I’ve been doing this for more than 7 months. I've been obsessively worrying and quite awesomely breastfeeding my baby. In fact, I'm doing it better than I ever thought I would.
Let me give you a bit of background before I dive into the breastfeeding part of this story. In 1999, I went to the doctor for a routine annual exam. While there she asked if I would be interested in a breast reduction as my breasts were WHOA big, not big, WHOA big. I enthusiastically said yes and she referred me to the surgeon. After months of prep, I had my breast reduction and it was one of the best things I've ever done. I had almost 5 lbs of flesh removed from my chest and I was left with 38DDs. After the weight was lifted from my chest (pun intended), I ran several half-marathons, one marathon and gained so much self confidence. The only downside to my reduction I was told was that I may not be able to breastfeed when I had babies. So when I became pregnant with Molly, I was worried but I kept thinking, "At least there is formula so my baby won't starve."
I, however, did not know that breastfeeding would become my parenting hill to die on. Once Molly was born, I was determined to breastfeed her as much as I could and I knew in order to do that I would have to be very determined and kind to myself.
Molly now gets about 70% breast milk and 30% formula. All women are different. I’ve heard that almost all women get some milk after a reduction, it is just reduced.
Scott has been super supportive through this whole process. He never told me I was crazy. He has admitted that he often thinks that I am crazy when we talk about it but he also said that he was proud of me for being so passionate. I remember nights in the beginning when we were using the SNS system when he would hold the tube and pour the formula in while Molly breastfed. There would often be spillage and formula would get everywhere. Luckily it made us laugh, if not a bit sticky but it really helped me to have such a supportive partner through this journey.
Here is what I did to ensure my breastfeeding success (all the while knowing that I might not be successful).
I met with a Lactation Consultant while pregnant. I had flat nipples and she gave me this product called, Supple Cups to draw the nipples out. They were great! I couldn’t use them before 38 weeks though as they can stimulate labor. I also met with the LC twice after Molly’s birth and attended a breastfeeding support group. The support group messed with my head though. It was frustrating to hear women saying they had supply issues and they were giving their children 5 ounces while I was only getting about 2 ounces in Molly at that time. The LC also taught me how to do breast compressions which helped me get more milk out.
I read everything on bfar.org (a breastfeeding after reduction online forum) and joined the forums.
I read “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” which can be a bit too preachy but I found educational. I also read “Making More Milk” by Diane West who also had a breast reduction. I found it very interesting! I would recommend reading these before birth though and making notes to remind yourself for those early days.
I got a hospital pump and started pumping immediately. I pumped 8-10x a day after breastfeeding in the beginning. Then after a few weeks, I moved it down to 5-8x and am now at 3x a day, always after breastfeeding. I really hate pumping but I’ve made a committment to myself to do this for 9 months. I now use a Medela Pump in Style but I used the hospital pump for about two months. They have better motors and extract more. The baby is best at extraction but the pump is good too.
I used a SNS system to feed Molly. I would personally buy one from Medela instead of using the stupid syringe next time. I think it would prevent the 3 a.m. formula spills all over the bed. Scott helped me with this a lot. He’d hold the syringe and pour the formula in. We did this for about 3 weeks and then Molly refused to latch with the tube on. She’d latch without it so I moved to breastfeeding and following with a bottle. Molly has a great latch though and will eat off anything. She doesn’t care, just give her the foods (she is like this about most solid food too)! I also put her to the breast as soon as I could after birth. I had a c-section so it was about 45 minutes after she was born but she latched and we’ve been going ever since.
I take a product called Lactate Support from Gaia Herbs to help increase my supply. I also took Goat’s Rue which is supposed to regrow ducts along with Go-Lacta from Sugarpod Naturals. I take twice the recommended amount of Lactate Support as I’ve heard you need alot of Fenugreek. I smell like maple. I make people want pancakes.
I also ate a lot of lactation cookies to also help my supply. I'm not sure if they work but they are delicious!
I have oatmeal almost everyday for breakfast, again for supply. Have you noticed a trend, if it helps with supply, I do it!
Through this process I've learned that breastfeeding is not an all or nothing process. You can exclusively breastfeed, you can supplement with formula, you can feed your baby exclusively with formula. Whatever you decide is the best for your family. You just need to remember the most important rule of all - Feed the Baby!
I've also learned that almost everyone has troubles breastfeeding and that there is no need to judge people if they breastfeed or not. You do not know what they have gone through to arrive at their decision. I have two friends who did not have reductions who exclusively formula feed their babies. One hated breastfeeding and the other had severe supply issues. They are following the golden rule, "Feed the Baby". They are great Moms and we are able to trade tips about formula selection and bottles.
In the end, I'm so happy that I've been able to breast feed Molly as long as I have. I'm also still happy that I had that breast reduction. It helped me so much.