Are you a mom who previously had breast lift surgery and wondered whether you’ll still be able to breastfeed your baby once they’re born? Are you unhappy about the appearance of your breasts and planning to undergo breast lift surgery before having kids and wondering how it may impact the success of breastfeeding? This is a common question new mothers may ask when they get pregnant and decide that they want to breastfeed their baby.
You may have heard or read that women who had breast surgery aren’t able to breastfeed afterwards and should rather just give formula from the start rather than failing with breastfeeding. I’m here to tell you that you’ll still be able to breastfeed.
What is a breast lift?
A breast lift, also known as mastopexy, is a very popular procedure among the different types of plastic surgery procedures. A breast lift is a surgery performed to change the shape of your breasts. During a breast lift, the plastic surgeon will remove excess skin and reshape breast tissue to raise the breasts.
The most common reason for women to get a breast lift procedure is due to sagging breasts and overall unhappiness with the appearance of their breasts. There are different reasons why someone may have severe breast sagging including weight fluctuations, weight loss and aging.
Can you breastfeed after having breast lift surgery?
The short answer is, yes, of course you can! As I always remind parents, breastfeeding is not just about the milk, it’s about the comfort too. Babies need a lot of comfort, so breastfeeding is very important in that aspect too.
There is always a risk that you may have difficulty producing a full supply of milk, but it’s important to remember that any amount of breastmilk is beneficial for your baby, even if it’s just a few drops.
Babies don’t just breastfeed for milk, so even if you produce the bare minimum, you will still be meeting a lot of your baby’s emotional needs. It will offer them comfort, it can help them when they’re in pain, it can help them fall asleep and it can help with mother-infant attachment too.
There are many reasons why you should still breastfeed your baby, regardless of your milk supply.
Factors influencing milk production and breastfeeding
The formation of scar tissue
Sometimes, breast surgery may cause scar tissue which can cause damage to the glandular tissue and milk ducts. In some cases, it may completely block or sever the milk ducts.
The type of incision
There are different types of incisions that a surgeon may make to perform the chosen surgery, some riskier than other types of incisions. Breast lift surgery is a case-by-case surgery, and the type of incision or incisions will depend on your specific needs.
The type of incision you have will be a factor in your ability to produce a full milk supply. While any type of incision may increase the risk of breastfeeding difficulties, some may have a lower risk compared to others.
Most incisions for mild sagging will only be a small incision on the areola, which increases the risk of damaged or severed milk ducts, but not as much as other incision types. This is known as a crescent breast lift and this specific surgical technique will leave you with a higher chance of breastfeeding success than the other techniques.
Bigger breast lift surgeries may require a circular incision around the entire areola known as a peri-areolar incision which increases the risk of damage even more.
Breast lift surgeries for severe sagging may require similar incisions like breast reduction surgery incisions, called anchor shaped incisions which is one of the riskiest types of incision and will highly likely cause breastfeeding complications.
Sometimes, a breast lift surgery may be done on the side of the breasts for uneven breasts, depending on how those incisions are made, this may be less risky than normal breast lift surgery.
Usually, during a breast lift procedure, a free nipple graft is avoided unless the sagging is severe, this leaves the nipple intact with the blood supply and milk ducts which may increase the success rate for breastfeeding compared to surgeries where free nipple grafts are performed.
Any type of incision or movement of the areola and nipple may cause damage to the milk ducts and the nerves, despite the surgeons’ best efforts to avoid any damage.
When a baby suckles at the breast it tells the brain to release oxytocin which is the hormone responsible for the letdown. If you have little to no sensation in your nipples, it may cause issues or even inhibit the letdown.
How long ago the surgery was
Although breast lift surgeries usually leave the glandular tissue which is the milk-producing tissue much more intact than breast reduction surgery, it can still cause damage.
Nipple sensations may return after 1 year of surgery, increasing the likelihood of successful breastfeeding.
The milk ducts can regrow or make new pathways over time. This usually takes a few years and can increase the rate of success for milk production and breastfeeding.
If you simultaneously had implants placed or a breast reduction
Many times, a breast lift procedure will be performed in addition to either a breast reduction procedure or a breast augmentation surgery. Both breast implants and breast reductions come with their own risks to milk production and breastfeeding.
How to increase your chances of successful breastfeeding
Always remember that there will always be potential risks with any type of surgery on your breasts. It’s recommended to wait until after having children and finishing breastfeeding before having surgery. If this is not possible for you, do let your plastic surgeon know that you want to have children and may want to breastfeed in the future so they can plan the best surgical techniques to ensure the best chance of successful breastfeeding in the future.
You may not be able to produce much milk after surgery, but there’s also a chance that you may produce a full supply of milk. So, it’s a good idea to try and to seek the best possible support.
Be sure to let your healthcare provider know that you’ve had breast surgery performed before pregnancy, so they can monitor your baby for adequate milk intake and better support your breastfeeding goals.
Work with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) to support you from the very beginning. They can help educate you beforehand, they can help monitor your baby to ensure they’re getting enough milk after birth, and they can support you with techniques to increase your milk supply if you do struggle with a low milk supply.