Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Do breast implants, surgeries, or reductions affect breastfeeding?

Strictly speaking, neither breast augmentation surgery nor breast reduction surgery are indications that a woman should not breastfeed. However, all types of breast surgery can interfere with milk production. In women who have received implants, the location of the implant and the type of incision used in the procedure will determine the extent, if any, to which the implant may affect breast milk production or nursing ability. In some cases, operations on a woman's breast may have involved incisions in the nipple area (such as surgeries for biopsies), and in these cases, the milk ducts may have been disrupted. Surgical disruption of milk ducts and scar tissue may also predispose women to plugged ducts, mastitis, or milk retention cysts during breastfeeding.

Concerns have been expressed in the past that the content of breast implants (particularly with silicone implants) could leak out and be absorbed into breast milk, but studies have failed to show that this is a risk. Ideally, a woman who is planning breast surgery should discuss in advance with her surgeon the risks that the procedure may pose to future breastfeeding.

How should one wean a baby from breastfeeding?

Weaning is the process of transitioning from breastfeeding to other sources of nourishment. There are no established standards on when to wean a baby, although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies receive only breast milk for the first six months of life and a combination of solid foods and breast milk until the baby is at least 1 year old.

Sometimes babies will signal their mothers that it is time to begin weaning; they may nurse for shorter periods of time or appear indifferent, fussy, or distractible when nursing. Other babies may even be resistant to weaning even when the mother is ready. As babies begin to eat more solid foods, their consumption of breast milk may decrease, making breast engorgement less of a problem for the mother.

Weaning does not have to take place all at once. For example, a woman may choose to continue breastfeeding only in the evening, and to wean during the day. Weaning is also easier when the baby has been exposed to another source of milk, such as taking breast milk from a bottle.

No matter when weaning occurs, experts suggest that the process take place gradually. Many women wean by dropping one breastfeeding session a week. Slowing down the process can also help milk production gradually decrease, making engorgement less of a problem. Some mothers prefer to leave the weaning process up to the child; when a child is eating solid foods at every meal, there is often a decreased interest in breastfeeding.

REFERENCES:

American Academy of Pediatrics. "AAP Policy on Breastfeeding." <https://www2.aap.org/breastfeeding/policyonbreastfeeding.Html>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Breastfeeding." Aug. 22, 2016. <https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/26/2016

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