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Breastfeeding and Breast Enhancement: What Do We Know?

Mother in brown shirt breastfeeding baby.

You’ve heard of breast enhancement. Maybe you find yourself wondering, “Wait! Do I really know what this means?” Hmm. Maybe not. That exact question flickered through my mind. I want to explore this topic, and a little on how it might relate to breastfeeding.

What are breast enhancers?

I snooped around the internet for a definition. Some sources talked only about breast implants. Others talked about breast surgery, including but not limited to the surgical procedure to insert the implants. Others talked about pills, creams, and more.

Some sources said — I’m paraphrasing here — that breast enhancement was anything that a woman did to enhance the attractiveness of her breasts. Okay, by that definition, some would say that includes breast reduction! But as far as I could tell, “reduction” was not part of the definition.

The emphasis was on breast enlargement.

So, for the purpose of this post, I’m going to say that breast enhancement is any procedure or substance that is used to enlarge the human breast. It appears to me that all such enhancements boil down to three categories:

  • Surgical: Many of the articles online used the word “enhancement” more or less interchangeably with “augmentation.” One source defined enhancement as “a surgical procedure to increase the size of a woman’s breasts to have breast enhancement.” Keep in mind, though, there are different types of surgical procedures to accomplish such “enhancement.”
  • Hormonal: These seem to be hormonal-like creams that are applied to the breast, and presumably, are absorbed into the tissue to create enlarged breasts, but might also be ingested in capsule form.
  • Herbal: These are herbs in certain dietary supplements that have a fat-enhancing effect or a firming effect or both.

What are the surgical procedures?

Dr. Wesley Wilson says there are basically two different types of breast surgery for enhancement. Breast augmentation surgery, the procedure in which implants are inserted, and breast “lift.”

Breast lift

In the medical world, a breast lift is known as a mastopexy. It aims to do exactly what you might think: it accomplishes breast enhancement because it “lifts” the breast. Whereas augmentation changes the size of the breast, a mastopexy changes its shape and makes the breast appear “perkier.”

One source I encountered erroneously stated that the lift procedure is done to correct the sagging that occurs after breastfeeding. There is exactly no evidence to show that sagging breasts are the result of breastfeeding. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary. Stay tuned, I’ll see if I can explain that later.

Natural hormones and phytoestrogens

The only natural hormones that increase breast size are estrogen and progesterone. Both are highly active during pregnancy, hence the breast tenderness and enlargement that is common during those times.

However, there are also plant-based estrogens. They act very much like human hormones.

Phytoestrogens are “… plant-derived compounds found in a wide variety of foods, most notably soy.” (I have a fascinating interview with this author, Heather Patisaul, as related to soy and its effect on infants.)

It appears to me that both dietary supplements and breast creams used for breast enhancement can contain phytoestrogens.

Dr. Pruthi at the Mayo Clinic explains that plant-based phytoestrogens are touted as enhancing breast growth, but their potential benefits are unproven. Yet, their risks, when used with some medications, especially a so-called “blood-thinner” such as the well-known and often-prescribed warfarin (e.g., Coumadin™) can have serious consequences.

Herbs

Herbs are often in capsules that are marketed as dietary supplements, but they could also be in breast creams and claim to accomplish breast enhancement. You may have already seen:

  • saw palmetto
  • wild yam
  • volufiline — in creams reported to enlarge the surrounding fat tissues for an enlarged appearance
  • kigeline in creams, and reported to improve tissue firmness
  • green papaya extract is reported to increase estrogen hormone and promotes growth.

Do the dietary supplements work to enhance the appearance of the breasts? Harvard Medical School says “no clinical trial data have been published on any of these products, so we have no proof they work.”

Nevertheless, I came upon many testimonials — just anecdotal evidence — claiming that they do.

(If you’ve ever attended one of my live courses you’ve heard me say that one study does not a best practice make. So, you know I’m going to tell you that many anecdotal reports do not a study make!)

Impacts on breastfeeding

Just as with breast reduction, the possibility of breastfeeding after surgical breast enhancement depends on the surgery-related factors. The ability to breastfeed afterward can be affected by the types of incision used.

As far as topical creams and capsules, just as with all oils, creams, and supplements, the issue is safety.

What do we really know about breast enhancement?

I’m almost afraid to publish this post! I’m afraid I have given more questions than answers!

So to be clear, I’m not a medical physician, a naturopath, a nutritionist, or an herbalist. Nor am I one of the tens of thousands of American women who seek to “enhance” their breasts. (I have a far from perfect figure, but no, I’ve never considered “enhancing” my breasts.)

This is the information I’ve gathered. It’s descriptive, not prescriptive. Do with it as you wish, but remember, many inventions do carry risks — including risks that have yet to be identified.

Would you be likely to seek breast enhancement for yourself? If so, how will you get more credible information?

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