Do Implants Prevent Women From Breastfeeding?

Docs say that more often than not, breastfeeding isn't a problem with implants.

August 31, 2009, 3:45 PM

Sept. 1, 2009 — -- Reality television star and former Playboy model Kendra Baskett always assumed that her breast implants that helped made her a star would prevent her from one of the joys of motherhood: breastfeeding.

But in a recent interview with US magazine, Baskett explained how she was pleasantly surprised when she learned that her fake breasts would not necessarily thwart her hopes of lactation.

"I was so scared that I wasn't going to be able to nurse that when I saw stuff come out of my nipples the other day, I was like, I can breastfeed?" Baskett, 24, told the magazine. "And I asked my doctor, who said, 'That's fine, but it's not milk yet!'"

TV Reality star Kourtney Kardashian, whose baby, like Baskett's, is due this December, said she also hopes to breastfeed despite having implants.

"They say usually you can [breast-feed with implants]. I want to," said Kardashian, 30.

Baskett and Kardashian are not alone in their skepticism about having implants and breast feeding, according to Dr. Stephen Greenberg, a board certified plastic surgeon and the author of the book "A Little Nip, a Little Tuck."

"Women with breast implants don't understand and think that they won't be able to breastfeed and are surprised when they realize they can," said Greenberg, who performs 15 breast augmentations a week.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, breast augmentation ranks as the No. 1 surgical cosmetic procedure in 2008 with 307,000 performed.

Greenberg said that quashing the myths surrounding breastfeeding is a "very common discussion."

"The overwhelming majority of women who have breast implants can breastfeed whether they're using silicone or saline implants," said Greenberg.

Location of Implant Could Impact Ability to Breastfeed

Where the implant is inserted, said Greenberg, has everything to do with the likelihood the woman will be able to breastfeed in the future.

"If you avoid a nipple incision and instead put the implants under the breast crease – a procedure called an inframammary incision – or if you put the implants under the muscle of the chest wall, the majority of patients do not have a problem breast feeding," said Greenberg.

Dr. Miriam Labbok, a physician and director for the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute, said that the less pressure that is put on a woman's mammary glands by an implant, the better the chances to produce milk.

"The mammary gland, like any other gland, performs normally when it has blood surprise and space to grow," said Labbok. "But when you put pressure on any gland in the body you risk it malfunctioning and compromising lactation."

Dr. Marianne Neifert, a pediatrician and author of "Great Expectations: The Essential Guide to Breastfeeding," said that nipple incisions for implants should be avoided if breastfeeding is important to the patient.

"Surgeons often like to make the incision around the nipple because it's very cosmetic and because its right where the pigment of the skin changes the scar is not as noticeable," said Neifert. "But all the milk ducts that drain the different lobes or sections of the breast kind of convene there."

"It's possible to accidently cut milk ducts or the nerve that sends the signal to your brain to release more hormones that then helps you to produce more milk," said Neifert.

Cutting a nerve accidently during a breast augmentation surgery could also result in the nipple become overly sensitive, said Neifert, which would also make breast feeding difficult no matter how much milk the woman is able to produce.

Myth or Fact: Implants Can Leak Into Baby's Milk

Another common misperception women have about implants and breastfeeding is the potential for the implant to leak and potentially contaminate the breast milk.

According to Greenberg, these worries have been set aside in the past decade, since the inner-workings of implants have been reformulated and tested.

Of the two available implants on the market – saline and silicone – neither presents a risk of leaking, he said.

Greenberg said that implants now made out of memory gel or cohesive gel don't leak and instead stick together.

"People are concerned that their kids will be drinking silicone," said Greenberg, who says that silicone implants, because they appear to be more natural, make up 80 percent of his surgeries. "But there are no worries whatsoever about leaking free silicone and having the child exposed."

Even so, Labbock still warns of the risk that comes with any sort of surgery.

"With any surgery, there is always a risk of compromise so if someone is 100 percent sure they want to breastfeed they may what about think about that before they proceed," said Labbok.

"If you really want to breast feed, why mess?"

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