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When considering breast augmentation, it is not uncommon for women to wonder if implants will impede their ability to breast feed should they plan to have children in the future. The truth is this: not all females are able to produce enough breast milk to breast feed, regardless of whether or not they have undergone augmentation. Consequently, if the patient has not attempted to nurse a child before receiving implants, she may not know she was unable to do so in the first place (which contributes to the misbelief that breast implants invariably have a negative impact on breast feeding). There is no doubt that breast augmentation has the potential to negatively impact the ability to breast feed. That said, women who are capable of producing a sufficient amount of breast milk prior to receiving breast implants should still be able to breast feed their children after breast augmentation, especially when specific techniques are utilized.

Breast augmentation surgery can affect breast feeding by disrupting milk glands while placing the implants, or injuring the nerves around the nipple/areola region. In addition, compression of the glandular tissue by the implant can impact the ability to nurse. Ultimately, for patients concerned about breast feeding after breast augmentation, there are certain techniques that can be employed to minimize the risk. These methods include inserting the implants through an incision made in the breast fold (inframammary) or in the armpit (transaxillary). These approaches, by virtue of their location, curtail injury to nerves around the nipple/areola region, and trauma to the milk glands. Positioning the implant underneath the chest muscle (submuscular placement) also avoids contacting the breast tissue directly, and reduces direct pressure on the gland.

An additional misconception regarding breast feeding after augmentation is that the materials used to compose implants will contaminate breast milk if they come into contact with milk production glands and surrounding tissues. When the augmentation procedure is conducted safely and correctly by a board certified plastic surgeon, the silicone gel or saline solution found inside implants should not have any effect on the purity of breast milk in the case of a leak and/or rupture.

All of these issues should be discussed in thorough detail at the time of the consultation to determine the most appropriate approach for each individual’s unique needs and goals.

Lawrence Tong, MD, FACS, FRCSC