I had my breast reduction when I was 19 years old. It wasn’t so much that they were terribly large (I’m 6’ tall, and the larger of the two was DDD), but they were such different sizes, and they were deformed (runs in my family). When I had the surgery, my doctor explained the risks to breastfeeding, and promised that he would preserve my ability to breastfeed as much as he could. I told him outright that breastfeeding wasn’t a concern for me, and he said, “Well, just in case.” I’m grateful every day that he had that foresight.
I became pregnant for the first time when I was 22 years old. I wanted to try breastfeeding, but wasn’t too committed until she latched on for the first time. At that moment, I realized that I wanted nothing more than to be able to do this for as long as she would. She was 10 lbs at birth, born vaginally after an induction and very difficult labor. She nursed okay for the first day or two, but she became lethargic and uninterested in eating soon after. I took her sleepiness as a sign that she was fine, and didn’t worry. I took her in to get weighed when she was 1 week old, and she’d lost over a pound. Her pediatrician labeled her as “failure to thrive.” This might have been the worst moment of my life to date. I began to supplement her with formula, as much as she wanted as often as she wanted. My husband at the time wasn’t particularly invested in my breastfeeding, and I had to work two back-to-back 12 hour shifts to make ends meet. I kept it up for 4 months, pumping 3-4 times a day during my shift. I would end up with 2 ounces over the 12 hour period. I contacted LC after LC, but none had any advice or suggestions other than “breastfeed more, supplement less.” Finally one day, Ryan just stopped nursing. She was done. I was devastated for a while, but tried to keep perspective. She was enormous (20 lbs at 5 months), and clearly healthy. I moved on.
I became pregnant again when I was 26 with my new husband, and immediately launched a search for better information on breastfeeding after a reduction. I found Diana’s book, which was nothing short of a miracle for me. Because of her book, I decided to have an unmedicated home birth (to start off on the strongest foot possible). My second birth was wonderful; Wyatt Olivia was born 9½ lbs, and perfectly healthy. I had a scale ready to go, donor milk in the freezer, and a 4 month supply of domperidone, and all the hope in the world that things would go better this time.
They didn’t at first. Wyatt lost over 8% of her birth weight, and we supplemented sparingly (just enough for her to hit her gain quota) with donor milk for the first few weeks. When she was gaining steadily, we stopped the supplementing. I went back to work half time when she was 7 weeks old, and her weight gain dwindled. I knew it was her hatred of the bottle, not my milk supply, that was the problem, but I still maintained feeding her every 2 hours or less throughout the evening and on weekends. I was depressed, anxious, and scared by her low weight gain. I had to return to work full time when she was 4 months old, and she was only 12lbs 10oz. I didn’t know what to do. In an act of desperation (and depression, and lack of sleep), I decided to wean. I didn’t care what she ate or how she got it, I just wanted her to GAIN. I felt like an awful failure. Her sister took to the bottle like a champ; I knew she would, too.
My pediatrician reassured me that I’d done my best, and that she would get hungry enough to accept the bottle. She didn’t, not for 4 days. At the end of 4 days, she was still adamantly opposed to taking the bottle, and I realized I’d made an awful mistake, but by then I had virtually no milk. I spent the next two weeks doing nothing but nursing, and managed to rekindle my supply. Not since that day have I felt an ounce of depression; I’m nothing but grateful for being given a second chance. She was so devastated to not be able to nurse. I’d forgotten to pay attention to her needs as a person as well as her need for calories.
Now we’re doing very well. Wyatt is 7½ months old, and just crossed the 15 lb hump as of today. She eats a lot of solids, and we supplement a small amount of formula (2-3 ounces mixed in with her food). Her gain is slow but steady. My goal is, and always has been, to nurse until she is done. I can’t think of a better gift for her than to maintain what she loves so much for as long as I can. And it just keeps getting better.