Tips for Breastfeeding with Implants or Piercings
Modern moms face all kinds of breastfeeding challenges, from returning to work six weeks postpartum to supply concerns and supplementing with formula. And some might have other concerns, like breastfeeding with implants or piercings. Do physical alterations a mama has made to her breasts affect her ability to breastfeed? We asked Laura María Gruber, a board-certified lactation consultant based in San Antonio, about breastfeeding with implants or piercings.
Can moms with implants breastfeed? What does she need to be concerned about?
Yes, a mom with breast implants can breastfeed. The challenges she may face include her breasts feeling fuller than they actually are because the implant and the swollen mammary glands compete for space. When a breast feels overly full, a protein called the “feedback inhibitor of lactation” (FIL) is sent to the brain to cut off milk production. To prevent this FIL mechanism from affecting long-term milk supply, moms with implants should keep their breasts as comfortable as possible during the first few weeks by either nursing or pumping frequently.
Do moms with implants experience more latch problems?
They can, especially because the implant competes for space with swollen glands, pushing them against the inside of the areola/nipple. This causes the areola to become more taut and tight, and flattens the nipple. Should this happen, a mama can warm the areola and massage the areola skin. This will soften it and bring her nipple out more so baby can latch better.
What else should moms with implants consider?
It’s important to know about what led mom to seek out implants in the first place. Marked symmetry of the breast is a feature some women seek breast surgery or augmentation for, yet marked breast asymmetry is associated with low milk supply. So while it’s generally assumed that women with implants can breastfeed, there might be a reason besides the implants themselves to be vigilant about milk supply. Careful history should be taken about the reasons why women got the implants in the first place.
Can a mom with a pierced nipple breastfeed?
Yes. The most important, basic thing a mom with piercings can do is ensure her baby latches deeply all the time. She should watch for signs of proper milk transfer and weigh baby once per week if there’s a doubt. If she has concerns, she should reach out to a lactation consultant certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) at the first concern.
Would you advise removing the piercing?
I would suggest that a breastfeeding mom remove her piercing during her breastfeeding session, lest the baby swallow it.
What else should a pierced mama know about breastfeeding?
While she can absolutely breastfeed with pierced nipples, how and where the nipples were pierced can affect how the ducts deliver the milk. For example, piercings deep under the nipple base are less likely to impact milk production and removal since the milk ducts will generally recanalize. But piercings closer to the tip may scar over and close off superficial ducts. All piercings have scar tissue around the walls of the piercings. This scar tissue can block ducts from emptying, and unemptied ducts can lead to plugged ducts and infection.
What can moms do to prevent these issues?
It’s important for women to discuss their breastfeeding plans with an experienced piercing artist to ensure the piercings are placed closer to the nipple base or well under the nipple.
What are the signs of a plugged duct, and what action should moms take if they suspect a plugged duct?
Plugged ducts will show themselves as acute pain in a small area of the breast (as opposed to mastitis, which is generalized larger-surface pain).
Moms who suspect plugs should put warm compresses over them, massage or vibrate the surface where it’s felt, and nurse and pump often.