Many women, as soon as they are 22 years old, can legally undergo breast augmentation in the USA. They may have the surgery before they have children. Therefore, it is natural that they will want to find out if breastfeeding with implants is safe for the baby.
Well, the truth is that most women can still breastfeed even after breast augmentation. In a few cases, breastfeeding is made difficult. But you can reduce complications by choosing a less risky site of incision, placement, etc.
Find out more about breastfeeding and implants:
Part 1: Can silicone leach from the implants into the mother’s milk?
As a mom, you may be concerned about chemicals from the implants leaching into the milk the baby drinks. Another concern is if the chemicals increase the risk of immunologic diseases.
Various studies have focused on shedding light on these concerns. In one study, it was found that the milk of mothers with implants and that of women without implants were not statistically different.
Women who have implants have given statements that they have no problems breastfeeding because they have also remained healthy despite undergoing breast augmentation.
Outside the medical world, silicone is considered food safe. Many mothers prefer to use it than plastic products that have been declared BPA-free such as feeding bottles or plates. Silicone remains a safe choice because it’s made up of natural materials, mostly sand.
You might not know this, but silica gel is often mixed with dimethicone (Dimethyl silicone fluid) to create simethicone, which is a type of drug used in babies to treat colic. In the many years of use, no harmful effects have been reported.
Part 2: Breast implants and breastfeeding effects
If you were not expecting an anatomy lesson, get ready for a short one right now. In the figure below, you’ll see the cross-section of the mammary gland: Chest Wall (1), Pectoralis (2), Lobules (3), Nipple (4), Areola (5), Milk duck (6), Fatty tissue (7), and Skin (8).
So how does milk production work? The lobule is, in essence, a collection of alveoli that look like small sacs. Inside the alveoli are milk-producing tissues that obtain nutrients from the blood supply and produce milk.
Once the milk is made, how does it reach the nipple? Well, it flows through the milk ducts to the nipples.
Milk production would be impossible without the production of two key hormones:
1) Oxytocin: It’s the let-down hormone produced by the sensation of the baby’s mouth on the nipple. Its purpose is to cause the contraction of cells surrounding the alveoli, which causes the milk that has accumulated to flow out. Sometimes, just seeing your baby or thinking about them causes the reflex.
2) Prolactin: It’s the hormone that facilitates milk production. Prolactin levels peak when the baby starts feeding.
Effect on breastfeeding implants placement
Surgeons can place breast implants in three places. (Take a quick look at the diagram above to better understand placement):
1) Subglandular placement: The surgeon places the implant over the pectoralis muscles. In this case, care is taken not to interfere with the breast tissues so that breastfeeding is still possible.
However, this placement type increases the chances of capsular contracture. Also, subglandular placement has been found to have higher chances of breastfeeding issues. The implant is adjacent to the milk production tissues, and sometimes exerts pressure on milk ducts or causes the surrounding tissues to harden.
2) Subpectoral placement: It involves placing the implant between the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. It is thought to have less impact on breastfeeding.
3) Submuscular placement: The implant is placed between the pectoralis muscles and the chest wall. The procedure is more painful but will not interfere with the breast tissues. Many cities in the United States are home to experts offering this type of surgery. If you live in Houston, read more here.
The incision type also plays a role. Let’s see how:
Periareolar incision vs. Inframammary incision
With the periareolar incision, the surgeon makes an incision on the outer edge of the areola (outer edge of the nipple). Now, there is a risk that some milk ducts may be severed. What’s more, it may interfere with nipple sensation, which is vital to produce Oxytocin that triggers the letdown reflex.
The most popular incision is the inframammary incision, and it entails making an incision at the inframammary crease, the boundary your breast forms with the chest. It doesn’t interfere with milk ducks or the nipple, therefore, there is little chance of breastfeeding complications.
I had small breasts before augmentation. Will it interfere with milk production?
It’s a commonly held myth that having smaller breasts equates to not producing sufficient milk. Well, it is a myth because breast size is a function of the volume of the fatty tissues in the breast, and not necessarily the volume of milk-making tissue like the lobules and milk ducts. For instance, each breast is thought to have up to 20 lobes.
Milk storage capacity might be affected, however. That means that the mother will have to breastfeed more frequently.
Before breast augmentation, you can ask the doctor if you have hypoplastic (underdeveloped) breasts. Since they have little breast tissue, they may not produce enough milk. It is impossible to correct this situation as it is something you’re born with and becomes apparent during puberty as your breasts fully develop.
Part 3: Will breastfeeding ruin my implants?
Now, breastfeeding doesn’t affect the structural integrity of your implants. As with a normal pregnancy, you can expect to see some changes. For instance, there might be a loss in skin elasticity. Sagging is also not prevented by having implants.
If you want minimum changes, it’s better to exercise regularly since you’ll gain weight during pregnancy.
Not all changes are bad. Breastfeeding and implants is not a recipe for disaster! Some women feel that their implants blend in with the changes during pregnancy and have a more natural look afterward.