Women who’ve had breast reduction surgery may very well wonder whether or not they will be able to breast feed a baby. There really isn’t a simple answer. The fact is, it depends on the type of surgery, what was done and how long it’s been since the surgery and even in the most optimal situation, each case is unique and a woman who has had a breast reduction may just have to try breast feeding to see how it goes.
In the typical breast reduction procedure, part of the breast tissue is removed–this includes milk ducts and nerves. If a woman has surgery where her nipple is removed and repositioned, chances are all of the milk ducts are cut, as well as the main nerves found in the breast. This can make breast feeding nearly impossible, or at least quite challenging. The general rule is the more drastic the surgery and the more that was done to, and removed from, the breast–the more difficult it will be for a woman to feed her baby entirely through breast milk and breast feeding.
Occasionally, a woman may experience the growing back of some of the milk ducts or nerves after a breast reduction surgery, but this is not common. Many women who have had reduction surgery where the nipple was not removed or repositioned can at least breast feed their babies some, even if not completely.
Some women who’ve had breast reduction surgery will experience intense engorgement after the birth of the baby and the fullness of the breasts will not diminish or soften with nursing because the milk ducts have been severed or pinched and the milk cannot get down to the nipple area for the infant to remove by sucking. This can be incredibly uncomfortable and may increase the chances of the mother developing an infection or mastitis because of the undrained milk. Also, milk production may stop as the breasts will signal that there is no nursing and the milk will be reabsorbed into the mother’s body.
The best thing for a woman who has had breast reduction surgery and who wants to consider breast feeding is to consult with her physician, medical professional, nurse, midwife, or lactation consultant. These professionals will likely be able to provide some insight and encouragement and help the mother prepare for the realities of breast feeding after reduction surgery. Again, each woman and each situation is unique and it often is something that has to be tried in order to see what the reality is and what is possible.