Whether you’ve had them enhanced or reduced, any type of breast surgery can have implications on whether or not you can breastfeed.
(This article first appeared in Your Pregnancy, Apr/May 2016)
During your pregnancy there are of course many changes to the breasts. But your worries about whether you will be able to breastfeed your baby successfully will be heightened if you‘ve had breast surgery. Because it’s impossible to know beforehand what your milk supply will be like, whether you’ve had breast surgery or not, you should consider getting advice and information from a professional who deals with breastfeeding mothers and babies every day.
One of the best things you can do is contact a lactation specialist for a prenatal discussion and examination, as well as take a breastfeeding education class. Knowledge is power and knowing how to recognise a problem early will allow you to get help.
These classes often provide resources on where to go for help when you need it. You need to know from the start that any type of breast injury or breast surgery may affect your ability to breastfeed your baby.
Read: Breast surgery and breastfeeding
If your surgery or injury has caused the nerves or milk ducts to be severed, this could impact on your milk production. Factors that need to be taken into consideration after surgery include:
- When the surgery was done (mother’s age and length of time since the surgery),
- Reason for the surgery (to remove a lump or other medical issues), and
- What type of support structures and go to people you have in place, in case of difficulties.
Different surgical practices are used for breast reductions and the main concern will be how much damage has been done to the milk ducts and nerve supply in the breasts, especially if the nipples were moved to a different position.
This goes for injury or damage to the breast as well. If your nipples or areolas have been injured, the ability to breastfeed will depend on how well milk can flow through them. A loss of sensation in the breast and nipple can be an indication of nerve damage.
It goes without saying that some milk ducts are almost always cut during breast reduction surgery.
Depending on how many ducts were cut or damaged influences the amount of milk available to the baby. Nerves can slowly regrow and more glandular tissue will develop during pregnancy. Be sure to get a history of exactly what your breast surgeon did.
They’ll know if they managed to preserve major nerves and if the incisions they made affected the milk ducts in anyway. Being forewarned and having as much information as you can will help the lactation specialist help you!
Read: Breastfeeding with implants
Breasts that have been surgically enhanced with silicone or saline implants may have nipples that are more or less sensitive than normal. If you have feeling in the nipple, you have a much better chance of having a good milk supply. Also, once your milk comes in (in the three days after your baby is born), you may feel more engorgement or fullness than normal.
It’s important to report any pain, chills or fever as soon as you notice or feel unwell. Women who have had breast augmentation due to lack of breast tissue may also have problems with milk supply.
Read: Silicon boobs, hungry baby?
There’s usually a good chance of breastfeeding success after breast enhancement surgery. As mentioned, it all goes back to the type of surgery and where the incisions were made on your breasts. Most surgeons today use methods that are designed to support breastfeeding in the future.
Incisions made under the breast (under the fold), or through the armpit are less likely to cause a problem. An incision made around the lower half of the areola increases your risk of having breastfeeding difficulties.
Most mothers who’ve had surgery can feed to a certain extent. Some will breastfeed fully without needing to supplement with formula.
Read: FAQS on breastfeeding
There are ways to build up your milk supply that you can discuss with your lactation specialist.
Some mothers will need to supplement with formula, but only trial and error and a lot of patience will really tell! Clearly, breast reduction surgery is more likely to cause milk supply problems than breast augmentation surgery.
It’s always a good idea to think ahead to the time you become a mother and would want to breastfeed your baby, when you’re considering breast surgery. Your breasts are going to change so much during pregnancy and you may want to postpone until after you’ve had your babies. Always mention this to the surgeon you consult.
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