Breast Feeding After Breast Reduction Surgery

Women and teens choose breast reduction surgery for numerous reasons, both physical and psychological. Most women are pleased with the results and the physical and social changes that come with having smaller breasts. However, as these women become mothers they worry about their ability to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is far more than just food being transferred from mother to baby and is in no way precluded by reduction surgery. However, your chances of producing and delivering sufficient milk, of fully lactating, may be lessened. There are many factors influencing how successfully you will lactate after reduction surgery.

Surgical Procedures

There are various procedures for breast reductions and each one affects breastfeeding differently. The aspect of the surgery that is most likely to affect lactation is how the nipple and areola were treated. In the 1970s and 80s most surgeons completely removed the nipple and areola during surgery. This procedure is very harmful to lactation. Since then, surgeons have developed a method in which the nipple and areola are removed together with a wedge of breast tissue which contains the primary nerves and the milk ducts which lead to the nipple. Women who undergo this procedure, called the pedicule procedure, have a much higher chance of lactating successfully.

How Much Time Has Passed Since the Surgery

Since our mammary systems grow and develop with each menstrual cycle, your chances of lactating improve as more time elapses between the surgery and becoming pregnant. The breasts begin to repair themselves post surgery. Breast tissue actually begins to regrow and severed milk ducts reconnect. This process is called recanalization. Though recanalization takes place between the surgery and pregnancy, it seems more pronounced during the actual pregnancy. On the other hand, reinnervation, the regeneration of damaged nerves in the nipple and areola, is dependent solely on the passage of time. You can tell that your breasts have undergone reinnervation if your nipples respond to temperature and touch. These nerves are critical for successful lactation. Diana West, author of Defining Your Own Success; Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction Surgery, found that women have better milk supplies if at least 5 years have passed since their surgery.

Preparing For Breastfeeding

It is important for all women to learn about breastfeeding before their baby is born. The best start to breastfeeding begins with the birth. Having had reduction surgery puts you at a higher risk for breastfeeding problems making it especially important to get breastfeeding off to the best start possible.

Once you begin breastfeeding your baby, you will need to watch to make sure that he is getting enough milk. If he isn't you will have to supplement. Using a supplementer at the breast will help stimulate your breasts to make more milk and preserve the breastfeeding relationship. This relationship is as important to mother and baby as the milk your breasts make; having had breast reduction surgery certainly doesn't preclude this special time together.