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Dr. Hani Sinno Answers: Can You Breastfeed After Breast Surgery?

Each year in the United States, more than 550,000 women undergo some kind of breast surgery, with more than 300,000 being breast augmentations. With so many breast surgeries annually, it’s not surprising that many women wonder: Is it possible to breastfeed after a breast surgery? Dr. Hani Sinno, a Montreal-based plastic surgeon, explains.

“In my practice, there are zero changes in the ability of a woman to be able to breastfeed,” he says. He notes that while breast surgery won’t usually affect breastfeeding, women should make sure they’ve had sufficient time to heal before doing so. The further out you are from breast surgery, the better your likelihood of being able to produce an adequate supply of milk.

Preserving a woman’s ability to breastfeed has always been a major concern for Dr Sinno, even as a resident at McGill University, so he decided to do a research project to finally have the true answer to this question. And in his study he found that in over 58 years of data, women that had breast surgery were able to breastfeed as long as there was no free nipple grafting or milk duct disruptions.

However, Dr. Sinno clarifies that while his clinic’s surgical technique preserves a woman’s ability to breastfeed, not all surgeons do.

“We maintain the ducts and the glands attached to the nipple at all times,” Dr. Sinno says. “We go under the muscle. We’re not even touching any of the breast ducts or major nerves.” With this technique, the implant goes between the chest wall and the pectoral muscle, meaning it doesn’t interfere with glandular tissue and other existing breast tissue. This particular method also results in minimal scarring, as the incision is often made on the underside of the breast.

However, some surgeons use a procedure that severs the milk ducts, the nerves around the nipple, or both. If this happens, a woman may partially or totally lose the ability to breastfeed. If a milk duct is severed, it can’t deliver milk to the nipple. If nerves are severed, the nipple and the breast may not be stimulated enough by nursing, causing problems.

Dr. Sinno’s breast augmentation procedure preserves nursing ability even when it involves multiple elements. For example, his clinic’s augmentations usually both lift and enlarge the breast.

“I combine a breast lift and an implant on the same date,” he says. “I also created a breast lifting procedure where there’s an internal bra, so permanent sutures that hold the breast up for a longer time.” That way, patients can enlarge their breasts without having to worry about potential sagginess.

Dr. Sinno explains that while breast augmentations — one of his most-requested procedures — almost always preserve breastfeeding ability, not all breast surgeries do. If you’re planning on a breast reduction or mastectomy, your results may be much different.

For example, women who want to reduce the size of their breasts (for the sake of comfort, appearance, or both) will sometimes get a breast reduction. This kind of surgery involves removing some breast tissue while preserving the ability to lactate as much as possible.

When doing a reduction surgery, Dr. Sinno uses the same careful technique to preserve milk ducts and nerves as he does with breast augmentations.

However, depending on the exact tissue makeup of each breast, it’s possible that some glandular tissue — one of the types of breast tissue responsible for milk production — will be removed. That won’t necessarily prevent breastfeeding altogether, but it can cause issues with milk supply.

On the other hand, if a woman has a mastectomy — a total removal of breast tissue, typically to treat or prevent breast cancer — breastfeeding generally isn’t possible. If only one breast is removed, it might be possible to breastfeed from the remaining breast. Women who have had radiation or a partial mastectomy can often breastfeed, but they may have trouble producing enough milk.

The CDC notes that some women who have had breast surgery can breastfeed but aren’t able to produce enough milk to support the growing baby. It can be an understandably disappointing situation, but it doesn’t mean women should give up on breastfeeding entirely. They can often successfully supplement their infant’s diet with donated breast milk, baby formula, or both.

Some women stay on the safe side and postpone breast surgery until after they’ve finished breastfeeding. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but if you want to get surgery sooner rather than later, you can rest assured that it often has little to no impact on your breastfeeding ability.

Ultimately, Dr. Sinno emphasizes the importance of communicating with your surgeon before booking any procedure. Tell your surgeon if you plan to breastfeed after surgery, and explain your concerns. If your surgeon knows what’s important to you, they can adjust their strategy accordingly, and you’ll be more likely to get the surgical results you want — and still be able to breastfeed your baby.

Article by Timothy Smith 

Woman's World partners with external contributors. All contributor content is reviewed by the Woman's World editorial staff.

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