Stephanie Canale, M.D., Founder, Lactation Lab
One topic of concern to some mothers with breast implants is whether they present any health risk to their baby through possible contamination of their breast milk. In particular, they 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. Silicon is used as an anti-foaming agent in fruit juice and is found in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and proshtheses. The only known health hazard results from inhaling crystalline silica dust into the lungs causing 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 implant). 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 there have not been shown to have 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.
Bottom line: 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 of 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 breast milk in mothers that had silicone breast implants. It included 18 women with silicone breast implants and 5 women without ( the control group). The authors examined blood, urine, hair, nails, sweat and the breast milk of these women.
The concentration of platinum in blood did not differ between mothers with exposure to silicone through implants and those without. Both groups did have detectable levels of platinum thought to be related to environmental exposure. Similarly the concentration of platinum in urine did not differ between mothers with exposure to silicone through implants and those without.
However, there was a significant difference in platinum concentration in the hair, nails, sweat and breast milk in the implant group versus the control group, where no platinum was detected.
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.
Bottom Line: Due to the small sample size, more research needs to be done to replicate 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 offer custom test kits to measure the levels of the components of their milk, along with recommendations for how to address any concerns.