Breastfeeding has been extensively researched, and several studies support claims that breastfeeding is better for a baby's' health and development, compared to formula feeding. Women with breast implants may experience complications while breastfeeding due to the cosmetic surgery's effects on their breast tissue and milk ducts.
There are two commonly used types of breast implants, which are saline and silicone. Saline implants are filled with sterile salt water, and silicone implants contain a plastic gel. If silicone implants leak, there are possible risks to the breastfeeding baby. While silicone is present in many foods that humans consume, the effects of this substance on infants are still being researched.
In a small study published by the Journal for the American Medical Association, six out of eight breastfed babies who had implanted mothers developed gastrointestinal or esophageal problems. Symptoms included low weight gain, abdominal pain, vomiting and difficulty swallowing. The suspected link between these babies is silicone consumption.
Some case reports found problems with mothers who received breast implants. They can develop bacterial breast infections, which are harmful to both the mother and the baby. The infant can get sick, if the infection is passed through the breast milk. Mothers with implants can also develop milk-filled tumors in their milk ducts. This type of tumor is benign, but it can interfere with milk production.
The biggest concern with breast implants and breastfeeding is lactation sufficiency. Different studies performed at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and at Texas Children's Hospital concluded that women with implants are more likely to have insufficient milk supplies.
Researchers found that implanted women were three times more likely to have insufficient lactation, and 64 percent of women with breast implants had insufficient milk. Without enough milk, babies do not receive the right amount of nutrients and will not gain as much weight as they need to. These children will require supplemental feedings with formula.
Studies do not indicate the exact reasons for lactation complications, but there are some possible explanations. The surgery could damage milk ducts, making them incapable of producing enough milk. The implants could add pressure to and damage the breast tissue. This damage would result in lower milk production.
There are women who successfully breastfeed after undergoing breast implant surgery.
Differing factors include the placement of the implant and the incision. Submuscular implant placement is less likely to cause breastfeeding complications. Periareolar incisions are more likely to cause problems due to the higher risk of damaging the milk ducts.
Dr. Storm and colleagues at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center concluded that implanted women often choose not to attempt breastfeeding due to a fear of complications.
There is inconclusive evidence stating that breast implants are dangerous to breastfeeding babies, but they are far less likely to receive all the benefits of breast milk.
Contributed by Nancy Perkins
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