I had a breast reduction at the age of 19. I was 5'1" and weighed 112 lbs. I was outgrowing a 34DD and had constant back pain. The plastic surgeon mentioned that I may not be able to breastfeed when the time came. Frankly, at the age of 19 this was way in the future and I had no idea of the importance of breastfeeding.
I didn't think twice about this until getting pregnant at the age of 26. As I read all of the literature and the benefits of breastfeeding, I was overcome with feelings of guilt regarding my decision to have a breast reduction. I talked to my mother who didn't see what the big deal was. She had all three of her children in the 1970's and formula fed all of us. Her doctor even gave her a shot right after delivery so her milk never came in. We all turned out healthy didn't we? I also spoke to my aunt. Her daughter had a breast reduction and had three children. Her daughter had not been able to breastfeed any of her three children.
I expressed my concerns to my midwife who told me she had other patients who successfully breastfed after surgery and others who were not able to. She told me to wait and see and that even formula fed babies were healthy. As my delivery date neared I never leaked breast milk and decided this was probably a sign that I wasn't going to be able to.
I gave birth to a 7 lb 11 ounce boy in Oct 2004. Right after delivery the nurse handed me my baby and told me to breast feed him. I held him up to my breast and tried to get him to latch. He had no interest. I tried every hour or so for the two days in the hospital. My baby would not latch, every time I attempted to feed he would arch his head back and screamed or he fell asleep. Every 12 hours a new nurse came on duty. Some were very helpful and sympathetic, others were not. One nurse was trying to help me. When I told her about my breast reduction she gave me a sad look and suggested that I start formula feeding because I most likely would not be able to breastfeed. Luckily my last nurse the day of my release from the hospital was also the hospital lactation consultant. She suggested I rent a hospital quality breast pump so I could increase my milk supply. She also taught me several techniques to help my baby to latch.
I took my baby home with great intentions. He screamed for food and I continually tried to breastfeed. He would clamp his mouth shut and refuse. I would try to breastfeed him for about 20 minutes before letting him cry while I pumped for 15 minutes and then fed him what I was able to pump. In the beginning I was only able to produce about 1/2 an ounce. One week later my breasts were in unbelievable pain. I called the lactation consultant and cried on her voice mail. I felt like such a failure and I was exhausted. I felt the deck was stacked against me with a breast reduction surgery and a baby who refused to latch.
She called me back and set an appointment. She met with me for 1 1/2 hours and encouraged me to continue to try. I was now producing almost 2 ounces with 15 minutes of pumping (I was pumping about 7 or 8 times a day at this point). She pointed out that the fact that I was producing milk was a sign that it is possible to breastfeed after a breast reduction. She sent me home with a nipple shield and a syringe with a tube attached. She instructed me to place pumped breast milk in the syringe and feed it through the tube into the nipple shield. Once my baby started sucking I was to sneak the shield out of his mouth and he would be latched onto my breast. My baby would have nothing to do with the nipple shield.
I continued to attempt to breast feed and pump all throughout the day. During nighttime feedings I just pumped and gave it to him. I was too tired to struggle with him. Four weeks after he was born, my son figured out how to latch on.
At first, I was ecstatic. I had overcome both problems. However, my excitement quickly turned to dismay as my baby demanded food constantly. I worried I was not producing enough to satisfy him. He seemed to be getting bigger, but was it normal that he wanted to eat every 1-2 hours. I took my son to the doctor and he weighed a normal healthy amount. The doctor assured me this was a sign that he was getting enough nutrition.
My son is now 2 1/2 months old. He still wants to eat every 2 hours. This makes it difficult to go anywhere, but I figure he is worth it. I breastfeed all day long and supplement with one bottle of formula or pumped breastmilk right before I put him to sleep. This gives me the added benefit of allowing him to sleep for 6-7 hours in a row. I pump for 15 minutes about an hour after he goes to bed to keep my milk supply up.
It's been a difficult process but well worth all the trouble. It is truly possible to breastfeed after a breast reduction if you just keep at it.