Breastfeeding after breast surgery

When pregnant, many women who have had breast surgery (eg breast reduction or breast augmentation) are concerned about how it may affect breastfeeding.

For many of these women, one of the best first steps to take is to contact a breastfeeding counsellor or a lactation consultant well before the birth. Attending a Breastfeeding Education Class while pregnant can be helpful too. This can help to dispel some fears and also help to make a breastfeeding plan.

Most mothers who have had breast surgery can breastfeed, at least to some extent. Some mothers find that they:

  • Can breastfeed fully (ie without the need to supplement).
  • May need to take a galactagogue.
  • Can partially breastfeed (ie with the need to supplement somewhat).

Generally, there is no clear way of knowing before the birth which of the above groups a mother who has had breast surgery will fit in to. How the surgery was done can impact upon how it may affect breastfeeding. For example, breast reduction surgery is more likely to cause milk supply problems as compared to breast augmentation surgery. This is particularly the case if the nipple was moved to a new position during the surgery as this disrupts the nerve supply to the nipple and areola. It also depends on to what degree the surgery disrupted the milk glands and milk ducts. However, nerves can regrow, although slowly, and glandular tissue can develop during pregnancy.

Women who have had breast augmentation may also have problems with milk supply. This may happen if the surgery was needed due to lack of breast tissue, as well as risks of cutting nerves and ducts.

For information on nipple piercing, click here.

Breastfeeding should be discussed with a breast surgeon fully before any breast surgery. In this way surgeons can adjust their surgical technique to help maintain a woman’s ability to breastfeed.

Women who have had a mastectomy, or a partial mastectomy and radiotherapy for breast cancer, are able to breastfeed from the other breast. Some mothers who have had radiotherapy after a partial mastectomy may be able to partially breastfeed on the affected side as well.

Ongoing contact with a breastfeeding counsellor or lactation consultant after the birth can help to ensure that breastfeeding is going well.

For further information

Contact a breastfeeding counsellor either via email or telephone. You can search for a private lactation consultant in your area on the Lactation Consultants of Australia and New Zealand website or International Lactation Consultant Association website.

The book The Breastfeeding Mothers Guide to Making More Milk by Diana West (IBCLC) and Lisa Marasco (IBCLC) is a valuable resource for identifying causes of low milk supply and how to increase breastmilk supply. This is available form Mothers Direct.

References

Brodribb W (Ed) 2012 in press, Breastfeeding Management in Australia (4th edn), Australian Breastfeeding Association.

West D, Marasco L 2009, The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk, McGraw Hill:New York.

© Australian Breastfeeding Association March 2012

The information on this website does not replace advice from your health care providers.