Breastfeeding After Breast Surgery

There is a lot of literature on the subject of breastfeeding after all types of breast surgery (breast reduction, augmentation, and breast lift). Breastfeeding after breast surgery is possible. It is difficult to assess how well a women will breastfeed after surgery if she is a first time mom. Regardless of whether or not breast surgery has been performed, a first time mom may have difficulty breastfeeding. Because of this reason it is hard to assess if the difficulty is due to surgery or just an inexperienced mom. Let’s talk about these different procedures and how they affect the breast.

Breast reduction surgery involves moving the nipple to a higher location after a large amount of breast tissue is removed. As a standard, the nipple is normally not “removed”, just repositioned. Under special circumstances the nipple may be removed. This is referred to as a “Free Nipple Graft” and breastfeeding is not possible because it has been disconnected from the milk ducts. This is typically only done for very large pendulous breast that hang very low. I perform several breast reductions every month and have only had to perform a Free Nipple Graft once in my career.

Breastfeeding Literature is all over the place with thoughts on breastfeeding after reduction. After extensive review, I cannot find a definitive percentage that I have been comfortable telling patients. There are studies that demonstrate a significant reduction in the ability to breastfeed and on the other hand there are studies with a vast amount of patients that do not demonstrate any decreased ability to breastfeed.

I tell my patients to expect approximately 10% to 15% reduction in the ability to breastfeed. Let me reiterate, it also depends on the type of reduction performed. If a large amount of breast tissue remains under the nipple areolar complex and the nipple is not removed, I would expect a patient to be able to breastfeed. Doing your homework and having an open dialog with your surgeon is the best way to know your options and understand your risk.

This same concept applies to a breast lift. If a large amount of breast tissue remains after a breast lift and the tissue under the nipple complex has not been interrupted then a patient should still be able to breastfeed with a small reduction in milk production. Typically, the patient that undergoes a breast lift is generally finished having children and does not plan to have more when the decision to lift the breast is made. Talking to your surgeon about your pregnancies and the possibility of having more children after surgery is important during your consultation process.

Patients that have undergone a breast augmentation with an incision under the breast should experience no difference in their ability to breastfeed. This type of incision does not interrupt the milk ducts near the nipple complex. If an incision around the nipple has been performed for an augmentation there may be a slight reduction in the ability to breastfeed. I have several patients that have had children after both breast augmentation and breast lift surgery that have successfully breastfed, including myself!

In closing, there is no black and white answer to breastfeeding after breast surgery. Each patient must get the appropriate counseling on this subject if she is planning on having children after the procedure. Be sure to ask your doctor what type of incision will be done and if it preserves the milk ducts. Be your own patient advocate. Having a comfortable relationship with your surgeon will make all the difference in your decision making process.

About the Author

Dr Hollie HickmanDr. Hollie Hickman is a board certified plastic surgeon who began her surgical training at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville where she completed a five year residency in general surgery. It was here that she met her friend and plastic surgery partner Dr. Erez Sternberg. After completing her residency at the Mayo clinic, she went on to further her training at the prestigious Vanderbilt University Department of Plastic and Reconstructive surgery.

While at Vanderbilt, Dr. Hickman had the opportunity to work under the tutelage of nationally recognized plastic surgeons, and received expert instruction in advanced breast reconstruction, cleft lip and palate surgery, traumatic injury to the face, body, and lower extremities, as well as cosmetic surgery of the face and body. She is excited to bring her experience and cutting edge training in plastic surgery to the Jacksonville area.

Thank you Ponte Vedra Plastic Surgery for sponsoring this post! Learn more about them by visiting their website!


  1. Hi there, have read many articles about breastfeeding after a breast surgery but this one is one of the best. I am 23 and I plan to get a breast augmentation surgery by next year. and one of the things I have always been concerned about was about breast feeding after the surgery. Thanks for sharing this article and clearing my doubts.


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