Most women with breast implants are able to breastfeed, though there are a few exceptions. Whether you’re able to breastfeed depends on the original state of your breasts before surgery and possibly the type of incision used.
Breast implants may affect the amount of breast milk you’re able to produce. But in some, milk supply isn’t affected at all.
You may also worry about the effect breastfeeding will have on your implants. It’s normal for your breasts to change in shape and size during pregnancy and after breastfeeding. Breastfeeding won’t affect your implants, but the size and shape of your breasts overall may be different.
Read on to learn more about breastfeeding with implants.
Implants are usually placed behind the milk glands or under the chest muscles, which doesn’t affect milk supply. However, the location and depth of the incision used for your surgery may affect your ability to breastfeed.
Surgery that keeps the areola intact is less likely to cause problems. The areola is the dark area around your nipple.
The nerves around your nipples play an important role in breastfeeding. The sensation of a baby suckling on the breast increases the levels of the hormones prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin triggers the production of breast milk, while oxytocin triggers the letdown. When these nerves are damaged, sensation is reduced.
Incisions made under the breast or through the armpit or belly button are less likely to interfere with breastfeeding.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there haven’t been any recent clinical reports of problems in babies of mothers with silicone implants.
There are no methods for accurately detecting silicone levels in breast milk. However, a 2007 study that measured silicon levels didn’t find higher levels in breast milk in mothers with silicone implants compared to those without. Silicon is a component in silicone.
There’s also no evidence of increased risk of birth defects in babies born to mothers with breast implants.
Breast implants do pose some risks to the person, though, such as:
- possibility of needing additional surgeries for corrections or removal
- capsular contracture, which occurs when scar tissue forms around the implant causing squeezing
- changes in breast and nipple sensation
- breast pain
- rupture of implants
There are things you can do to help increase your milk production and help your baby get all the nourishment they need.
Here are some tips to help you breastfeed with implants:
1. Breastfeed often
Breastfeeding your baby 8 to 10 times per day can help establish and maintain milk production. The sensation of your baby suckling your breast triggers your body to produce milk. The more often you breastfeed, the more milk your body will make.
Even if you’re only able to produce a small amount of milk, you’re still providing your baby with antibodies and nutrition at each feeding.
Breastfeeding from both breasts can also increase your milk supply.
2. Empty your breasts regularly
Emptying your breasts plays an important role in milk production. Try using a breast pump or manually expressing milk after feedings to increase milk production.
A 2012 study found that pumping both breasts simultaneously resulted in increased milk production. It also increased the calories and fat in breast milk.
You can also hand-express or pump into a bottle to feed your baby breast milk if they won’t latch.
3. Try herbal galactagogues
There are certain herbs believed to help naturally increase breast milk production, such as:
- milk thistle
There’s a lack of scientific evidence to back up the effectiveness of herbal galactagogues. Some studies have found that fenugreek may help increase milk supply, though.
Some people also use lactation cookies. These can be bought online or made at home to try to help increase milk production. These cookies often contain ingredients such as:
- whole oats
- flax seed
- brewer’s yeast
- wheat germ
- herbal galactagogues
Research is limited on the effectiveness of lactation cookies on increasing breast milk production, though. The safety of these for infant exposure has also not been rigorously studied.
4. Make sure your baby latches properly
A proper latch can help your baby get the most out of feedings.
The key to a proper latching is ensuring your baby takes enough of your breast into their mouth. This begins with making sure their mouth is wide open when they latch on. Your nipple should be far enough into your baby’s mouth so their gums and tongue cover an inch or two of your areola.
Begin by making sure your baby is positioned well, then guide them toward your breast. Holding your breast just behind the areola with your thumb and forefinger in a “C” position can make it easier for your baby to latch on.
You may consider seeing a lactation consultant, too. They’re usually available through your hospital or doctor’s office. They can observe your feedings and give feedback on your baby’s latch and position.
You can also find local consultants through La Leche League.
5. Supplement with formula
If you’re producing small amounts of milk, speak to your baby’s pediatrician or a lactation consultant about supplementing your breastfeeding with formula.
Look for signs that your baby is getting enough milk, such as:
- slow and steady sucking with deep jaw movements while on the breast
- six or more wet diapers and three or more soiled diapers per day
- stools that change from black meconium to yellow, seedy stools
Your baby’s weight is another indicator of adequate or inadequate milk supply. Most babies lose 7 to 10 percent of their weight in the first two to four days of life before they begin to gain weight.
Tell your baby’s pediatrician if you’re concerned about your milk production or your baby’s weight gain.
Most women are able to breastfeed with implants. Talk to your doctor or lactation consultant about your concerns. Remember that your baby can benefit from any amount of breast milk you’re able to produce, and supplementing with formula is an option if needed.
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