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July 18, 2017
Pregnancy and motherhood can feel like the great unknown, and it’s common for nursing moms to have questions about what to expect. Is breastfeeding better than formula? Will I need to pump? What if my baby won’t latch? For moms with breast implants, there are even more things to consider when it comes to breastfeeding and breast pumping.
We spoke with board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Emily Kirby to get answers to your questions about breast pumping with breast implants.
While every pregnancy and child is different, studies show us that the percentage of women who successfully breastfeed is roughly the same in women with breast implants and women without breast implants. There is a slightly higher number of women without breast implants who were able to establish exclusive breastfeeding.
It’s important to remember that difficulty breastfeeding is a common issue many women face, whether they have breast implants or not. Additionally, many women who choose to undergo breast augmentation do so because their breasts are small, asymmetrical or constricted. These patients have less glandular breast tissue and there may be a problem with breastfeeding that is unrelated to breast implants.
Ultimately, the only way to know for sure that you will have the best chance of successfully breastfeeding is to wait until after having children to augment your breasts.
The short answer is that this would be an exceedingly unlikely occurrence—and it has never been reported in breastfeeding women who have breast implants. In studies comparing breast milk from women with and without silicone breast implants, there were no significant differences in levels of silicone present.
To put the study findings into perspective, cow’s milk and formula contain a higher concentration of silicone than breast milk from women both with and without silicone breast implants. Even in a breast that contains a ruptured implant, breastfeeding is considered safe. If you have a ruptured implant, it is best to wait about three months after you finish breastfeeding to have surgery for removal or replacement of the ruptured implant.
Yes! Because breast implants are designed to mimic the look and feel of real breast tissue, there is no reason they should inhibit the functionality of a breast pump. However, there many be some special considerations women with breast implants should make.
If your pump has a suction or strength regulator, start at the lowest level. You can increase this slowly over time depending on your comfort. As you increase the strength, make sure you are not experiencing pain or pressure on your implants. If you do experience any pain, stop the pump, reposition everything and begin again.
Avoid irritation to your nipples and breast skin by avoiding dry pumping. If you have decreased sensation in your nipples, or if your nerves were damaged by breast surgery, your milk may not let down normally. Dry pumping if the milk has not let down can be irritating to your breasts.
It is very unlikely that implants could be damaged by pumping breast milk. Remember that while breast implants are not lifetime devices, they are built to withstand the normal “wear and tear” of life — even the highest strength of pump suction is still less pressure than what your baby creates when breastfeeding directly from the nipple.
If you experience any unusual discomfort or have any concerns at all, it’s best to err on the side of caution and reach out to your physician or the surgeon who performed your breast surgery.
Sometimes one breast stops producing milk before the other or you may be having trouble with your milk let down, which can happen to women with or without implants. You can use your pump after breastfeeding to stimulate continued or increased milk production in your breasts. This can be done on one side (the “good side”) if only one breast is producing milk for breastfeeding.
Whether you have implants or not, have breastfed before or this is your first time, Dr. Kirby highly recommends working with a lactation consultant — and we agree. Every pregnancy is different and it’s normal to have issues or questions that a lactation consultant can help answer. Having an expert available can help relieve any fears and ensure you are approaching pumping and breastfeeding in a safe way.
Dr. Emily J. Kirby is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and the American Association of Pediatric Plastic Surgeons. She sees patients at Kirby Plastic Surgery in Fort Worth, Texas. A graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and Texas A&M University College of Medicine, Dr. Kirby performs cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery.
Send us your questions and we will provide answers!