Implants and Breastfeeding: What You Should Know
Our goal at Lactation Lab is to empower moms with confidence about the quality of their breast milk and help them breastfeed for as long as they choose. With that in mind we aim to dispel myths where needed, and to give moms the information and solutions they need.
One concern for some moms with breast implants is whether they are dangerous for their baby’s health if they contaminate their breast milk. They specifically ask about whether silicon, silicone gel or platinum used in implants can leak into their breast milk.
Silicon and Silicone
Moms should know that silicon occurs naturally. It is the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust. It is thought to be essential for connective tissues and is found in tendons, bone, skin, hair and nails. It’s also used as an anti-foaming agent in fruit juice and is found in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and prostheses. The only known health hazard is that inhaling crystalline silica dust into the lungs can cause silicosis. Silica dust is never used in implants.
Breast implants contain silicone gel, a synthetic polymer made up of silicon, oxygen and other elements, most typically carbon and hydrogen.
Research has reported cases of esophageal dysmotility (slow movement through the esophagus) in infants that were nursing from mothers with silicone implants. Another study reported “rheumatoid-like symptoms” transferred to a child from a breastfeeding mother with silicone implants. However, this study examined only two children.
A larger study did not show any adverse outcomes in infants of breastfeeding mothers with silicone implants. Another study found that there were actually higher levels of silicon in cow's milk infant formulas than in human milk. (It should be noted that this study was funded by the plastic surgery industry.)
The silicon-containing anti-colic agent simethicone has been widely used for decades and they haven’t shown any toxic side effects to infants. The American Academy of Pediatrics therefore recommends that mothers with silicone breast implants should breastfeed if they choose to.
The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Drugs does not feel that the evidence currently justifies classifying silicone implants as a contraindication to breastfeeding.
The bottom line is there is very little reliable data about breastfeeding with implants. Given that silicon is so abundant in our environment, and that there are overwhelming advantages to breastfeeding, we strongly encourage women with breast implants to breastfeed if they wish to.
While the limited evidence available suggests there is little risk from silicon, this may not be the case with platinum, which is used in silicone and saline implants. Platinum is a toxic metal that is especially damaging to early development.
There have been some studies showing significant levels of platinum in silicone breast implant gel and envelopes. Platinum has also been shown to leak out of the implant and accumulate in the tissues of women exposed to silicone breast implants . The question then becomes should women with saline or silicone breast implants be concerned about platinum?
Our research has found only one study to date that looked at platinum in the breast milk of mothers with silicone implants. It included 18 women with silicone breast implants and 5 women without (the control group). The authors looked at the blood, urine, hair, nails, sweat and breast milk of these women.
The levels of platinum in their blood and urine did not differ between mothers with implants and those without. However, there was a significant difference in platinum levels in the hair, nails, sweat and breast milk in the implant group versus the control group, where no platinum was found.
The study concluded that women with silicone breast implants had much higher levels of platinum than women without implants whereas saline implants did not contain any platinum. However, the methodology of the study has been questioned.
Due to the small sample size, more research needs to be done to confirm these findings. However, it does raise some questions about platinum in breast milk. If mothers are concerned about platinum or silicone in their breast milk, Lactation Lab offers a Premium Breast Milk Test kit which can detect its presence in milk to 1 part per billion, along with recommendations for how to address any concerns.
You can also order the silicone implant rupture detection test specifically designed for detecting ruptured silicone implants.
If you want to be notified about the latest breast milk research, consider subscribing to our newsletter or download the Emily Care’s app for additional information and support on your breastfeeding journey.
Levine J., Trachtman H., Gold D., Pettei M. Esophageal Dysmotility in Children of breast fed by mothers with silicone breast implants: long-term follow-up and response to treatment. Digestive Disease Science 1996;41:1600-03.
Semple J., Lugowski S., Baines C., Smith D., McHugh A. Breast Milk Contamination and Silicone Implants: Preliminary Results using SIlicon as a proxy measurement for silicone. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 1998;102:528-33.
Lykissa E., Maharaj S. Total Platinum Concentration and Platinum Oxidation States in Body Fluids, TIssue, and Explants from Women Exposed to Silicone and Saline Breast Implants by IC-ICPMS. Analytical Chemistry 2006, 78:2925-33.