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woman playing with her baby and a bottle of breastmilk 

Is It Possible to Breastfeed After Breast Surgery?

Many women who consider having breast surgery may want to have children at some point. One of the most commonly asked questions among women who would like to undergo breast surgery is whether or not they will be able to breastfeed afterward. Many factors can contribute to a woman’s ability to breastfeed, but most women can breastfeed after breast surgery. This blog discusses how different breast surgeries can affect whether or not you can nurse your infant in the future.

What happens during breastfeeding?

During breastfeeding, a woman’s body engages in a beautifully coordinated series of events.  The glands in the breasts produce and then store milk, ready to be released when the infant feeds. The release of milk, also known as the “let down” response, is stimulated through psychological cues (sight and sounds of the baby suckling) and causes the milk to pass through a series of vessels and ducts to the nipple where it is available to the sucking infant. These events, which are closely regulated by hormonal cues,  rely on the structure and function of milk glands, ducts, vessels, and the nipple. Blood vessels and nerves are abundant in the breasts, and their proper functioning is also essential to breastfeeding.

How can breast surgery affect breastfeeding?

There are several different types of breast surgery, and they affect the tissues of the breast in different ways.  For instance, a breast reduction surgery can remove some of the glands responsible for milk production and storage. Depending on the location and size of the incisions, this type of surgery can also sever some of the vessels and nerves that may be involved in the “let-down” response and movement of milk to the nipple. A breast lift surgery may also affect some of the vessels and nerves in the breasts. Breast augmentation generally has less of an impact on breast tissue and the nipple, depending on the location and size of the incisions and the placement of the implants. Many women can breastfeed without complications after their breast surgeries.

What can be done to ensure my ability to breastfeed after breast surgery?

If you think you may want to become pregnant and breastfeed after you have undergone breast surgery, it is best to let your plastic surgeon know so this can be considered in the surgical plan. Many variables can affect a woman’s ability to breastfeed, so it is helpful to consider these during the development of the surgical plan carefully.

For instance, when breast implants are inserted through the armpits or under the breast, there is less risk of damaging milk-producing tissue than if the incision were to be placed at the edge of the areola. Additionally, placing implants beneath the muscle tissue carries less risk of putting pressure on milk glands than placement of implants underneath the glandular tissue.  When your surgeon is aware that you may want to breastfeed, these considerations can be made in creating the surgical plan to give you the best possible aesthetic outcomes while ensuring your ability to breastfeed in the future. For this reason, it is important to discuss this with your surgeon if you consider breastfeeding at some point.

If you are considering breast surgery, inform your surgeon of any plans you may have to get pregnant and breastfeed. At Virginia Center for Plastic Surgery, we will work with you to customize your surgical plan to ensure you obtain your aesthetic and lifestyle goals! Call 703.884.1595 today to find out more about planning breast surgery and breastfeeding!