Any kind of plastic surgery inevitably comes with a lot of questions. If you’ve already gotten a breast lift or you’re considering one, and you know you want to have children (or more children) one day, then you might be thinking about how it could affect your breastfeeding experience. Can you even breastfeed after a breast lift? Since this is a surgery that does change the way your breasts look and feel, it makes sense that it could affect breastfeeding as well.
Breast implants have consistently been the most popular plastic surgery for women, but breast lifts are starting to become even more popular. Statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons shows that the popularity of breast lifts have grown 70% since 2000, slowly becoming the plastic surgery of choice even over implants. Breast lifts can seem particularly appealing to women who have breastfed in the past, since breastfeeding can contribute to sagging. But if you’re thinking of breastfeeding in the future, is it worth it to get a lift? Or, should you wait and get the lift when you know your breastfeeding journey is over for good? We got the honest truth from the experts themselves.
Can you breastfeed after a breast lift or nipple surgery?
The answer to this question is a bit more complicated than a simple yes or ‘no’, and because opinions and answers may vary from expert to expert. Most women will be able to breastfeed after a breast lift or similar surgery, notes Suzanne Juel, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), Registered Lactation Consultant (RLC), however they may need to supplement with formula or donor milk.
“Breast lifts usually include repositioning the nipple and resizing the areola, which requires an incision around the areola,” Juel explains. “This can sever the milk ducts, resulting in areas of the breast that may not empty properly during breastfeeding. Nipple surgery, specifically reductions in the nipple or areola, often cause nerve damage. This damage can inhibit the letdown response, which is what tells the breast to release breast milk.”
However, some plastic surgeons say that a breast lift shouldn’t really affect breastfeeding much, like Dr. Norman Rowe, board-certified plastic surgeon from Rowe Plastic Surgery in New York City. “A breast lift doesn’t affect the glands that are used to produce milk,” he says.
Is it recommended to breastfeed after a breast lift?
It’s perfectly safe to breastfeed after a breast lift, both Juel and Rowe say, as long as you’re fully healed.
However, you might be wondering if breastfeeding is going to change the way your breast lift made your breasts look. In other words, will breastfeeding ruin a breast lift, rendering it kind of useless? It likely will not “ruin” your lift, Rowe says, but it could definitely lead to a change in appearance.
“A lift is defined by the position of the nipple,” Rowe explains. “A nipple should point straight ahead, not at your feet. If a woman has a lift to position the nipple, breastfeeding will not lower the nipple again. It may, however, lead to loss of fullness of the upper breast.” In other words, breastfeeding likely isn’t going to make your breast revert to what they were pre-lift, but it could make them look like they’re sagging a bit.
Even just being pregnant could potentially affect your breast lift, Juel notes. “Most of the breast changes associated with breastfeeding occur during pregnancy, and in the early days postpartum,” she points out. “These changes are hormonally driven and will occur regardless of whether the person choses to initiate breastfeeding or not. During breastfeeding, there can be a reduction in the amount of fat in the breast, but this is usually replaced once breastfeeding is discontinued.”
Can you breastfeed with implants?
Most women will be able to successfully breastfeed with implants, which are not used in a standard breast lift surgery. Sometimes, a breast lift is done with fat transfer, or fat grafting, as a standalone procedure. This involves liposuction of a different body part — often the abdomen, thighs, or bra line — to remove fat and transfer it to the breast. Fat transfer is a way to increase breast volume and can round out the upper part of the breast.
If you have a breast lift with fat transfer, both Juel and Rowe say it won’t make breastfeeding any more difficult. “There are no additional risks to breastfeeding with a breast lift with fat transfer,” Juel says. “The same risks that apply to a regular breast lift are still there.”
Tips for breastfeeding after breast lift surgery
If you want to breastfeed after a breast lift, you should absolutely feel that you can try it out. “Understand that you may not have a complete milk supply; however, that does not mean that you will be unable to breastfeed — it’s just that formula or donor milk may be a part of your journey,” Juel explains. You may want to prepare for that by having a little formula on hand just in case you feel as if you aren’t producing enough milk.
It also may be worthwhile to work with a IBCLC, and Juel strongly recommends finding a consultant who has experience helping clients with breast lifts.
While it’s perfectly safe to breastfeed after a breast lift, and the lift may not even affect your experience. However, if you haven’t had one yet, you may want to wait until you’re finished having children and breastfeeding before getting a breast lift. Even just the hormonal changes of pregnancy and the postpartum period might affect the size, shape, and fullness of your breasts, which is why Juel recommends waiting until you’re done having kids to have any type of breast surgery.
Many women have breast lifts and go on to successfully breastfeed, so it certainly isn’t off the table. It’s definitely worth having this conversation with your plastic surgeon so they know your intentions, and for aesthetics reasons, you might want to wait until you’re totally done breastfeeding and having kids to get the surgery.
Dr. Norman Rowe, board-certified plastic surgeon from Rowe Plastic Surgery in New York City