Breastfeeding After Breast Surgery

Mother breastfeeding
Kaz Mori/Getty Images

Breastfeeding success after breast surgery depends on the reason for the operation, the type of surgery, and the way it is performed. Women undergo breast surgery for many reasons. Augmentations, reductions, mastectomies, lumpectomies, and biopsies are often carried out on women of childbearing age. These surgeries can all affect breastfeeding and the ability to make a healthy breast milk supply for a child. Here is what you need to know about breastfeeding with implants or breastfeeding after a breast reduction or other breast surgery. 

Breastfeeding With Implants (Breast Augmentation)

Women often have breast augmentation surgery for cosmetic reasons. Breast implants are used to increase the size of the breasts or for reconstruction after a breast or part of a breast has been removed.

Having implants put in does not necessarily affect your ability to breastfeed in the future. As long as your breasts contain functioning breast tissue before the surgery, and the operation does not include an incision around the areola, you should still be able to make breast milk.

However, if you get implants for reconstruction after a mastectomy or because of underdeveloped breasts, there may not be enough functioning breast tissue in the breast to build a healthy milk supply. In these situations, you may not be able to breastfeed even before the augmentation surgery. So, if you plan to breastfeed, you can have some tests to see if you have milk-making breast tissue before you put in your breast implants.

Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction

A breast reduction is usually performed to decrease the size of extremely large breasts. During a reduction, the surgeon removes breast tissue and excess skin to make the breast smaller. When the breasts are made smaller, the nipple may be repositioned. To move the nipple, the surgeon must cut around the areola.

Moving the nipple during breast reduction surgery can injure the milk ducts and affect the nerves and blood supply to the area.

If the surgeon cuts the milk ducts, it can greatly decrease your milk production. Plus, damaged nerves can interfere with your let-down reflex. You can still breastfeed, but you may not be able to make enough breast milk for your baby even with frequent nursing or pumping. Therefore, you may have to supplement your child. If the surgeon can perform the reduction surgery without cutting the area around the nipple and areola, there is a better chance that breastfeeding after reduction will be successful.

Breastfeeding After a Mastectomy

A mastectomy is the removal of a breast. Most mastectomies are performed due to breast cancer. However, some women choose to have their breasts removed as a preventative measure if they have a very high risk of developing breast cancer.

After a mastectomy, the breast involved may not be able to produce much milk, if any at all. It depends on how much of the breast tissue is removed and whether or not additional treatment is needed.

Radiation therapy, which often follows a mastectomy, can cause damage to any remaining breast tissue, decreasing your chances of breastfeeding from that breast even more. But, you may still be able to breastfeed from the other breast. It is possible for one breast to make enough milk for the baby without the need for supplementation.

Breastfeeding After a Lumpectomy

A lumpectomy is the surgical removal of a breast lump through an incision made in the breast. A lumpectomy performed in the nipple area can damage the milk ducts and nerves on that breast. Plus, if the lumpectomy is followed by radiation, it can affect the milk supply even further. When an incision is not made at or near the areola, and radiation is not necessary, this minor breast surgery should not affect your ability to breastfeed.

Breastfeeding After a Breast Biopsy

A surgical breast biopsy is the removal of a piece of breast tissue through a cut in the breast. Biopsies check for breast cancer or infection. Just as with a lumpectomy, this is a minor breast surgery and generally does not affect the ability to breastfeed, unless the incision is near the areola and nipple.

A needle biopsy is performed by inserting a needle into the breast to remove the contents of a breast lump, cyst or abscess. This procedure rarely has a negative effect on milk production or the ability to breastfeed.

Tips for Breastfeeding After Breast Surgery

Here are some tips for breastfeeding with implants or after breast surgery. 

  1. Contact the surgeon who performed your breast surgery to find out how the procedure was carried out and if it might interfere with your ability to breastfeed.
  2. Talk to your obstetrician and the baby's pediatrician about your desire to breastfeed, and let them know that you have had breast surgery.
  3. Tell the hospital's nursing staff and lactation consultant about your breast surgery and make sure that they carefully monitor your baby during your hospital stay. After discharge, see the pediatrician often to ensure the baby's growth and development is on target.
  4. Start breastfeeding your baby as soon as possible after delivery. Put the baby to your breast very frequently, at least every 2 hours, to help build up your milk supply. Use a breast pump after each feeding to further stimulate your breasts to make more milk.
  5. Watch for signs that your baby is getting enough breast milk. Keep track of your baby's urination pattern (wet diapers) and bowel movements.

How to Build Up a Low Breast Milk Supply After Surgery

Building up a healthy supply of breast milk 

  • Breastfeed very frequently, every 2 to 3 hours around the clock, plus use a breast pump after each feeding to help stimulate milk production.
  • Use a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) if you need to supplement your baby. If you do not wish to supplement with formula, talk to your baby's doctor about using donor breast milk from a human milk bank.
  • Talk to your doctor or lactation consultant about using herbs to help increase your milk supply.
  • Continue to nurse for as long as you would like to regardless of how much breast milk you are producing. Even a small amount of breast milk will provide your baby with many health benefits, and the emotional bond and security of the breastfeeding relationship can be very rewarding.

A Word From Verywell

Some surgeries affect breastfeeding more than others. So, if you are planning to have breast surgery, discuss any future plans to have children and breastfeed with your surgeon. You'll want your surgeon to do all he can to preserve as much of your milk-making tissue, milk ducts, and the nerves around your nipple and areola as he can.

If you have already had breast surgery and wish to breastfeed, it is important to tell your current doctor about the surgery. It will be necessary to carefully monitor your breast milk supply as well as your baby's growth.

Of course, even if you have trouble building up a milk supply after breast surgery, you can still breastfeed if you choose to. You can provide as much breast milk as you can through breastfeeding, then give your child the additional nutrition she needs by supplementing with infant formula. Any amount of breast milk that you can give your child is beneficial, plus breastfeeding also provides comfort and security. 

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.