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Breastfeeding and Cosmetic Breast Surgery: Form and Function

According to many experts, breastfeeding offers numerous advantages for both a mother and her baby. For example, breast milk embodies a perfect mix of antibodies, proteins, vitamins, and fat in an easily digested form, and thus is an ideal source of nutrition for an infant. In addition, the physical closeness and eye contact between mother and child can facilitate an immeasurable and lasting emotional bond. Finally, nursing provides a woman with several health benefits, including a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers. And, because it burns extra calories, breastfeeding can help a woman lose her residual pregnancy weight faster.

As such, it’s quite understandable that a woman who is interested in breast enhancement might be concerned about her future ability to nurse a baby. Indeed, it is a commonly held misconception that the surgical placement of breast implants will compromise a woman’s milk production or ability to breastfeed. However, while breast augmentation can increase the likelihood that a woman will be unable to nurse a baby, the majority of women are able to breastfeed following a breast enhancement procedure.

Factors that can Affect a Woman’s Ability to Breastfeed

When considering breast enhancement, a woman is advised to consult with an experienced and trusted plastic surgeon who can review her options and help her make several key decisions with regard to her surgery, including the type of implant, implant placement, and surgical technique that are best suited to achieve the outcome she desires. To illustrate, depending on a woman’s anatomy and needs (including her hope to breastfeed in the future), the implants can be placed behind the breast and above the chest muscle (subglandular placement), completely beneath the muscle (submuscular), or partially beneath the muscle (subpectoral). Further, the incision can be made in the inframammary fold (the breast crease), around the areola, or in the underarm area.

For a woman who is concerned about preserving her ability to nurse, it is especially important to learn about and discuss the benefits and risks of the various implant positions and surgical techniques. For example, it is notable then when placed through an inframammary (fold) approach or an axillary (armpit) approach, a breast implant does not touch the breast tissue; rather, it slides underneath it. As such, these approaches are more likely to have minimal impact on the gland itself.

On the other hand, a periareolar (around the nipple/areola) approach involves dissection through glandular tissue. As a result, it is conceivable that some impact on future breast milk production could occur with the undermining of duct tissue. Nevertheless, this approach does not completely rule out the possibility of breastfeeding, because the vast majority of the gland remains untouched and the milk ducts that go to the nipple are typically undisturbed.

Additionally, a very large implant in a woman with fairly tight breast skin or minimal breast tissue, regardless of placement, could conceivably diminish milk production through pressure on the overlying breast tissue. The reason is that the mammary gland, much like any other gland in the body, performs normally when it has an adequate blood supply and room to expand. Placing undue pressure on the gland risks malfunction and could compromise lactation.

A final point to keep in mind is that some women are unable to breastfeed successfully regardless of whether they have had breast augmentation surgery. It is impossible to predict how much, if any, breast milk production a woman can expect – either before or after undergoing breast surgery.

Timing Considerations

Pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding can all affect a woman’s breasts and, in turn, the results of a prior breast augmentation. Therefore, when contemplating breast enhancement surgery, a woman should think about the timing of when she would like to have children. In general, if she would like to have a child in the immediate future — within the next year or so — she might wish to postpone her breast enhancement surgery until after she has finished breastfeeding. Otherwise, further surgery might be required to restore the initial results.

Women who would like more information about breastfeeding and cosmetic breast surgery are advised to consult with an experienced cosmetic surgeon who is Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Katie Perry is an online content editor in the Tampa Bay area. She posts articles about plastic surgery topics and procedures including breast augmentation, breast implants, and more.

Katie Perry is an online content editor in the Tampa Bay area. She posts articles about plastic surgery topics and procedures including breast augmentation, breast implants, and more.

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