What is Breast Reduction Surgery?
Breast reduction surgery is a type of cosmetic surgery that removes breast tissue and relocates the nipple so that the breasts and body are in proportion. Breast reduction is done for many reasons including physical reasons such as back pain, shoulder discomfort from bra straps, and breathing troubles; emotional reasons such as self-confidence and body image as well as aesthetic reasons.
Breast Reduction and Breastfeeding Considerations
Fortunately, most doctors who perform breast reduction surgeries keep breastfeeding and lactation as a worthy objectives. They perform the breast reduction surgery in such a way that as many of the milk ducts and milk glands can be undisturbed as possible. So it certainly possible that a woman will be able to successful with breastfeeding after breast reduction. Generally the more time that has passed between the breast reduction and the start of breastfeeding, the higher the chances of adequate milk supply and successful breastfeeding.
When to Undergo Breast Reduction
If a woman anticipates breastfeeding, breast reduction should be delayed until after her last child has weaned, if at all possible. (This same advice applies to breast augmentation as well.) If it is not possible to delay the breast reduction surgery until after the last child has weaned, the next best option is to have the surgery as far in advance of the beginning of breastfeeding as possible. This allows time for nerve regrowth and the returning of sensations. This is important because nerve sensations play and important part in breastfeeding – they signal the body to release prolactin, the milk-making hormone.
How Breast Reduction Affects Breastfeeding (and what to do about it)
Any breast reduction surgery will likely sever either nerves or ducts or both. Any ducts that are severed prevent the delivery of milk from the milk gland to the nipple. This effectively shuts down the affected parts of the breast. Milk will likely come in normally behind a severed duct but since it can’t be drawn out, it is eventually reabsorbed and production shut down. In a similar way, nerve damage prevents breastfeeding signals from reaching the pituitary gland and can cause lower prolactin hormone levels and thus lower milk supply.
The good news is that even though parts of each breast may be shut down, there may be enough parts still functioning that breastfeeding can be successful. Some women have very little with breastfeeding and milk production and however others have an extremely difficult time. You won’t really know how breast reduction affects breastfeeding for you until you try. If you are finding breastfeeding or milk production to be a challenge, understand that building your milk supply will not be easy and will require determination and active work on your part. If you already know that you are struggling with low milk supply, a good starting point is our article on the 11 ways to increase breast milk supply.
However if you are unsure of how your breast reduction is affecting breastfeeding a good starting point is to measure your milk supply and find out.