Whether you already have implants or are planning to get them in the future, one of the biggest questions you've probably pondered is: can you breastfeed with implants? Unfortunately, there's no cut-and-dry answer. Your ability to breastfeed after implants is dependent on the type of implant you get, what kind of procedure you choose, and any pre-existing conditions you might have.
If you already have implants, then you don't have much control over the type of implant and surgery you receive. But there are still some things you should know when it comes to breastfeeding with implants. And if you have yet to go through with your breast augmentation, then you can educate yourself on the best implant options for breastfeeding. No matter which of these situations you find yourself in, we'll answer the question of "Can you breastfeed with implants?"
How Does Breast Augmentation Work?
Breast augmentation is the medical name for getting breast implants. Other, sometimes a little crude, terms for getting breast implants include "breast enlargement" and "boob job." Some people confuse this procedure with a breast lift, but they're not the same. Breast lifts can reshape the breast tissue, but the plastic surgeon does not add any implants. All that's used is your natural breasts, just differently shaped.
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While most people think of using breast implants to change the size of their breasts, normally to make them larger, breast implants have many other functions. First, those who have suffered from breast cancer or traumatic injury can opt to get implants to balance out or reconstruct breast tissue. Breast implants can also change the shape of your existing breasts and make them perkier. This normally requires a combination of a breast augmentation and breast lift.
There are several factors that go into a breast augmentation procedure. Each of these factors can potentially affect your ability to breastfeed with breast implants. So if you're wondering, "Can you breastfeed with implants or not?" a comparison of these factors is the best place to start.
Silicone implants are the most popular option right now. These implants use thick silicone gel as the inner filling. Modern silicone implants mimic the feel of real human fat tissue . As a result, silicone implants generally feel more natural than any other synthetic implant material. While most women opt for silicone implants for their breast augmentation, there are some risks to consider. Silicone implants remain full even if the outer pocket is punctured or torn, so the breast will still look intact from the outside. But inside the silicone can be slowly leaching into the breast cavity. Because of this risk, most plastic surgeons request that their patients with silicone implants get checked every couple of years for a rupture.
Saline implants are filled with sterile saline water. If broken or punctured, the body can safely absorb the saline and expel it through normal bodily waste. Saline implants aren't very commonplace anymore, but they had quite the heyday in the 90s and early 2000s. Silicone implants were temporarily banned by the FDA, meaning saline implants were the only real option at the time.
You can also receive a fat transfer breast augmentation. This procedure starts with liposuction from another area of the body, and this fat is then placed in the existing breast tissue. While this implant type only allows for fairly small jumps in breast size, many people consider it the most natural-looking option.
Over vs. under the muscle
Traditionally, plastic surgeons will place implants over the pectoral muscles (the muscles that sit underneath your breast tissue). After all, this is where our natural breast tissue and body fat sit. Placing an implant over the muscle also gives better access for revisionary surgeries.
But surgeons started placing implants underneath the pectoral muscles in an attempt to prevent cases of capsular contracture. Capsular contracture happens when a patient's immune system responds to the implant as if it was a harmful foreign object. The immune system creates a layer of scar tissue around the implant to isolate it from the rest of the body. This can lead to symptoms like toughness in the breasts, changes to the breast implant shape, and even pain.
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In addition to these risk factors, whether to place an implant under or over the muscle depends on the patient's natural build. Patients who have very little existing breast tissue are better candidates for under-the-muscle implants because they better disguise the outline of the implants. Those who choose to undergo a breast lift in addition to their augmentation should also choose over-the-muscle implants.
When undergoing a breast augmentation, the location of your surgical incision is also a factor to consider. This is probably the most important part of answering the question of "Can you breastfeed with implants?" There are four popular types of incisions: inframammary fold, periareolar, transaxillary, and transumbilical.
The inframammary fold incision type is hidden in the fold underneath the breast tissue. This leaves a small scar, but a bra or the breast itself can easily cover it. Plastic surgeons prefer this incision site because it gives them convenient access to the breast cavity for more control over the placement of the implants.
The periareolar incision type is located along the edge of the areola. The area's darker skin tone hides the scar. However, if the scar doesn't heal properly, it can create a slightly deformed or raised areola. This incision site is also a favorite of surgeons for its direct access to the breast cavity.
The transaxillary incision type is placed in the armpit. This type of procedure is popular when patients want to hide their incision. But this incision site only allows for small implants because there isn't much space to direct the implant from the armpit to the actual breast cavity.
The transumbilical incision site is at the belly button. The surgeon makes a channel from the navel to the breast cavity and then directs the implants through. The implants are then filled when they are already in place. Some plastic surgeons warn that, since the incision site is so far away from the breast cavity, achieving symmetry is difficult.
