I had my breast reduction at 23 years old. Even at that time I knew I wanted to breastfeed. My doctor told me that some women are unable to breastfeed and it was possible that I could be one of them. I accepted this, but still asked that he try to preserve my lactation function.
When I was 29, I became pregnant with my first child, Maggie. I had all of the textbook breast changes associated with pregnancy: darkened nipples, engorged breast, and I could even expel colostrum near the end of my pregnancy. I thought, as did my midwife, I would be able to breastfeed with no problem. I did buy the BFAR book to prepare myself for the worst case scenario.
Maggie was born via c-section after 36 hours of labor. She was able to latch on about an hour after birth. From the beginning she was a voracious eater and had no problem with latch-on. Maggie was 7 pounds 6 oz at birth and three days later she was down to 6 lbs. 10 oz. At this point, the pediatrician suggested I supplement via a cup until my milk came in. After the fourth day Maggie, had gained 4 ounces and I was told to stop supplementing. Thus began a rollercoaster with constant weigh-ins. She was gaining, she wasn't gaining, she was gaining again….. Finally I bought an SNS and supplemented Maggie about 4 ounces a day. I also started taking Fenugreek and Domperidone. The Domperidone significantly increased my milk supply.
I have to say my ped was great; she didn't want me to supplement too much because she didn't want my milk supply to be affected. It was a very fine line we were walking. I was pumping after feeding to increase my milk supply but it was too much. I felt as though I constantly had something attached to my breast and I was exhausted. My ped told me that it was better to let Maggie nurse as much as she wanted to even if only to comfort nurse. Maggie would be better at increasing my milk supply than any pump. Even when Maggie wasn't hungry I would "pop" her on the breast to "top her off."
At Maggie's 2 month check up, she was in the 50% for weight and my ped told me that the 4-6 ounces I was supplementing was not accounting for her weight gain, but I didn't want to stop supplementing. At Maggie's 4 month check up she still was in the 50% for weight and again my ped told me to stop supplementing. I just couldn't bear the thought of Maggie being hungry. We're now at almost 5 months and I have almost stopped the supplements completely, although I still occasionally regress.
The whole experience has been emotionally draining and stressful. I felt as though I couldn't take her anywhere the first 2 months in case she got hungry I wouldn't be able to satisfy her. I wanted to provide the best start for my baby and I knew that breastfeeding was very important. I wasn't prepared for how emotional I would be about breastfeeding Maggie. That first month I felt like such a failure as a mother.
What I have noticed is the longer I breastfeed the more my milk supply seems to increase. It appears as though recanalization has taken place significantly. I plan to breastfeed Maggie until she is at least a year old. I am so thankful for the support of my husband, my midwife and the pediatrician. I hope my story inspires others not to give up. It does get better and it is worth it.
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