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Breastfeeding after breast surgery

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Breast surgery can affect breastfeeding but, in many situations, you can breastfeed successfully afterwards.
  • Breastfeeding with implants is also possible for some people.
  • If you have had a mastectomy, you may still be able to breastfeed depending on the extent of surgery.
  • Speak with your doctor about your breastfeeding goals before surgery so they can make plans to help you.
  • Speak with a lactation consultant to help support your breastfeeding journey following breast surgery.

What is breast surgery?

Breast surgery is an operation that removes or reconstructs breasts for cosmetic reasons, or medical reasons like breast cancer, pain or emotional problems.

Types of breast surgery include:

Does having breast surgery affect breastfeeding?

Having breast surgery can affect breastfeeding and your milk supply. How much these are affected depends on:

  • the type of surgery
  • any changes to the breast structure or nipple
  • effect on the nerve supply to the nipple and areola
  • disruption to milk glands or ducts

You may be able to breastfeed following surgery or continue breastfeeding once you are well enough and rebuild your supply.

Following surgery, you may be able to:

  • fully breastfeed (without the need for top-up feeds)
  • partially breastfeed (some top-up feeds needed)
  • breastfeed with the help of medicines to boost your milk supply

It’s important to speak to your surgeon about your breastfeeding plans before surgery so they can do the surgery in a way that can help you breastfeed in the future.

Getting proper support is important. Speak with a breastfeeding counsellor or lactation consultant after your surgery or before the birth of your child if you have had breast surgery. They can help you begin breastfeeding or help you continue breastfeeding after breast surgery.

Can I breastfeed if I have implants?

Breastfeeding is possible if you have implants. Your ability to breastfeed if you have implants will depend on:

  • the surgery technique
  • where the surgical cuts are
  • impact on milk ducts and nerves

Can I breastfeed if I’ve had a mastectomy?

Your ability to breastfeed will depend on if you have had a double mastectomy, single mastectomy or partial mastectomy.

You may be able to breastfeed on the unaffected breast if you have had a mastectomy or partial mastectomy. You may also be able to partially breastfeed on the affected side following a partial mastectomy.

If you have had or are having a double mastectomy you will not be able to breastfeed following surgery.

Speak with your doctor if you need a mastectomy and hope to breastfeed.

Can I breastfeed if I’ve had reconstruction surgery?

Unfortunately, it will not be possible to breastfeed from your reconstructed breast. If you have only had one breast reconstructed you may be able to breastfeed successfully with the other breast.

A breast care nurse or lactation consultant can answer any questions you have about breastfeeding after a reconstruction.

To find a lactation consultant or maternal, child and family health service near you, use the Service Finder tool.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Can I have breast surgery while I’m breastfeeding?

Sometimes you can have breast surgery while breastfeeding, but it is important that your doctor knows that you are breastfeeding your baby. They can make plans to help you successfully continue breastfeeding such as by deciding what medicines to prescribe before, during or after your surgery so breastfeeding is safe. They may also be able to change the way they do the surgery.

Most anaesthetics and pain-relief medicines are safe to take, since they pass into your breastmilk at very low levels. You do not usually need to throw away any of your pumped breastmilk. Sometimes this is called “pump and dump”. If you need strong pain medicine or your baby is premature or sick, you should check with your doctor about your specific situation.

Read more on medicines and breastfeeding.

Stress or pain can affect how you make a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin controls your milk let-down reflex. It is important that you speak to your doctor about suitable pain relief to help manage your pain after surgery.

You may need to fast before your surgery or you could be separated from your baby for a time. It is important you discuss this with your doctor and prepare for situations like these. You may need to express and store breast milk or feed your baby formula.

Make sure you discuss with your doctor:

  • how to keep hydrated and protect your milk supply
  • the length of your surgery and if you need to feed or express before your procedure

You should ask your doctor before your surgery about how the surgery could affect your ability to breastfeed your baby.

Questions to ask your doctor before surgery

Write down any questions you or your partner may have. Here are some to consider:

  • Will I be able to breastfeed my baby after surgery?
  • How soon will I be able to breastfeed my baby?
  • What treatments or medicines will I need, and will I be able to breastfeed while taking them?
  • Can I keep breastfeeding on the other breast?

How will I know if my baby is getting enough milk?

There are signs that your baby is getting enough milk, such as:

  • your baby has plenty of pale yellow, heavy and wet nappies
  • your newborn baby has at least one bowel movement every day
  • your baby is gaining weight (after some expected weight loss soon after birth)
  • your baby has bright eyes, a moist mouth and good colour

If you are worried your baby is not getting enough milk you should speak to your doctor, lactation consultant, or a child and family health nurse.

Resources and support

More information on breastfeeding after surgery is available:

Do you prefer to read in languages other than English?

Australian Breastfeeding Association has breastfeeding booklets in other languages that you can buy.

If you need an interpreter, call Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) on 131 450.

Looking for information for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people?

Australian Breastfeeding Association has resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander families.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: March 2024

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Need more information?

Breastfeeding after breast surgery | Australian Breastfeeding Association

Most mums who have had breast surgery can breastfeed, at least to some extent. Find out more

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Breastfeeding and anaesthesia | Australian Breastfeeding Association

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If someone in your family needs surgery or hospital care, you may need breastfeeding support.

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A tongue-tie refers to a visually tight/restricted lingual frenum that is causing difficulties in performing certain actions that require the use of the tongue, such as breastfeeding.

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Breast Augmentation (Implants) - Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons

Breast augmentation (Implants), also known as augmentation mammoplasty, can be a cosmetic procedure or a reconstructive procedure.

Read more on Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons website

How to increase breastmilk supply

Read on to learn about some of the causes of low breastmilk supply, what is normal and tips on how to boost your milk production.

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Antenatal expression of colostrum

Colostrum, the first breast milk, is high in antibodies. It can be expressed before you give birth. Learn if expressing colostrum is right for you.

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Bottle feeding your baby

You can use a bottle to feed your baby expressed breast milk or formula if you are unable or choose not to breastfeed.

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Breastfeeding after a caesarean birth | Australian Breastfeeding Association

Yes you can breastfeed after a c-section! Understand your baby’s behaviour and get support.

Read more on Australian Breastfeeding Association website

Recovery after caesarean: first six weeks | Raising Children Network

This guide to recovery after caesarean section has tips for wound care, pain relief, practical help, physical and emotional recovery, and breastfeeding.

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Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

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