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Does Breast Reduction Surgery Affect Breastfeeding?

One of the most important decisions a woman can make in her life. However, sometimes certain issues can cause a woman to lose confidence in her ability to breastfeed. One of these issues is breast reduction surgery.

Breast reduction is one of the most popular surgeries in the UK and is carried out for a variety of different reasons. One of the most common reasons for breast reduction surgery is to reduce spinal problems amongst women with large breasts. Another is simply cosmetic, the woman in question is unhappy with the appearance of her breasts and so opts for the surgery.

One of the most common questions before breast reduction surgery is ‘does breast reduction surgery affect breastfeeding?’. This article will discuss if and how breast reduction affects a woman’s ability to breastfeed.

Length of Time Since Surgery

It is possible for some length of time after surgery for damaged nerves to repair themselves, which is called reinnervation, and for the nipple duct to reattach to the nipple tissue, which is called recanalisation. Because of these facts, it is possible nipple sensitivity will return post-surgery, which may allow for breastfeeding and the ability to produce milk.

Recanalisation is when some milk ducts that have been damaged by breast reduction surgery expand and create new passages to take milk to the nipple. There are a few factors that lead to this development process of glandular tissue, such as the menstrual cycle and the hormones produced by the body while pregnant.

The healing of nerves in the nipple tissue is called reinnervation. One of the important nerves in this tissue is responsible for creating the hormones vital for milk production. When damaged, these nerves can grow at a rate of 0.1cm per month. One sign that this nerve is repairing itself is when feeling starts to return to the nipple.

How Much Tissue Remains

Immediately after breast reduction surgery, it may not be possible to see how much glandular tissue remains compared to the fatty tissue. The more glandular tissue that is removed during breast reduction surgery, the more likely it is that breastfeeding will be negatively affected by the surgery.

Because glandular tissue is intermingled with fatty tissue, it can be very difficult to tell how much glandular tissue remains post-surgery and isn’t recognisable by size. So, for instance, a smaller breast might still have more glandular tissue than a larger breast, and so isn’t distinguishable by size.

Which Kind of Surgery?

There are several ways a breast reduction can be carried out, and so some of the different methods may affect the milk production of the breasts and they are as follows:

  • Cutting through milk ducts – the cutting of milk ducts may cause the ducts to become so damaged that milk no longer passes through.
  • If the nipple is removed and then replaced – this may damage the entire milk production cycle.
  • The way the surgery heals – if the scar tissue heals back too thick, it may block the milk ducts from carrying the milk to the nipple.

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