Breast Implants and Lactation
While they aren’t as popular as they were ten or so years ago, many people still undergo breast augmentation as a way of boosting their self-confidence, feeling more like themselves, or another personal reason.
We’re not here to make an argument about the moralities of breast implants or the safety, but instead to discuss lactation and how it may be affected by implants.
So whether you already have implants and are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, or if you’re thinking about getting them, but pregnancy is just a distant vision – this is for you.
Let’s take a look at how breast implants may affect lactation, the safety of them for you and your baby (or potential baby), and any other helpful information as you navigate babies and boobs.
Babies and Boobies
An estimated eight out of every 1000 women in the United States have undergone breast augmentation, mostly for cosmetic reasons. It remains one of the most common cosmetic procedures worldwide.
One study found that breast implants led to a 40% decrease in the likelihood of exclusively breastfeeding. The researchers did note that their data was limited, and thus not conclusive.
It’s hard to get a clear study on just how much breast implants may impact someone’s ability to nurse because there are so many other variables at play. Lactation in of itself can be complicated, and many people experience difficulties on their nursing journey. This makes it nearly impossible to determine whether breast implants are the main culprit if someone has issues lactating.
Still, trends in the data suggest that breast implants can negatively impact your ability to lactate.
Different Factors to Consider
Not all boob jobs are created equal. There are different kinds of materials and techniques that surgeons use, and these differences may affect someone’s ability to nurse.
The Location of Incision
When undergoing breast augmentation, the main places your surgeon may make an incision are across the nipple or areola, through the armpit, under the breast, or through the belly button.
With the exception of through the nipple and areola, these other kinds of incisions usually give your surgeon the ability to preserve major nerves which increases your likelihood of being able to nurse.
If you did have a nipple or areola surgery, over time severed ducts may grow back or form new pathways, and nerves may regain function – all of which can help with milk production.
If you haven’t gotten the surgery yet, but are weighing your options, this is something to keep in mind.
Location of The Implant
The reason for your implants and your anatomy may influence where your surgeon places the implant in your breasts.
Implants that were placed on top of the chest muscle versus underneath it may have more difficulties with milk production.
Is it Harmful To The Baby?
As of now, there are no studies that suggest that implants made of silicone are harmful to babies. In 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement saying there wasn’t sufficient evidence to suggest that silicone breast implants may cause harm to a nursing baby.
Another study found that silicon levels in breast milk weren’t higher for people who had silicone implants versus those who haven’t.
Top Surgery For Trans Patients
Trans and non-binary parents who were assigned female at birth (AFAB), and have undergone top surgery may still be able to chest feed their babies.
There are also medications that can help induce lactation that may help people who have had top surgery.
Nursing with Implants: The Bottom Line
Ultimately, only you can decide what’s best for you and your baby. What matters is that you make an informed decision about the best way to feed your baby. While you may face some additional challenges compared to someone who doesn’t have implants, if nursing is important to you, then it’s absolutely worth trying.
Breastfeeding is not all or nothing. Implants may somewhat affect your milk supply, but you can always do a hybrid combination of nursing and formula supplementation or another tool that works for you.
If you haven’t gotten breast implants yet but are planning to and nursing is on your mind, you may want to consult a counselor or someone who can help you weigh out the pros and cons before you make your decision.
A great way to help set yourself up for success is to hire a lactation consultant – someone who specializes in supporting people on their breastfeeding journeys. They can help set you up for success before the baby is born and help with milk production, comfort, and anything else that may come up.
You can search “IBCLC lactation consultant near me”, to find a board-certified professional who is dedicated to you and your baby’s needs.
Other ways you can help support your ability to lactate are by nursing often and being sure they empty regularly, be sure your baby has a good latch, use herbal enhancers, massaging your breasts, and using warm compresses.
At the end of the day, remember that fed is best.
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.