Summary: One of the most common questions from patients who are interested in breast augmentation concerns the ability to express breast milk. Breast feeding after a breast augmentation procedure is actually becoming much more common—and the techniques employed by plastic surgeons have made it much less likely that patients will be unable to nurse their children after a pregnancy. Of course, pregnancy will naturally distort your results of breast augmentation. But it’s likely that you will be able to continue breast feeding after a breast augmentation—assuming your surgeon employs the right technique.
The Ability to Continue Breast Feeding After Breast Augmentation
For many patients, plastic surgery is an expression of youth. While this is not exclusively true of breast augmentation procedures, it is certainly especially true of them. Women with aspirations for larger and perkier breasts often have such aspirations because those breasts are, essentially, messengers: I am young, vital, and full of life. That’s an appealing message for many patients, and, indeed, is one of those underlying messages that many patients of plastic surgery are after. It can also be quite empowering. Knowing that people see you as vital and full of life can give you a boost of confidence and self-esteem.
I mention this because breast augmentation is one of those procedures that many patients are young when they get—much younger than something like a facelift of a tummy tuck. Breast augmentation patients can be as young as 18 or, in some more rare cases, 16 (with parental permission). This is young enough that many patients—understandably—can’t accurately predict the future of their lives. So it’s not entirely uncommon for some women to want to leave their options open when it comes to having children and to breast feeding those children.
A Common Concern Among Patients
So breast-feeding after a breast augmentation is a common concern and question. Patients want to know if they are putting their future abilities to breast feed at risk by having the procedure performed. To be sure, these are good questions, and they should all be discussed with your plastic surgeon before you begin your procedure. I was curious about them myself, so I did a little digging on the topic, and I discovered that plastic surgeons have gotten really quite good at maintaining the function of breast feeding for those patients who want it. While there are inherent risks in any surgery, there are some things you can do to help ensure you maintain the ability to breast feed.
The first thing we have to be clear about is that, while chances are pretty good (if you choose the right technique) that you’ll be able to breast feed, there are no sure things here. In fact, there are plenty of women who never undergo any type of breast procedure and still find themselves unable to breast feed. Much comes down to genetics and environment and, frankly, simple luck of the draw. In any case, nothing about this is a guaranteed certainty, though it can come pretty close.
The Type of Incision Matters
First and foremost, if you want to breast feed in the future, you should request that your plastic surgeon consider a technique known as the axillary technique. With this technique, your surgeon essentially makes an incision in your armpit and inserts the breast implant that way. This has the added benefit of a small, easy to hide scar. But the milk glands are usually unaffected by this type of technique. However, axillary augmentation techniques are typically limited to more modest implant sizes. If you want a larger implant, you will have to choose a separate technique in order to accomplish the look you’re after.
Many women opt for what’s called an infra-mammary breast augmentation procedure. With this technique, an incision is made towards the bottom of the breast—the fold between the bottom of the breast and the chest area. This makes the scar, again, easy to hide. But it also does not interfere with the breasts ability to manufacture milk. All of those glands are far enough away from the incision site. This technique has few restrictions when it comes to breast implant sizes, so it is popular with women who are looking for a more substantial augmentation.
Keeping Your Options, and Your Future, Open
In general, women who want to nurse or express milk after a breast augmentation should avoid any type of incision that goes in the front of the breast or around the nipple area (such as periareolar techniques), as this runs a high risk of damaging the glands and structures responsible for milk expression. Plastic surgeons have become quite adept at ensuring that women who want to one day have children have the option to raise and nurse those children how they want to.
After all, breast augmentation is about optimism for the future. And because so many women get breast augmentation procedures at a relatively young age, it’s important to ensure that their options can be kept open. Based on the work of plastic surgeons, it looks like there are now ways to do that, and a breast augmentation procedure doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to express milk. According to the website of the New Jersey breast augmentation experts at East Coast Advanced Plastic Surgery, these topics will be covered with your plastic surgeon during the consultation process.
That said, you should definitely talk to your plastic surgeon about any concerns you have with breast augmentation and breast feeding.