Breastfeeding and Breast Implants

By Barbara Wilson-Clay, BS, IBCLC

While any form of breast surgery carries some risk of damage to milk ducts and nerves, many women with breast implants experience happy and successful breastfeeding.

Some parents worry that implants affect the quality of the milk. Current research considers breastfeeding to be safe even if a leak in the implant packet occurs.

The location of the implant incision may affect breastfeeding. Implants inserted under the fold of the breast or under the arm are least likely to damage important nerves and milk ducts. Implants inserted at the edge of the areola may affect nipple sensation, reducing both milk release and milk supply.  Scar tissue from implant surgery may occasionally block milk ducts. Breast drainage may be affected, especially during periods of unusual breast fullness.  Women with implants sometimes need extra help during the engorgement phase, and may be more prone to mastitis (breast infection). 

Some women get implants because one or both breasts failed to develop normally. Without adequate glandular tissue, full milk production may not be possible. In such cases, it is not the implants causing the problem, but rather the lack of glandular tissue.

Women with milk supply problems should tell the baby’s doctor that they have had breast surgery. Their babies need closer follow-up to make sure growth and weight gain are normal.  A lactation consultant can be a valuable resource to the woman who has experienced breast surgery. 

References:

Acarturk S, Gencel E, Tuncer I. An uncommon complication of secondary augmentation mammoplasty: bilaterally massive engorgement of breasts after pregnancy attributable to postinfection and blockage of mammary ducts. Aesthetic Plast Surg 2005; 29(4):274-279.
 
Brown S, Todd J, Cope J, et al. Breast implant surveillance reports to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: maternal-child health problems. J Long Term Eff Med Implants 2006; 16(4):281-290.
 
Committee on Drugs, American Academy of Pediatrics. The Transfer of Drugs and Other Chemicals into Human Milk. Pediatrics 2001; 108(3):776-789.
 
Hurst N. Lactation after augmentation mammoplasty. Obstetrics and Gynecology 1996; 87(1):30-34.

Neifert M, Seacat J, Jobe W. Lactation failure due to insufficient glandular development of the breast. Pediatrics 1985; 76(5):823-827.

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