants will affect them and their baby when breastfeeding. The answer depends mainly on implant type and the surgical methods used in augmentation.
Types of Breast Implants
There are two main types of implants available. Breast implants are either filled with silicone or with saline. Both types of implants have an outer shell made of silicone. Silicone breast implants are filled with silicone gel before they’re inserted, whereas saline implants are inserted first and then filled with sterile salt water.
A common concern is that implants will rupture and leak. A rupture in a saline implant will cause it to deflate. The solution will be absorbed by the body with no known health effects, and the shell will need to be removed. A rupture in a silicone implant will typically see the silicone becoming trapped in the capsule.
The capsule consists of fibrous tissue that forms around the implant following surgery. If released outside of the capsule, the silicone can enter the milk ducts, although this is incredibly rare. Even if this did happen, in order to get there, the silicone would need to travel through several cell membranes before it reached any breast milk.
Surgical Methods, Placement of Implants, and Reason for Surgery
When considering breast augmentation surgery, women have three options for implant insertion. The incision method chosen is important, as it can affect your ability to breastfeed. Implants can be inserted from under the breast (inframammary incision), through the armpit area (transaxillary incision), or through the areola (periareolar incision).
The inframammary and transaxillary incision methods will typically result in no problems with breastfeeding because these incision locations will not damage milk ducts or glands. The periareolar incision method, however, can often involve the cutting of glands and milk ducts. When this occurs, the milk ducts and glands can become damaged and interfere with your ability to breastfeed.
How? The nerves located around the nipple are what provide the sensation of suckling. When you feel this sensation, the levels of two hormones—oxytocin and prolactin—are increased. Prolactin triggers milk production, and oxytocin triggers the stoppage of milk production.
Placement of the Implants
Where the surgeon places the silicone or saline implants in your body can also affect your ability to breastfeed. There are two locations where breast implants can be placed in the chest. One is behind the chest wall (subpectoral placement), and the other is in front of the chest wall (subglandular placement).
Women considering breast augmentation surgery who plan to breastfeed will have a much better chance of being able to do so if the implants are placed behind the chest wall (subpectoral placement). The ability to breastfeed can be far less likely with subglandular placement.
Reason for Augmentation
A woman’s reason for getting breast augmentation surgery can also affect her ability to breastfeed. For instance, reconstruction surgery following a mastectomy may result in a woman having an insufficient amount of functioning breast tissue remaining to produce the needed amount of milk.
Women with hypoplastic or underdeveloped breasts may elect to have breast augmentation surgery in order to improve breast shape, spacing, and symmetry. Where breast hypoplasia is the reason for surgery, it’s important for women who are considering the procedure to confirm the presence of enough milk-making tissue prior to augmentation surgery.
Pumping with Breast Implants
A very common concern among women who are considering breast augmentation surgery is whether they will be able to use a breast pump. There is no evidence which suggests that pumping is unsafe for women with breast implants.
However, women whose breast lift surgery involved a periareolar incision may experience irritation in the scar tissue when placing the flange. The adjustment of the flange may need to occur visually if there is decreased sensitization in the breasts.
Issues with milk production can occur whether you have breast implants or not. The good news is that there are several options for increasing milk supply.
How to Produce More Milk
There are many ways to produce more milk, but it’s always a good idea to try increasing milk supply with these natural methods first.
One is to breastfeed between eight and ten times each day, as this will stimulate milk production. Also, ensure that you’re nursing from both breasts.
Pumping on a regular basis will increase your milk supply, as will gentle breast compression. Ensuring a comfortable position and skin-to-skin contact during nursing can also enhance milk production. If these do not result in a better milk supply, you can try galactagogues.
Galactagogues, found in certain foods and herbs, are another natural way to help with milk production. Herbs like fenugreek, milk thistle, and fennel have been known to be beneficial. However, you’ll want to speak with your doctor before trying milk-producing herbs, as some may have adverse effects—some herbs like sage, peppermint, and oregano can decrease your milk supply.
You can also incorporate foods with galactagogue properties into your diet. These foods include grains like oats and brown rice, legumes such as lentils and chickpeas, sesame seeds, raw nuts, and brewer’s yeast. A very easy way to get many of these foods into your diet is by eating lactation cookies, which typically combine galactagogues like oats, brewer’s yeast, and flax seeds.
Finally, you’ll want to ensure you’re not inhibiting your milk production. Avoid wearing tight tops or bras. You’ll also want to avoid taking some allergy medications like Zyrtec or Benadryl.
Quitting smoking is another way to improve milk production.
Support and Supplementation
If you’re not producing milk in large amounts or are concerned about your ability to breastfeed, it’s important to speak with your obstetrician. Inform them of your surgery and that you wish to breastfeed. You can also get support from the lactation consultant in the hospital.
It may be that you can supplement with formula if your lactation consultant or your baby’s pediatrician approves. If formula isn’t an option for you, you can ask about using donor breast milk. Whatever your individual situation, the benefits of breastfeeding exist even if you’re producing small amounts of breast milk. Breast milk will greatly benefit your baby, as well as allow you both to form a strong bond.
How to Know Your Baby Is Getting Enough Milk
Whether you’re producing milk on your own or supplementing, it’s important to ensure your baby is getting the nutrition they need. You can do this by monitoring how your baby breastfeeds; they should be latched on properly with their mouth covering your areola. Their sucking should be slow and steady, with deep jaw movements.
Individual Care with a Personalized Approach
The Texas Center for Breast and Body is dedicated to providing each patient with individualized care. Our surgeons place your safety and well-being as top priorities during every stage of the breast implants process. Above all, the decision to have plastic surgery is yours and yours alone, and we provide you with the education you need to make an informed decision.
If you’re considering breast augmentation surgery but are unsure if it’s right for you, we invite you to schedule a consultation. Just call 713-893-1109 or complete the consultation form on our website.