Breast implant illness
While empirical research hasn't shown any clear connection between the two, many women report experiencing autoimmune symptoms after getting breast implants. Some theorize that these symptoms are caused by surgical infections, which could then trigger an exaggerated immune response.
Many public figures who previously had implants have even reported these symptoms and had their implants removed. However, breast implant removal has some of the same risks as the initial breast augmentation surgery.
Can You Breastfeed with Implants?
So, can you breastfeed with implants? In short, probably. Unfortunately, in many cases, women won't know if their breast augmentation impacts their ability to breastfeed until they try. But experts estimate that about 95-percent of women will still be able to breastfeed after a breast augmentation exactly as they could before.
In some rare cases, new mothers with breast implants might struggle to breastfeed not due to their implants, but because of a pre-existing condition. The rate of these cases is unknown, which makes it hard to estimate how many women with breast implants were actually never able to breastfeed in the first place. But the inability to breastfeed is traumatic for some new mothers no matter the cause.
Can implants affect your milk supply?
The main culprit in damaging your milk supply is the type of incision you received during your augmentation. While most surgeons prefer using an inframammary fold or periareolar incision, both of these pose a risk of severing your breasts' milk ducts. Another risk to breastfeeding following a breast augmentation is nerve damage, especially around the nipples. This is most common following a periareolar incision. Even if your milk ducts and glands are still intact, loss of feeling in the nipple can interfere with the natural signal that tells your body to release this milk.
Whether your implants are over or under the muscle can also play a role. Under-the-muscle implants pose less risk to the milk ducts, glands, and nerves. Choosing an under-the-muscle augmentation can lower the risks of damaging your milk supply. But there's still no guarantee that it won't.
One other thing to consider is the risk of developing breast implant illness. Many medical professionals don't consider this illness enough of a risk to worry about. But if you do experience these symptoms, then your body might not have the resources or energy to maintain a steady milk supply. And if you do choose to undergo a breast implant removal surgery, then there is a second risk of damaging the milk ducts, glands, and nerves.
Is breastfeeding with implants safe for your baby?
Some mothers fear that their implants can somehow contaminate their breast milk, especially if they have a rupture or leak. But there is no compelling evidence to suggest this is 100-percent true or false. Maybe the question isn't can you breastfeed with implants, but should you?
On one side of the argument, researchers claim silicone in breast milk is completely benign. These studies claim that, while silicone is sometimes found in trace amounts in breast milk, this is not likely from the presence of silicone implants. Silicone can naturally occur in breast milk. And the data is practically identical between mothers with and without silicone breast implants. According to these experts, trace amounts are not harmful to your child.
On the other side, nursing proponents point out that the studies showing silicone in breast milk poses no harm to infants are several decades old. The safety of breast implants, in general, comes under question from time-to-time. So what's to say that new studies wouldn't bring up new findings about the safety of breast milk? Whether or not to breastfeed with implants is a personal choice, and no concrete risk exists. But it's inaccurate to say breastfeeding with implants is entirely safe or not.
Will breastfeeding change the way your implants look?
Some new mothers worry that even if the answer to "Can you breastfeed with implants?" is a resounding yes, that doing so will negatively affect the look of their breasts. Studies show no significant change to shape or new presence of sagging after breastfeeding with implants.
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However, you should still expect some normal changes in appearance with pregnancy, such as swelling and enlargement. The way this presents on your body will depend on factors like the size of your implants and whether or not they are over or under the muscle tissue. Like a mother with natural breasts, these effects will slowly dissipate after giving birth and weaning. Rest assured, though, that after these effects pass you can expect your breast implants to look very similar to before your pregnancy.
Tips For Successfully Breastfeeding with Implants
While the answer to "Can you breastfeed with implants?" is normally yes, some women do struggle. If you suspect that your breast implants are impeding your milk supply, you do have some options. Supplements like fenugreek and blessed thistle could help increase your breast milk production. While this might not restore your milk supply to its pre-implant state, it can help meet your baby's needs regardless. You can also try several nursing techniques to naturally increase your body's milk supply. If you continue to struggle with low milk supply, it's best to contact your medical doctor to discuss your options.
Unfortunately, if your breast augmentation severely damages your milk glands or ducts, then your ability to breastfeed might not return. But if the damage is only present in one breast, you can still breastfeed with the other. The vast majority of breast augmentations don't affect breastfeeding. But if this experience is important to you it's something to consider before undergoing surgery. If you've yet to get breast implants, then the question of "Can you breastfeed with implants?" is a great one to ask your prospective doctor. They can tell you what procedure type they recommend for your anatomy. And what steps you can take during recovery for the best odds. But no matter what you choose, odds are your breast implants won't affect breastfeeding.
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