By Dr. Michael Yunaev.
For a lot of new mothers, breastfeeding their baby can be incredibly rewarding because it helps to cement the bond between mother and child.
But if you have had breast surgery, you might be concerned about breastfeeding.
Unfortunately, different types of breast surgeries can affect your ability to breastfeed or make it more difficult.
So if you’ve had these types of surgeries, this is what you need to know.
Is Breastfeeding Important?
The benefits of breastfeeding are well documented, particularly during the first six months of a baby’s life.
Breast milk contains all of the vitamins and minerals that babies need to survive and to thrive.
Not only that, but it contains antibodies that bolster the immune system and will help protect your baby from infections and illness.
Breastfeeding may also protect your baby from developing allergies that could impact their health and wellbeing over the long term.
But there are benefits for breastfeeding mothers as well.
Studies show that breastfeeding may lower the risk of developing postpartum depression and reduce the risk of breast cancer.
It’s also an important bonding activity that helps mother and child become more connected during this crucial early stage.
However, if you are unable to breastfeed, there are other ways that you can ensure that your baby still gets the best start possible.
Can Surgery Affect Breast Milk Production?
Your ability to breastfeed after breast surgery can depend on a number of factors including the reason for the surgery, the type of surgery performed and the results.
If your doctor is skilled and experienced, in most cases there shouldn’t be a problem with breastfeeding after surgery.
However, there’s often no way to tell how each individual’s body will react. Some women will produce milk as normal.
Others will produce less milk and some may struggle to produce any at all. It all depends on each individual case and each woman’s body.
It can also be hard to know whether the surgery impacted the breastfeeding at all, as many mothers struggle to breastfeed under normal circumstances also.
The reason why you had the surgery is also important.
For example, if you had reconstructive surgery then it’s possible that there isn’t enough natural breast tissue left to produce any milk.
In these type of cases, it is possible to breast feed a baby using only one breast.
However, you should get expert help and advice to ensure the health of your baby and your own health as well.
What Surgeries Can Affect Breast Milk Production?
Any type of breast surgery can affect your ability to produce milk.
During many types of breast surgery (but not all), the surgeon will cut at least some of the milk ducts and nerves in the breast.
These can heal over time, which is why breastfeeding success increases the longer the time between the surgery and baby’s birth.
If the nipple and areola are removed from the breast and reattached at the time of surgery for some reason, it will also affect milk availability due to the scar tissue that can form behind the nipple.
Some general guidelines for how different surgeries will affect milk production are:
- Breast Reductions or Breast Lift can have an impact on milk supply because the nipple is usually repositioned to fit with the new breast shape and size and part of the glandular milk making part of the breast is removed also.
- Nerves can be damaged during a breast reduction/lift which can affect the let-down reflex and result in less milk.
- It is safe to breastfeed after a breast augmentation.
- Breast Augmentation can affect your ability to breastfeed depending on where the incisions were made. If the breasts are cut around the areola, it can sever nerves and milk ducts, which can cause problems with milk production.
- During a Mastectomy, most of the breast tissue is removed, which means you won’t be able to breastfeed on the affected side.
How to Increase Breast Milk Production After Surgery
If you’re struggling to produce enough milk after breast surgery, there are a number of things you can try including the following:
- Talk to your doctor to ensure there are no underlying medical reasons for the low milk production.
- Talk to a lactation consultant for expert help and advice.
- Breastfeed as frequently as possible and use a breast pump between feedings to stimulate milk production.
- Continue to nurse your baby, even if you have to supplement the feed. Even a small amount of breast milk can offer health benefits.
- Take care of yourself. Make sure you eat all the vitamins and nutrients you need to stay healthy.
- Try not to stress, this will only cause more problems and will make your baby stress too. (It can also release hormones that can interfere with breastfeeding).
- Watch your baby carefully for signs that they’re not getting enough breast milk and make sure you supplement if this is the case.
Breastfeeding your baby can be an incredibly rewarding time.
It’s a time solely for mother and child, a time to bond that also offers a number of benefits for both baby and mother.
So if you’ve had breast surgery in the past and are struggling to breastfeed because of it, don’t give up.
This can be an unfortunate consequence of breast surgery, and it’s certainly not your fault, nor is it something you should be ashamed of.
Instead, take action.
Talk to your doctor and keep trying.
And cherish the time you spend feeding your new baby, even if you have to use a bottle.
Because you’re still doing what’s best for your child and making sure that they get the nutrition they need.
About the Author
Dr. Michael Yunaev is an Oncoplastic Breast, General and Cosmetic Surgeon and is the Principal Doctor at the Breast & Body Clinic. Dr Yunaev is a highly trained Surgeon with extensive experience and a passion for treatment of all aspects of Breast & General Surgery. You can also find the doctor on Facebook and Instagram.