Can you Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction? I knew getting a breast reduction was the correct decision for me, but I had no idea how it would affect my life years later.
I got a breast reduction when I was 20 years old.
My chest was reduced by 3 1/2 pounds and my C+ breasts were made more tolerable by the plastic surgeon. I picked a smaller size mostly for aesthetic reasons, but I also wanted to alleviate the developing “widow’s hump” and shoulder strain.
During the planning phases, the surgeon informed me that I would have a 50% chance of breastfeeding. It was a throwaway remark based on no scientific evidence. But it wouldn’t have mattered what the numbers were since I was an adolescent who despised the notion of nursing.
My conceited adolescent self would have been astounded at how that decision came back to bother me when I was struggling to nurse my first kid.
11 years had passed since my operation, and I was holding my screaming newborn. My milk had arrived, but just a little portion of it was being consumed. I informed every doctor, nurse, and lactation consultant I knew about my previous breast reduction, but no one had any suggestions about how to assist. They experimented with different grips, nipple shields, and murmured about fenugreek.
I pumped teeny-tiny quantities while mixing the formula in huge containers.
Breastfeeding proved to be a failure. My son and I were both dealing with the ramifications of my decision to get cosmetic surgery.
Breast reductions are a frequent procedure. Every year, almost 500,000 women have breast reductions, according to Trusted Source. BFAR (breastfeeding after reduction) is an abbreviation for breastfeeding after reduction. There are enough ladies who attempt it that a BFAR support website and the Facebook group have sprung up as a result.
However, there is a lot of misunderstanding and confusion about the difficulties that BFAR women confront. There is limited research on the impact of breast surgery on nursing.
Different forms of reduction surgery exist. If a woman wants to breastfeed, she should inquire if the nipple will be removed entirely or merely relocated. The more of the nipple and milk ducts that were left connected, the more likely breastfeeding will be successful. Although damaged milk ducts can reconnect, the amount of milk produced may be affected.
Making breastfeeding work takes work
Breastfeeding relies on a feedback loop including neurons, hormones, and milk ducts. Any disruption to this loop has the potential to alter the amount of milk made and supplied to the infant.
The good news is that once a baby is delivered, the nerves may retrain themselves and the ducts can begin to function again. It’s critical to empty your breasts and let them refill as soon as your baby is delivered in order to stimulate nerve recanalization.
I took a lot more initiative when I was pregnant with my second kid. While I was pregnant, I interviewed lactation consultants until I found someone with expertise in nursing after a reduction. For the first week, she visited us every day. She opened open the container of formula and showed me how to finger feed him when it became obvious that my kid was not gaining enough weight on day seven.
Breastfeeding does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition.
My milk production was poor, as it was for other BFARs. The milk production and distribution systems have a sluggish and unreliable feedback mechanism. I pumped for the first month with my second kid, took blessed thistle and fenugreek, and conducted breast compressions while breastfeeding.
I also took domperidone, a prescription medication that boosts milk production. Domperidone is not FDA-approved or accessible in the United States, although it has been for 20 years in Canada (where I reside). Despite this, I did not produce enough milk to solely give my kid breast milk.
I always tube fed at the breast to make sure my kid had enough milk.
Tube feeding is easier than it appears, especially with a calm infant, as my second kid was. You first attach the infant to your breast, and then you insert a small tube filled with a formula into their mouth (either in a bottle or in a lactation system). As the infant sucks, both formula and breast milk are consumed.
It’s hard to say how much breast milk my kid drank, but we estimate that he got around 40% of his calories from breast milk. I was able to remove the tube and nurse my baby on demand after he started solids at 6 months.
Nursing success may take many forms; for some, it may include breastfeeding on demand, while for others, it may need supplementing breast milk with formula. BFARs, in particular, must be flexible to many definitions of success. When I was nursing my son and supplementing with formula at the breast, I never felt more accomplished.
The fact that milk production grows with each pregnancy is one of the most remarkable aspects of the human body. Despite taking domperidone regularly, I did not need to augment my daughter with formula when she was born three years later.
Everyone’s definition of success is different.
Looking back on the event, I still consider my second child’s success to be a genuine victory. Without a supportive spouse, a competent lactation consultant, and a pediatrician who trusted me and was ready to be flexible, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish it.
If you’re thinking about nursing following breast surgery, here’s what you should know:
- Make sure you have as much information as possible. If at all possible, obtain a copy of Diane West’s “Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction Surgery,” a book written by a famous breastfeeding specialist (and BFAR mother). With real-life experiences, the book is very comprehensive and uplifting (although West acknowledges the information on low milk supply is outdated).
- Employ an IBCLC (international board-certified lactation consultant) who has worked with other women who have undergone breast surgery. Don’t settle for someone who has only a hazy understanding of the term.
- You might also want to talk to your pediatrician about your plans and set up regular infant weigh-ins.
- If you’re at ease, speak with your doctor about receiving a prescription for a medicine that might help you produce more milk. Although Domperidone is not accessible in the United States, there are alternative medications that can be used instead. To determine if this is suitable for you, speak with your doctor about the advantages and negative effects.
- Don’t believe anyone who tells you that breastfeeding isn’t worth it or that it will only happen if nature allows it. Don’t allow them to make you feel bad about your previous and present decisions.
Allow yourself to be free of guilt. At the time, having a breast reduction made you logical and helped you become who you are now.
It’s possible that you’ll have to redefine success in a way that isn’t what you desire, which can be unpleasant. Recognize your own limitations. It’s stressful enough to be a new parent without having to deal with physical barriers to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a great thing, but bottle feeding may also provide skin-to-skin contact and a variety of nutritious feeding experiences.
Now that my children are older, I see that the dichotomies of breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, as well as good mother vs. terrible mother, are untrue. My three children’s health is unaffected by their various eating practices. Nobody notices or cares whether your teenager was given formula. Breastfeeding my children successfully has brought me happiness, but it is simply one more aspect of being a mother.