Breast trauma

Have my breasts been damaged?

Injury to the breasts or nipples as a baby, child, or young woman can affect a mother’s ability to make milk. This includes injury from a breast abscess that develops in a baby girl soon after birth, the surgery done to treat it, and any other chest surgery involving the breast area. Other examples of injury include burns, severe force from a seatbelt during a car accident, and radiation to treat cancer.

A) Describing breast trauma

Injuries to the breast can affect a mother’s ability to make milk.

Injuries can also damage the nipple area which can result in:

This can result in the baby having difficulty latching or, if the ducts are damaged, removing milk from the breast.

B) Surgery

Newborns may develop breast abscesses shortly after delivery. Both the disease and the surgery to treat it can damage the breast and result in a low milk supply in the affected breast once the baby grows up.

Similarly, any surgery that damages the breast of a baby, older child, or young woman can affect her milk supply later in life.

C) Burns

A deep chest burn in a girl or woman and the scarring that can follow may damage the breasts or nipples (Arabi 2019; Foley 2008).

D) Severe force

Severe force, such as from a seatbelt during a car accident, can damage the breast (Sircar 2010). The effect can also occur in a girl whose breasts have yet to develop.

E) Radiation and chemotherapy

Radiation treatment for lymphoma or other cancers in the chest area of a child can affect breast development and cause a low milk supply (Lo 2021).

Radiation treatment of breast cancer can reduce milk supply as can breast cancer surgery and chemotherapy.

F) Infection

Severe mastitis can decrease milk supply for the breastfeeding baby but is unlikely to affect the milk supply for future babies.

Mothers who have a smaller abscess that is drained with a needle are less likely to have a low milk supply with subsequent babies. However, large abscesses that form just under the areola or are that are treated with surgery can cause a permanently low milk supply.


Arabi Z, Md Monoto EM, Bojeng A. Impact of childhood burn injuries on breastfeeding: a case report. Int Breastfeed J. 2019 Apr 18;14:17
Foley P, Jeeves A, Davey RB, et al. Breast burns are not benign: long-term outcomes of burns to the breast in pre-pubertal girls. Burns. 2008 May;34(3):412-7. Epub 2007 Sep 17
Lo AC, Ronckers C, Aznar MC, et al. Breast Hypoplasia and Decreased Lactation From Radiation Therapy in Survivors of Pediatric Malignancy: A PENTEC Comprehensive Review. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2021 Oct 6:S0360-3016(21)02725-5
Sircar T, Mistry P, Harries S, et al. Seat-belt trauma of the breast in a pregnant woman causing milk-duct injury: a case report and review of the literature. Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2010 Jul;92(5):W14-5