Doctors Warn Breast Implants May Affect Breastfeeding, Mother-To-Baby Bonding

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Women who undergo breast augmentation to enhance their look might face the risk of being unable to exclusively breastfeed their babies doctors have warned.

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended by the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organisation as the best immunity against killer diseases for children from zero to six months.

They recommend exclusive breastfeeding starting within one hour after birth until a baby is six months old, adding that it is the best way to provide infants with the nutrients they need.

According to the National Demographic and Health Survey 2018, Nigeria’s exclusive breastfeeding rate still stands at 29 per cent compared to other West African countries that are above 50 per cent.

Breast augmentation is a surgery using implants or fat transfer to increase both size and shape.

In an exclusive interview with PUNCH Healthwise, a Professor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, Titus Chukwuanukwu, said breast augmentation could be done for therapeutic and aesthetic purposes.

He, however, said that the technique used for augmentation does not affect the women’s natural ability to breastfeed.

The don explained, “It is a fashion trend, moreover, the world has become a global village so people are looking at what is happening in other places and now want to look like others. There is this belief among women that those who have big breasts are more attractive than those who don’t and many would want to do that to ensure they look like others.

“However, there are those who have small breasts and there are some women who have only one side of their breasts well developed like in Poland’s Syndrome. These would be affected psychologically and would want to augment the one that is not good enough, to help boost their aesthetics.

“There is no harm in breast augmentation per se because in augmentation, we most times use an implant, most of the time, silicone implant and this has been tested to be safe. It is no longer a local thing so one can’t implant something that is harmful and where it is implanted would not prevent breastfeeding or other purposes.”

The plastic and reconstructive surgeon further noted that in some cases, tissues from other parts of the body could be used to reconstruct the breast.

He also said that for women who have undergone mastectomy, breast reconstruction was done with either an implant or tissue from the body of the same person.

On how it can affect six-month exclusive breastfeeding for newborns, he explained,, “The implant is usually placed where it would not affect breastfeeding, except if the breast originally has a problem, otherwise, it is not the surgery that would stop the breastfeeding.

“Augmentation is done in such a way that it doesn’t affect breastfeeding, however, if the person has done mastectomy and the new tissue is used to construct the breast, it can’t be used for breastfeeding.”

The don, however, noted that a psychological fear of the safety of breast milk might arise in some mothers.

“Sometimes, the fear of, am I sure that this is safe, or am I giving my child something that would harm him or her, would arise. These are the things that can affect breastfeeding because there is a psychological component to breastfeeding,” Chukwuanukwu added.

A Public Health Nutritionist and researcher on Breastfeeding and Complementary Feeding at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Professor Beatrice Ogunba, noted that exclusive breastfeeding remains an infant’s best food and first immunisation.

He noted that women who have undergone breast augmentation might have reduced frequency of breastfeeding their babies.

She said, “It might reduce the frequency of feeding and that means the child would have less breast milk and less nutrition. If it affects the frequency of breastfeeding, it affects mother-to-child bonding and postpartum weight loss because the mother will not burn enough calories.”

Ogunba also noted that there is also the possibility of the implant affecting the emotional health of the women.

“When as a mother you are not giving enough to your baby, you will feel that you are not doing well and this can also lead to post-partum depression. But we encourage those who have done the implant to know the recommendations, and frequency of feeding their baby. That way, they can make up their minds to achieve the required feeding recommendations irrespective. But they will need a lot of support.”

Ogunba encouraged mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies, stressing that the nutritional constituent in breast milk is adequate to meet the nutritional needs of a child.

The professor noted that mothers, who do not breastfeed their infants, deny them the nutritional benefits.

She said, “When it comes to breastfeeding, it is the foundation of life. Anything that happens in the first 1,000 days of any child’s life affects the child even in the future. So a mother who wants to place fashion over the health of the baby should think twice. Most exclusively breastfed babies are healthy and secure. So the mother should decide and set the priorities right and ask if it is fashion or the health of the baby?”






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