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Breastfeeding after Reduction Surgery–Part 1

BFAR.  That is how we “survivors” refer to it.  This post is tough for me to write.  A little more intimate that I’d like to be.  But here goes. 

I had a breast reduction when I was 19.  When I found out I was pregnant years later, I scrambled to find information on BFAR.  I found Diana West’s wonderful book and website dedicated to the topic.  I learned and prepared–as much as a first-time mama can.  I knew it was a very real possibility that I would not have enough milk but I was determined to make it happen. 

My milk came in slowly.  Norah was a reluctant nurser and a fussy baby–how much because of supply, I don’t know.  We carefully recorded diaper output, weight, and feedings.  We worked closely with our midwives and the lactation consultant at our pediatrician’s office.  

On her 8th day, Norah’s blood sugar was low and our midwife gave her a bottle of supplement.  Of all the moments I wish I could change during that painful time, it is this moment.  With so many ways to feed a baby, why did it have to be a bottle?  It wasn’t even a good bottle–it was a bottle made by the formula company [read:  fast flow].  I bet you know what happened next.  Yep, nipple preference.  It would take another three weeks to woo Norah back to the breast.  The LC showed us how to use an SNS.  Norah was a smart one, though, and she learned quickly how to simply suck the SNS like a straw.  So, the LC gave us the life-saver:  a hazelbaker finger feeder.  There was no way Norah could eat from this device without getting a work-out.  No lazy gulping down milk.  It was tedious and awful; each feeding took close to an hour.  My smart little girl began to prefer another nipple then.  Mine!    

Of course, during this time, I was pumping with a hospital grade pump, taking fenugreek until I smelled like maple syrup, and guzzling mother’s milk tea.  But without the gold standard–my baby–I couldn’t reach a full supply.  The LC even prescribed Reglan which can increase milk supply (though with considerable side-effects; I would not take this drug again).  This LC told me with (I think) false optimism, “I think you’re going to be fine.  You’ll make enough.”  Then she sent me home with two cans of formula.  A second LC I saw offered the same happy message (sans formula).  Neither gave the kind of involved help I wanted/needed.  (Why didn’t I contact La Leche League?  I have no idea and cannot remember now.  I think I didn’t want to *bother* someone.  I was paying the other LC’s).     

Thus began a routine of nursing Norah at the breast and then supplementing.  And then pumping.  An exhaustive, emotional journey.  I would proudly nurse in public.  Then hide in a bathroom to supplement.  I furtively purchased formula and hid it under my other groceries like I was buying junk food.  I was so happy when Norah began solid foods and I could cut down the supplements.  And I threw a little party when she reached a year and I could stop using supplement entirely. 

It turned out that Norah was a boob-baby.  We enjoyed a nursing relationship until she was 19 months old.  And she would still choose to nurse if I had not made the decision to wean (pregnant with Leaf–I was a wimp–it hurt).  She still nurses her stuffed animals and has serious plans to nurse baby Cedar.  🙂

So what is the plan for Cedar?  Oh my, it is a massive and thorough plan.  Stay tuned…I’ll post THE milk-making plan in part 2.

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4 responses »

  1. Hello. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now-can’t even remember how I came upon it. Anyways, I wanted to mention Donna McCree at Greenville Hospital. She is the head of the laction department there. She runs a breastfeeding support group the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month at St. Micheal’s church on August Rd. I’m not sure if this is only open to those who delivered at GHS but she is wonderful. My 3 yr old daughter was a terrible nurser, reflux, and dairy allergy. Donna was a lifesaver. She helped with SNS and she was the one who correctly diagnosed the dairy allergy. Pediatrician dismissed me. Needless to say I was off dairy while nursing her (7 months). Now with my 2nd baby she is just as wonderful. She just knows everything-tricks to try, roadblocks to look out for, etc. If you can go see her at the church is highly recommend you do and get a game plan in action. As you know nursing is a true labor of love but SO worth it!

    Reply
  2. I didn’t know those little formula bottles they hand out at the hospital and LC were faster. But I suppose when you frequently tell people nipple confusion doesn’t really happen, why bother giving a warning?

    I can’t wait to see the rest of your plan.

    Reply
  3. thank you for telling us about this. no one can know the heartache of not being about to feed your child enough unless they’ve been through it. but wow, what an amazing commmitment you made! most other women would have given up. cedar’s going to get all the mama’s milk he/she can want, and more 😉

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Breast feeding after a breast reduction?

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