So you’ve had a kid (or two, or five) and you’re ready to give the girls a little lift. Or you think you’d like to have your breasts augmented, but you’re not sure that you’re done having kids yet. Maybe you had a boob job years ago,before kids were even in the picture, and now you’re concerned about your ability to nurse your little one. After all, everybody knows that once you go under the knife, you can’t breastfeed at all anymore, right?
Not necessarily. “Women with silicone or saline implants are both able to successfully breastfeed,” says Dr. Mark Schwartz, Clinical Assistant Professor of Plastic Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College. But that doesn’t mean that nursing with implants is a done deal. Here’s what you need to know before you go under the knife.
One of the most important factors in determining your future breastfeeding success seems to have a lot to do with the placement of the implant itself. According to the Mayo Clinic, to insert the breast implant, a surgeon makes a single cut in one of three places on the body: In the crease under the breast (infra-mammary), under the arm (axillary), or around the nipple (periareolar).
Dr. Schwartz tells Well Rounded that avoiding the nipple area is key. He says, “As long as the breast ductal tissue is “respected” during breast augmentation, there should be no change in a woman’s ability to breastfeed.”
The best way to go about this is for your surgeon to avoid making any incisions around the areola, as that is where those very important milk-producing ducts reside. Dr. Schwartz favors placing the implant underneath the pectoralis muscle, he says, because it makes mammograms easier to interpret, can make the breasts appear more natural, and, “may provide additional safety when it comes to breastfeeding since the implant is further away from the ductal tissue.”
But incision placement alone is not the only factor that can affect milk production after breast augmentation. The length of time between surgery and breastfeeding could be another predictor, says Leigh Anne O’Connor, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). “Typically the longer ago the surgery took place the better the outcome for breastfeeding. This gives the body time to recanalize the milk ducts.” In layman’s terms, you want to give the body time to allow the severed ducts to heal and find their way back together.
So maybe you’re between babies, or you swear you’re 99% “not-going-to-have-another.” As many a breastfeeding mama knows all-too-well, nursing (and even pregnancy!) can do quite a number on the boobies. So now that your breasts seem to have settled to their final “resting state, could breast augmentation be the magic ticket to give your girls back some pep?
You may want to hold off until you’re sure you’re done with the baby-making. Dr. Schwartz says that when to have breast surgery is of course a personal choice, but his recommendation for the ideal timeline for surgery in a woman’s reproductive life would be after she is finished breastfeeding.
“I generally tell patients that if they are planning on having a child within the next year or so, to avoid breast augmentation and to return after they have completed breastfeeding.” Pregnancy alone can cause the volume in your breasts to change rapidly, and could potentially affect the shape and size of the augmented breast. (And what a waste that would be, to have undergone elective surgery, only to have nature wreak havoc on your body and have its way with you and your breasts in the end.)
What about women who got implants long before they even thought about having babies, and later, found themselves having difficulty producing milk? Was the surgery to blame? That would be far too easy, but more often than not, other factors were the cause for their troubles all along. Some women naturally have hypoplastic breasts, which are breasts that have insufficient glandular tissue (IGT) to produce enough breast milk. According to Kellymom, certain breast types can be more predisposed towards hypoplasia, such as tubular shaped breasts, widely-spaced-apart breasts, and unevenly shaped breasts.
O’Connor says that, “In some cases, breast augmentation masks underdeveloped breast tissue...Some women with small tubular breasts may have this condition and this may be the reason that leads her to want augmentation. If this is the case she may have trouble building a full milk supply for her baby.” Basically, the woman who had a boob job and thinks that’s why she’s having trouble producing milk may have had that same difficulty all along, whether she had had the surgery or not.
There are a lot of things to consider when pondering the should-I-or-shouldn’t-I question about breast implants. But if you do your research, find the right doctor, talk to lactation experts (if you’re still planning on breastfeeding), and are clear about your breastfeeding goals, a boob makeover could be in the future for you. Or not. Either way, as with any surgery, never go in blindly and without an armful of facts and questions about the risks. Most importantly, do what makes you feel like the best version of you.