I had my breast reduction in 1987 during college. At the time, I was warned that I would have a 50/50 chance of being able to breastfeed. I was so disgusted with the size and (at that time) existence of my breasts that I could have cared less. Anyone that has had men look at their chest when talking to them instead of looking at their eyes, knows of which I speak… I was 19, and breastfeeding wasn’t even a consideration.
I do not regret the surgery. I felt SOOO much better about myself after having it, that I was a new woman. Part of this was just a matter of growing up, but the reduction surgery had a tremendously positive influence on my body image.
So here I am at 34 with a four-month-old little girl. While I was pregnant (and before) I started thinking as we all do about how I would raise my baby. I knew I wanted natural, drug free labor and delivery; and after reading about the benefits of breastfeeding, I knew there was no choice but to breastfeed. The problem of course was would I be able to?
I tracked down my surgery info and found I’d had the inferior pedicle flap technique, and I knew my surgeon was excellent then. I started assessing the likelihood of my being able to breastfeed: what was my mom’s milk like (profuse but nutrientless—she smoked and gave up on breastfeeding with kid #1. I was # 5 and raised on straight cow’s milk)? Did my sisters breastfeed successfully (one yes, the other didn’t try)? How important was this decision to DH and me? At some point in here, I stumbled upon Diana’s book via the internet. I scarfed it up! The more I read and talked, the more important breastfeeding became to me. But ultimately, I would have no idea until baby came and I tried. Despite reading Diana’s book, I still felt inside like only 100% supply from me would be REAL success. What a goof!
When Chloe came, she latched on like a champ! She was a petite 5lb, 13 oz, so I was really watching her. I was nervous as she neared her 10% weight loss. She got down to 5 lb. 6 oz. Imagine my delight when she rallied back up to 5 lb. 8 oz! Our pediatrician gave me the green light that all was well. I was ecstatic! I could provide my baby’s needs!
But then the weekend came. She was sucking all the time, so I figured she was getting plenty of food. I saw her jaw work like it was supposed to. I saw occasional milk spill out of her mouth. The doctor had given us the green light. But Chloe was down to 5 lb. 4 oz (the limit), and she was starting to get sleepy. Those were my two red flags. I called a lactation consultant I had contacted prior to her birth.
This was the second week after giving birth, and I was an emotional mess. I had broken into tears in the kitchen. I wasn’t supposed to be going up and down stairs with a jagged perineal tear, but my husband (on whom I foolishly depended to take care of me instead of lining up female help) hadn’t even offered to make me a sandwich before leaving for work. I couldn’t save my baby from the Palestinians. I would probably never eat again and would waste away and die and my husband wouldn’t even care because he’d be at work and our poor baby would grow up without a mother and on and on and on. So when it hit me that I couldn’t even feed my baby, I was inconsolable.
My lactation consultant was amazing. She stayed for about three hours and worked her magic. She assessed Chloe and very gently suggested we supplement. I had some on hand from the freebies the supplement companies send us new moms to get us hooked. I had DPD and a lact-aid that I’d purchased before birth to have in case I would need them. My sister had lent me her turbo breastpump, so I had all my lactational ducks in a row. But I wasn’t emotionally ready. This is the woman who could have cared less if I breastfed or not; afterall, I was raised on straight cow’s milk and I was okay! Hah!
Dixie (LC) showed me how to use the lact-aid. How to use the breastpump. We calibrated our fish scales with her professional scale. She wrote up a feeding plan complete with pumping schedule and little chart to keep track of everything. Ordinarily, I am pretty bright and can manage a lot, but I was at my end here. DH was as supportive as he could be (we own our own business and we had five brand new projects to get out of the ground the week Chloe came), but it wasn’t enough.
Two days after figuring out how to clean, prepare and fill the lact aid bags, I woke up with a 104 degree fever, the result of a uterine infection. Had I not been afraid I was going to pass out or go into seizures (yes, some hypochondria along with the alarmism), I would have laughed then. My husband was at work and unable to come help me, so I broke down and asked for help. Friends came and did laundry, fed me, shopped for me, organized Chloe’s clothes, sympathized, brought food. After tapping out my ability to accept help from people I knew, I decided to hire a doula. Keep in mind I think I cried for three straight days through this all.
My husband was upset I’d hired help. I didn’t need help. I was just fine. He is not a bad man—he has just never had a baby, a jagged perineal tear, lived in a two story house, with a new baby that nearly wasted away, followed by a death defying uterine infection. I have let my bitterness go like a butterfly (almost), but I needed help and I got it.
Oh yeah, my BFAR experience: I started taking DPD immediately after birth so I have no idea what my supply is without it. I actually have no idea how much my supply is with it either, as I quit pumping two weeks after the whole supplementing process began. Pumping was too much for me. Occasionally when I’m feeling full, and baby has taken a bottle with Daddy, I will pump and on both breasts, I’ll get about an ounce, so it isn’t much. Factors I don’t know are how much more effectively Chloe is able to extract my milk than is the pump; when she is comfort sucking, how much is she getting; and how much she takes while she is supplementing?
What I do know is that I have a very healthy, beautiful baby girl who loves to breastfeed. And I am a mommy who cherishes each moment we spend together quietly bonding. I have come to the place where even if I provide scant ounces at a time, my baby has now had gallons of breastmilk! I never had an ounce. She is thriving and social and just thinks that little straw thing is part of the whole gig. While I wanted to provide all the maximum antibodies and health benefits of breastmilk, I am contented knowing that she doesn’t know any difference between herself and a fully breastmilk fed baby. I love my lact-aid (and they are so much easier to clean and fill now that I’m a pro!) and my Brest Friend boppy-like deal. I have met some wonderfully, supportive and fun women who came to my rescue, become part of the lifeline of the forums, and I feel pretty darn good about all the hard work I’ve done.
Most of all, though, I am proud of Chloe who has stuck in there and nursed with fervor. Every suck she takes makes more milk for her and for any future babies with which we may be blessed.
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