My first son, Kadin, was born in 2002, when I was 18 years old. My
breasts had been large before, but after that pregnancy had gone from
a DD to an F. Breastfeeding was not successful with that child, for
various reasons, all of which I take full responsibility for. In
hindsight, I believe he was tongue-tied, but at the time I was not
aware such a thing existed. I only exclusively breastfed him for a few
days before switching to formula. My heart was broken and PPD set in.
My failure to breastfeed has bothered me ever since.
In 2003 I had a breast reduction. By that point I had resigned myself
to never breastfeeding a child, and I was desperate for relief from
shoulder and back pain and other issues associated with having very
large breasts. I returned to a plastic surgeon who had previously
removed some "suspicious" moles I had successfully. He evaluated me
and said I was a perfect candidate for the reduction because my weight
was within normal parameters, but my breasts were very
disproportionate. The surgery was a wonderful success and post-surgery
my size F breasts were a very reasonable large C. I found out later,
within the past couple of months, that the surgeon I had chosen at
random to remove moles was actually a breast reconstruction
specialist. What good fortune!
I became pregnant again in 2006. By this point, I had been very
influenced by mothers I met and books I had read, and I knew I very
much wanted to breastfeed, even if I could not fully provide for my
child's nutritional needs. I read and read and prepared myself. I not
only read information about breastfeeding after reduction, but
"normal" breastfeeding. I felt it very important to know what was
truly normal so that I would not be swayed by ill-informed medical
professionals. I also readied myself with an SNS(supplemental nursing
system) and I saved the formula samples I got in the mail. As I neared
delivery, one of my OBs asked if I intended to breastfeed. I said yes,
but informed him of my reduction and he seemed unsure that
breastfeeding would be successful. He did not know my determination.
Ansel was born in December of 2006. In my reading, I had learned that
epidurals could often cause problems with breastfeeding, so I was
determined not to have one. The only intervention I had in labor was
two rounds of Cervadil to ripen my cervix. I was more than a week
overdue, and the biophysical profile I had done had shown that Ansel
was not moving as much as he should have been. I had no pain meds, no
Pitocin, etc. It was a wonderful delivery! I put Ansel to the breast
within 10 minutes of his being born.
For the remainder of our hospital stay (only slightly over 24 hours
past delivery) I nursed and nursed and nursed. I knew that the more we
nursed, the better Ansel's billirubin levels would be and the faster
my milk would come in. At discharge, Ansel had no jaundice at all. At
home, we continued to nurse and nurse and nurse. Anytime he fussed, I
put him to the breast. No bottles, no formula, no pacifier. Just
breast. My milk came in when he was 4 days old. We also coslept, and I
nursed whenever Ansel wanted to. I set an alarm to make sure he ate at
least every three hours overnight.
He began to lose weight. By now, I knew what to look for. He was
tongue-tied. I still did not supplement. We nursed and nursed, and on
his ninth day we got a frenotomy done(a clipping of the frenulum) by a
pediatric surgeon in a neighboring state that we had to drive 3 hours
each way to get to. I was determined. The procedure was simple. The
surgeon was kind and reassuring. Immediately after the prodedure (which
took less than a minute) we were showed to a quiet room so I could
(Editor's note: For more information about tongue tie, see our article: http://www.lowmilksupply.org/tonguetie.shtml)
Ansel never became jaundiced, despite his pediatrician suspecting it
because of his skin tone (he is biracial). They had thought the same
with Kadin (my first son) and were never correct.
At about one month we dealt with horrible thrush. Ansel got open sores
in his mouth from us attempting gentian violet as a treatment. Once we
got medical treatment(Diflucan and Nystatin) everything cleared up.
Through it all, we never supplemented, never gave a bottle or
Ansel is now 4 months old. He is in the 30% percentile for weight and
50% for height(same as his formula fed older brother). He has had
nothing but mommy milk. I also pump once a day to build up a freezer
stash for emergencies, and to mix with solids once we introduce those
at 6 months.
The things that I did that worked for me that I consider so important
is that I educated myself before he was born. I knew what to do, what
to look for, how to fix problems. I was never misinformed by
professionals because I knew what the true breastfeeding experts (LLL,
AAP, Dr. Hale, Dr. Newman, etc.) had to say, and I trust them more
than my own doctors.
I also never told Ansel's pediatricians about my breast reduction. To
this day, they do not know. And at every well-child visit, I am told
how wonderfully he is doing, how healthy he is, how good his growth
is, etc. And, even how fantastic it is that he is exclusively
breastfed. He has not been sick, despite myself, my husband, and Kadin
all being sick at various points.
(Editor's note: A mother's decision about whether or not to inform her physician about her reduction is a highly personal one. We recommend that mothers do inform their physicians, but we are aware that this sometimes causes physicians to discourage breastfeeding or supplement unnecessarily.)
I love breastfeeding and treasure every moment of it, despite the lack
of sleep sometimes, the pain at some points, the inability to be away
from him, all of it. And I love that my poor, dilapidated, scarred
breasts still can sustain him, and that he is thriving. And I cannot
thank my surgeon enough for not only making my life more comfortable,
but for being skilled enough to help my body to be able to continue to
sustain my child.