Breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby, according to the National Woman’s Health Center. There are benefits for mom as well. If you’re an expectant mother who has had breast implants, you may be wondering if you will be able to nurse your baby. The short answer is that it all depends on the type of surgery you had when you received your implants.
A woman’s breasts contain milk ducts and tiny “sacks” that hold the milk. These are called alveoli. The sacks are actually clusters of cells that have one purpose: to produce milk for your baby. As milk is made, it is stored until the baby needs it, at which point it is released into the ducts, where it travels to the nipple. Stimulating the nipple causes the pituitary gland to signal the alveoli to release the milk. The sensation of milk flowing through the breast, which many mothers describe as a tingling, not unpleasant sensation, is often called “let down.”
Breast implants are inserted into the breasts in two ways. The first involves an incision under the breast, near the armpit. The second is called the “smile” method. In this method, an incision is made along the bottom curve of the areola. The latter is more popular because it creates an invisible scar, but it also presents the most problems for women who want to breastfeed.
There are problems with both methods. Any incision made on the breast runs the risk of severing milk ducts and alveoli, which can lead to reduced milk production. Incisions made around the areola sever nerve endings. This makes the nipple much less sensitive, which in turn makes it difficult to nurse properly. The mother may not be able to feel the position of the baby’s mouth. In addition, if the nerve endings are severed, there is no stimulation of the pituitary gland, which is needed to signal milk production in the breasts.
There is no way to identify whether you will be able to breastfeed after receiving breast implants until you actually try it. For most women, because breast milk is so beneficial to babies, the effort is worth it. Some women find that pumping, which produces greater suction than nursing, is a good way to stimulate milk production if the nipples are not sensitive enough to trigger milk “let down.”
Some concerns have been raised that silicone materials may leak into breast milk. According to the La Leche League International, studies show that this is not a concern. Babies are exposed to more silicone in the environment than in breast milk. For this reason, the La Leche League International recommends that women with breast implants nurse their babies.