Okay. Now that’s out of the way. I would like to share my experience with breast feeding after breast surgery as I know there are a lot of women out there who are in my boat but it would appear we don’t talk about it much.
To set the scene: I developed early. Way early. I’ve never been a big person, nor have I been overweight (aside from at the moment after I’ve had a baby but that’s for another post). I love exercise and have done a marathon and some half marathons as well as played on lots of sports teams. But all this was hindered in my teens and early twenties by a pretty significant rack. It was epic.
My mum was a B cup, moving to a C as she got older, my sister was an A, a B on a good day. I got all the boobage in my family. I was slightly lopsided, as many of us are, but that wasn’t what bothered me. What bothered me was carrying around two E+ cup watermelons out front. My poor shoulders, back and neck were not coping. Neither was my self esteem.
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I distinctly remember going shopping with my mum when I was home from Uni one weekend and she suggested we go get me some new bras as mine were (*ahem*) a few years old (I hear your gasps). I asked to wait till after we’d finished everything else, steeling myself for the inevitable disappointment but to no avail. I sat in the change room and cried when nothing would fit comfortably. NOTHING. Even the old lady giant boob, ugly bras were uncomfortable.
I couldn’t wear pretty strappy or strapless dresses like my friends. I had to pay for super expensive swimsuits to keep me in (I was from the Sunshine Coast, Australia people. Going to the beach isn’t an option). And I was acutely aware of the eyes of the men when I was out and about. I hated it.
Looking back in the few photos that I allowed to be taken, I even look unbalanced.
So in 2007 I took the plunge. I went to a local plastic surgeon who my friend had seen and the rest is history. Honestly, there are scars, but they are nothing compared to the freedom I felt with normal sized boobies! I kinda wish he’d made them a bit smaller, a C cup would’ve been nice but he said a D was best for me. I still disagree, but hey.
Now since I had it done whenever anyone asked whether it was worth it, I tell them what I’ve heard other women in the same position say – totally. Best thing I ever did for myself. I had a newfound confidence and a sense of freedom that I never would have had otherwise.
Ten years on and I’m still having some back issues due to poor posture when I had the giant knockers, but if I think back to how I lived my twenties, I gotta say, I made the right decision.
Now I have a 6 month old however, and despite knowing I made the right decision for myself, I’m wracked by guilt as to whether I made the right decision for my little boy (lets call him Little H). If you too, are wracked by various forms of Mummy Guilt then please see this infographic over at Hurrah For Gin. It explains everything.
When I got pregnant I read everything I could about Breastfeeding after a reduction, there’s even a very helpful webpage (BFAR) and book out there by Diane West. She’d had a breast reduction herself and was relatively successful at breastfeeding her three boys.
I was about 36 weeks when I first had a little colostrum seep out when in the shower. It was so minimal I wasn’t even sure it was there, but sure enough, the next day in the shower, I had another brief go at manual expression and hey presto! I called my husband and left as message asking him to call me back.
“What? Are you okay? Are you in labour?”
Hahaha! He wasn’t nearly as excited as I was, though he did understand how important it was to me and the health of our baby.
After trial and error it appeared I had enough to feed Little H when he was born and keep the jaundice at bay, but not enough to get his weight sufficiently back up. So at day 10 we began to supplement with Baby’s Only Organic Dairy Formula with DHA and ARA. After doing some research we felt it was the best for our situation. The pre-made big brand baby formula that our paediatrician gave us to use in the practice made Little H smell sickly sweet for hours after he’d fed and I didn’t like that at all. When we can we also get family to bring Bellamy’s Organic Infant Formula from Australia. I’ve also read that some of the very best formula you can get is from Germany, however I don’t have any experience with it myself.
So there I was, breast feeding then supplementing with about 30 – 60 ml (1-2 ounces) every three hours for my little new born baby boy. Let me tell you, it was exhausting but still rewarding. The drama didn’t end there though. I was worried he’d get ‘nipple confusion’ or ‘bottle preference’ and the lactation consultants who I saw (more than one) were lovely but really had no experience with my situation. I purchased a Lact-aid Deluxe Nursing Trainer System (commonly known as an SNS – Supplemental Nursing System) and fed him formula at the breast after he’d fed from me (which was a little messy but we were getting the hang of it).
But still, at 7 weeks I was having some serious pain. In fact, I was still taking the prescription level ibuprofen, not because I was still healing from pushing him out my lady hole, but because when that little guy latched onto my nipples it felt like he was grinding them between two stones. It did occur to me at one point that for someone who’d had a reduction, and therefore had somewhat less sensation, that this might not be about me. Luckily one of the lactation consultants agreed. Our latch was fine, but after sticking her finger in his mouth she found he had a posterior tongue tie.
Now, a posterior tongue tie is not your average tongue tie. Some professionals still actually believe it doesn’t exist. But some, happily accept that there’s an issue. I won’t go into detail of the problems a tongue tie can cause and why I believe you should fix it – you can do your own research. But I will say that I have a friend who has worked for ten years as a speech therapist with little children and she said even if it doesn’t improve the breast feeding situation, it’s worth getting done.
Aside from speech issues, babies can have problems with solid foods, tension in their neck and bodies, poor postures etc. We were pretty happy to have this confirmed and get it seen to, but alas, while it didn’t hurt as much to breastfeed, it still hurt enough that I decided to stop breast feeding and start pumping instead.
I was pretty upset for a while until I reminded myself that the most important thing is a healthy mum and healthy baby. I felt a lot of relief not having to breastfeed as it had really been hurting. It also meant I could stop taking the ibuprofen (yay!).
One of the bonuses of pumping was that I could see how much milk I was making (less a little as baby is way more efficient at getting milk out than a pump). I collected it up and gave it to him each morning. On a good day I could make almost 300 ml so that was easily two of his five bottle. As a breast reduction mama it made me pretty darn proud to be able to see that each morning, Little H getting a full bottle of the good stuff that I had made for him.
My goal was to pump for 6 months but I fell short by just a few weeks. Another area of guilt, however I was having some really annoying issues with thrush on my breasts (I didn’t even realise that was possible!). It was itchy as all hell and it just wouldn’t go, no matter how much Kombucha, sauerkraut or probiotics I took, and I’d already had a dose of whatever the drug is they give for it. Also, it was just on my breasts – I’ve rarely in my life ever had thrush in my lady bits and didn’t during this time so go figure.
Lastly, I was over taking drugs so I decided to scale back the pumping. Little H is 6 months old today and I gave him his last milk feed a week ago. I hardly think I’m going to win mother of the year (where would I wear the crown?), but I’ve done the best I could while attempting to maintain my sanity.
I’m hoping that with our next baby I’ll be like Diane West and have an increased supply, but if not we’ll hopefully at least not have a difficult tongue tie and be able to supplement with the SNS.
I hope this post has helped or given hope to any other mums out there in a similar situation. Feel free to leave a message or question or even share your own experience.
*E cups in Australia and the UK are equivalent to a DDD or F in US sizing.