Your ability to produce sufficient milk following breast reduction surgery depends on a few factors including:
- The type of surgery – implants or reduction
- Technique used in surgery – location of incision
- Damage to nerve ducts and pathways
- Duration of time since surgery occurred
Understanding How Milk is Created in the Breasts
Milk is produced in the alveoli, or little sacs contained in the breast. When your baby is sucking, nerve endings in the nipple are stimulated, activating the release of two hormones prolactin and oxytocin: the first facilitates milk production, and the second causes your muscles to squeeze milk out of the breast (letdown). The milk then flows through the ducts, and when your baby is properly latched on the breast, he/she is able to compress it out of the ducts.
Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction Overview
In general, breast reduction impairs a woman’s ability to nurse. The biggest impact on a woman’s milk supply occurs when the areola and nipple are severed. However, this does not necessarily mean that moving the areola and nipple, or scarring the outside of the areola, will sever the ducts and nerve pathways.
Breast surgery, in general, also impacts the amount of breast tissue and nerve supply to the breast, both of which are essential for producing and releasing milk. Fortunately, research shows that breast tissue can re-grow, connecting the severed milk ducts. The regeneration of damaged nerves and ducts depends on how much time has passed since the surgery; thus, the longer a woman waits to breastfeed after breast reduction, and the longer she nurses, the more likely she will be able to produce more milk, especially with subsequent children. Actually, research shows that a woman has better milk supply when the surgery occurred more than five years before her pregnancy.
Will you be able to breastfeed?
The least harmful breast reduction procedure is the inferior pedicle, since the areola and nipple are repositioned while remaining attached to the pedicle – a mound of tissue that contains connected milk ducts and nerves. But if the nipple had to be removed and placed on a reconstructed breast, the damage to breast tissue, nerves, and milk ducts may limit sensation in the nipples and reduce milk flow.
It is difficult to know the full impact of breast reduction until you start nursing your baby, and will probably need to seek guidance and support from a lactation expert or your breast reduction surgeon.