Breastfeeding after Reduction

Breastfeeding after Surgery

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Our story:

In 2000, I had breast reduction surgery. I was 21 years old, not in a committed relationship, and very fed up with how I looked and how my look was interpreted by the opposite gender (when you're only 5 feet tall, humongous breasts are even more ridiculous). I also had back problems that were getting worse and worse. So I had my consultation, and the doctor told me that there would be a chance I couldn't breastfeed. At that point, I didn't care. I just wanted to feel better about myself and make my back hurt less. So, I had the surgery.

Fast forward to 2009, I was newly married (October 2008) and ready to start a family. I'm getting older, and I'm really wanted to get this show on the road! LOL. So when I found out in August of '09 that we were expecting in April '10, I was ecstatic!!

As my pregnancy progressed, I found myself doing tons and tons of research to discover what kind of parent I wanted to be, and what I wanted to do when my baby arrives. I wanted to breastfeed, no question about it. But then it hit me-- would I even be able to, after having had breast surgery 10 years prior?

I went through a really rough time at that point. I cursed myself for being selfish and not thinking of my future children. I desperately wished I could go back in time and not have the surgery so I could successfully breastfeed, and then have the surgery after I was done having children.

But, in spite of feeling really down about it, I knew I had to be proactive. So, while still pregnant, I started searching for people who had too much milk. I found my very first milk donor on a cloth diapering website. She had a ton of milk in her freezer that was pumped before she learned her daughter had a dairy intolerance, and she couldn't use it. That milk ended up in my chest freezer, ready for when my daughter arrived.

I also stumbled onto BFAR.org, a website dedicated to women trying to breastfeed after breast reduction surgery. From there, I learned about herbs and medications I could take to increase my milk supply, as well as ways to supplement at breast to keep my supply, however meager, up.

When my daughter arrived, I had over 200 ounces of milk in my freezer ready to go. I had an SNS, which I brought to the hospital. The lactation consultant was quite impressed with the research and preparation I'd done, and was confident that I would have no issues with breastfeeding, given my awareness of how I might not produce enough milk and my dedication to doing my best to breastfeed her.

My initial plan was not to supplement until I knew how much I was making and to see if I really needed to. But you know the old saying about the best laid plans...as it turned out, my Cecilia was jaundiced. Not severely enough to need bili blankets or lights, but definitely jaundiced. They pushed me in the hospital to give her formula. I refused, and the LC backed me up on it. But, she said, I should give her donated milk once we got home to help her flush it out.

Working with the SNS was not easy at first! Our first night home, we spoon fed a 3 day old Cecilia because I couldn't juggle a squalling newborn and the SNS well enough. But I am nothing if not stubborn, and this mattered too much to me to give up. So I used medical tape to tape the tube on, and we figured it out.

These days the SNS is a breeze. I don't use tape, I just line the tube up with my nipple and latch her on. She's almost 10 months old and has never known any other way of nursing, so for both of us, it's second nature.

The sad news is that at this point I make nearly no milk anymore. I have done EVERYTHING to get my supply up, to no avail. Around 9 months I stopped taking the 60+ pills (herbal galactagogues) that I was taking daily because it was so demoralizing to take so many pills and not see any results. I would estimate that 90% of Cecilia's milk intake is from the SNS now.

But, our nursing bond is super strong, and I will not wean her even if I am not making any milk. Until she wants to stop nursing, I will keep plugging on.

 

 

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