Nursing With Breast Implants: Is It Possible?

baby breastfeeding

If you've got breast implants, you may assume that your surgically enhanced bosom will throw an automatic wrench in any plans to nurse your baby. Good news! According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the majority of women with breast implants can breastfeed if they so desire -- and one study found that as many as 61 percent of women with implants breastfeed successfully.

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Not convinced you can be one of them? Here are some concerns moms with breast implants may have ... and why they shouldn't worry.

Silicone/saline implants "leaking" into breast milk:

With something extra inside, you may be worried that your implants may get mixed up in the milk, but doctors have some good news for you. "They have actually measured silicone levels in milk after augmentations, and silicone is not increased," says Arthur Perry, MD, a plastic surgeon, professor at Columbia University, and author of Straight Talk About Cosmetic Surgery. "Even if it were increased, there is no evidence that this is harmful to the child. Interestingly, most nipples for bottle feeding are made of silicone rubber, nearly identical to the material in breast implants."

Meanwhile, saline implants are even less of a concern. Not only do fewer than 1 percent of saline implants leak, but even if yours does, "saline is simply salt water and totally drinkable," says Dr. Perry. Your baby will just pee it out.

Milk ducts affected by surgery:

A mom's milk ducts -- and, by association, the amount of milk she can produce -- may be impacted by surgery, but not necessarily. It all boils down to the location of the incision.

"If the implants were placed through an incision in the arm pit, this leaves the breast area unharmed," says lactation consultant Leigh Anne O'Connor. "But if the implants were placed through an incision in the nipple along the areola, in some cases it may sever some of the milk ducts." Yet even in this case, all is not lost: if the implant surgery happened years earlier, this may have given the ducts the time needed to heal ... and deliver milk.

Loss of nipple sensation:

Worried your nipples won't respond to baby's latch? Don't. One study conducted by researchers at the University of Puerto Rico found that only 2 percent of breast augmentation patients report a loss in nipple sensation. And even if you end up in this slim minority, this should not impact your ability to breastfeed -- just the way it feels. 

"Even if the nipple is numb, the breast can still make milk," says Dr. Perry. "Plus, nipple erections -- which are important for the baby to latch -- occur independently from nerve function." So even if the nerves to the nipple are severed, you're still good to go.

More from The Stir: 8 Breastfeeding Positions to Make Nursing Easier on Mom

Over-engorgement:

When a mom's milk comes in, her breasts will already feel full to the point of bursting, and for moms with implants, there's even less room. But this is not a deal breaker either.

"Pump for a few minutes to attempt to soften the areola area of breasts so the infant will be able to compress the breast tissue and breastfeed," suggests Bonnie Herbst, a lactation consultant at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "And after breastfeeding, mom can place ice packs over her breasts for 20 minutes to relieve the engorgement."

More good news: engorgement problems usually resolve on their own within about three to four days. After that, breastfeeding should become smooth sailing for you and baby both.

Breastfeeding will damage the implants or cause them to sag:

"Implants are sturdy," assures Dr. Perry. "To show women how sturdy they are, I like to put them on the floor and stomp on them." While we wouldn't recommend you road-test this wisdom, know that a breastfeeding baby can't do much damage!

Plus, a recent study measuring the dimensions of breasts with implants found that breastfeeding had a negligible effect on whether the breasts sag. Rather, the researchers found that the hormonal changes of pregnancy were responsible for changing breast shape. So if you do lose some perkiness post-baby, chalk it up to your pregnancy! Neither breastfeeding nor your implants are to blame.

What was your biggest breastfeeding hurdle, and how did you make it over the hump?


Image © Aurelie and Morgan David de Lossy/cultura/Corbis

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