I had a breast reduction back in 1990 when I was 22 years old. At the time I was 16DD and I was so self-conscious; my self esteem was very low. I think I had inherited both sets of my Grandma's breasts (they were both huge). I didn't really think much about having the surgery and children at the time. It was the farthest thing from my mind as all I wanted to do was get rid of these gigantic breasts. My surgeon said he would do his best to keep as many ducts connected so that I would be able to breastfeed later in life. He removed over 1.5kg of breast tissue.
I was so happy with the surgery. I had to adjust to walking again as I had compensated for such a long time with pendulous breasts that I lent backwards for a few days until I got used to the new look and feel of my new breasts.
I can tell you it was VERY painful. I couldn’t drive for over 6 weeks and had to lie on an elevated mattress on the floor (at the time I was sleeping in a waterbed and of course I didn’t have the full use of my arms to get in and out of the bed). I had to have someone to help me get dressed and brush my hair and wash for a few weeks too.
When I became pregnant with my first daughter, Charlotte, I didn’t even think about breastfeeding until she was born. Most of the midwives at the hospital were very supportive, but a few were adamant I wouldn’t be able to feed and in the most part they were right. I was making some milk but not enough to sustain her completely. I felt like a failure. I ended up starting the feed breastfeeding and then I supplemented with a bottle of formula and then I would pump to try and increase supply. I had no idea about Lactaids or SNS or anything of the like. It was a nightmare trying to breastfeed and then pump and then bottlefeed; I hated it. After 3 months, I ended up giving up. It all got just too hard. I remember crying about it. My husband was very supportive.
The second time I got pregnant I really wanted to make a go of breastfeeding and this time the midwives at the hospital seemed far more supportive of me. I must admit, though, it is very easy to get confused whilst in hospital as each midwife seemed to have a different way of getting the baby to latch and had so many opinions on how to do this and how to do that, that I can understand why people that have not had a reduction give up feeding, let alone women who also have the added burden of having fewer ducts to contend with.
When my MCH (Maternal and Child Health Care Centre) came out for the first home visit Emily was gaining very poorly. It was obvious that once again I wasn't supplying my baby with enough milk. It was suggested that I get an LC to come out and see me 3 weeks after my second daughter was born. Emily was not putting on enough weight. Before we left the hospital she lost more than 10% of her body weight. I thought – oh no not this again. The LC was great. She helped me with my latch and told me about domperidone (Motilium) and I got a script and ordered some.
Those first few weeks of breastfeeding were utter pain and anxiety. My nipples were cracked and bleeding (mainly because of the bad latch in the first 3 weeks) and my poor husband made several trips to the chemist to get breast shells, hydrogel pads, lansinoh; you name it, I think we bought it. He was so supportive of my desire to breastfeed and I am so thankful to him for that.
At the time I was also attending my MCH weekly as Emily was gaining very, very slowly, but steadily, and holding the 10th percentile on the charts, so I wanted to monitor her progress carefully.
I continued to see my MCH every 2 weeks up until Emily was 6 months. We are now seeing the MCH every month and she is gaining steadily.
I then went on an Internet search to see if I could find anyone else that breastfed after reduction surgery and found the BFAR website: a wonderful support group where I learnt about Diana West. I purchased her book Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction Surgery and in there I learnt of the other galactagogues that could be used to help boost milk supply.
I joined the BFAR mailing list and then found a source for domperidone from New Zealand that didn’t need a script and ordered my supply. I was also taking Blessed Thistle, St. Mary's Thistle, Marshmellow and Alfalfa (but stopped these after a couple of months as I didn't notice that they were affecting my supply greatly). I have continued taking both I have been taking both domperidone and fenugreek and have been breastfeeding exclusively for 8 months now. . I cannot tell you how proud this makes me feel. Each day is an achievement.
If I can offer any advice to women considering the reduction: do not jump into it lightly, especially if you have not yet had children as BFAR is a major adjustment and requires an even greater level of commitment than I ever believed possible.
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