Breast surgery

Can I breastfeed after breast surgery?

Breast surgery creates extra challenges for breastfeeding mothers in addition to the usual concerns about surgery. The nature of the breast problem will determine the type of surgery and the effect on breastfeeding. Mothers who wish to stop breastfeeding on the affected side should either dry-up before surgery or only once that breast is totally healed. Unless there is a specific concern after surgery, mothers can keep breastfeeding with the breast that did not have the operation. Breastfeeding specialists can be helpful in this situation.

A) The type of breast surgery

Ideally, breast surgery is delayed until after breastfeeding has stopped. Breast surgery creates extra challenges for breastfeeding mothers in addition to the general considerations for surgery and breastfeeding. 

It may be possible to minimize the effect of surgery on the breast. For example, mothers are often able to avoid surgery for a breast abscess by having the abscess drained with a needle, and needle biopsies are less invasive than an open biopsy, which is done by creating a cut in the breast.

When a surgeon cuts into your breast, it is hopefully done in a way that minimizes the risk to your current and future milk supply. To minimize damage to the milk ducts, cuts ideally are made away from the nipple and the areola

Breast cancer surgery is very aggressive and often stops the breast’s ability to make milk. 

Please discuss these with your surgeon and other health-care providers before surgery and consider working with a breastfeeding specialist.

B) Breastfeeding after surgery

1) The healthy breast

Unless there is a specific concern about medication after breast surgery or mothers no longer wish to breastfeed, they should keep breastfeeding with the breast that did not have the operation. If called upon, it may be able to make enough milk to meet all of the baby's needs. 

2) The affected breast

The options for the operated side include:

  • Continuing to breastfeed or express before and after surgery.
  • Letting the breast dry up before surgery. 
  • Letting the breast dry up once the breast has completely healed from surgery.

Mothers should not attempt to dry up the operated side shortly after surgery. The resulting breast fullness can:

  • Interfere with healing from surgery.
  • Add to the pain from surgery.
  • Cause infection of the breast.
  • Cause a permanent passage between the area of the surgery and the outside (fistula).

Breast abscesses can affect the baby’s ability to breastfeed even before surgery. If a mother with a breast abscess requires surgery and is breastfeeding on the affected side, she should continue to breastfeed after surgery as long as the baby is not in direct contact with pus or infected tissue and the baby is willing and able to use that breast.