Continued Breastfeeding After Reduction Story
The first part of my breastfeeding after reduction story is here and you can read about my 34JJ to 34D breast reduction operation here. I’d had a rough time in hospital with the operation in 2003 so ten years later when Ayla was born in 2013 I hoped I’d have a bit of success breastfeeding but we had a bad time in hospital. There were some issues with my mental health while I was in which weren’t helped by the feelings of failure I was feeling. The Viking had been bringing in clothes for me but they weren’t maternity clothes or suitable for breastfeeding; he wasn’t coping with the situation and we had no money. A friend bought me a pair of pyjamas and some clean underwear and I begged the midwives for disposable maternity pads and nappies for Ayla. I was desperate to get home and put her in the cloth nappies I’d spent the past months stripping and carefully folding. We had a nursery but the cot was attached to our bed ready for the new baby.
Coming home was all I wanted. I don’t know if I had postpartum psychosis but I thought about killing us both a few times. I asked to talk to someone but it wasn’t until a few days after we got home I was able to see someone. She was abrupt and made me feel like I was wasting her time, the whole thing was really painful and it wasn’t until I was pregnant with Bastian I was able to talk about it in a healing birthwounds circle. They are confidential and a group of people who have emotional wounds they want to heal following traumatic births and post partum periods. If you want to learn more then find your local red tent group and contact them about attending one. But for the next 18 months I was traumatised by the experience.
So I had agreed to give her formula so we could leave hospital and at home things felt much better. That midwife was terrible, as I’d expected, telling me my nipples were flat and taking one between her fingers without permission and forcing it in Ayla’s mouth (which hurt) and insisting breastfeeding after reduction surgery wouldn’t work.
Trying an SNS
Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction Surgery by Diana West had mentioned supply line supplementing and I’d researched it at the time and come up with the Medela SNS (Supplemental Nursing System) and it turned up shortly after. The instructions looked complicated and this was before I knew about the Supply Line Breastfeeders Support Group of Australia, which is amazing and open to anyone wanting to nurse a little one no matter which country you’re in. I tried to latch Ayla with it but she didn’t seem to get anything from it and it got in the way. She wasn’t latching properly so we went and got nipple shields even though I knew it could reduce my supply. But then a woman on Facebook from the local breastfeeding group who said she was a trained peer supporter offered to come and show me how to use it. When she arrived she left her daughter in the car outside with the engine running so I was on edge the whole time. I showed her what I knew and she adjusted it but then asked me to show her latching without the shield or SNS. I did and she told me Ayla had a beautiful latch and that I didn’t need to supplement. Now here is when a little bit of knowledge is a bad thing.
I was about to starve my baby.
She may not have realised that even with frequent milk removal, a surgically damaged breast might not make enough milk especially in the beginning (a blog to come on how I stopped supplementing Bastian two years later). A milk duct that’s been severed, even with 10 years of healing and menstruation, might not be fully working, or there might not be enough that are. In hindsight I’m sure she had meant to remind me to feed often and see the midwife daily and continue to supplement until I was able to work on a plan on reducing it with a trained breastfeeeding councillor or IBCLC. Looking back I sway between understanding and feeling let down because she left seconds after telling me my baby was feeding beautifully and I would be fine. I stopped trying the SNS and Ayla latched but never seemed satisfied. I didn’t know babies need to feed all the time and that’s why she cried till she was too tired. When the midwife came back a few days later Ayla had lost weight again after having been putting it on so she made me give her big bottles full of formula. We went from one extreme to the other.
Ayla has always been very bright and any baby will soon realise that the milk flows much easier from a bottle than a breast, especially a surgically damaged one. I think she enjoyed breastfeeding though but wouldn’t take the SNS no matter how many times I tried. I couldn’t afford a Lact-Aid at the time so we stuck with bottles and my mum bought me the ones that looked most like a breast. I won’t link to them, I wouldn’t feel right earning affiliate sales and there’s certainly enough advertising out there. But I don’t think anybody needs to buy bottles while pregnant. We went that evening to the all night Tesco and bought what I needed as well as a big box of the premade formula, I’m sure the midwife could have arranged some for us if we hadn’t had them anyway. We bought the smallest flow teats and she had these until she was 18 months old (I was weaning her off them when I misscarried her baby brother or sister and I couldn’t bare taking away that comfort for a long time, even though I was worried about her teeth). Ayla always loved her bottles and didn’t care what was in them! Gradually she was less interested in the breast and I had no confidence in my supply after being told again and again that I didn’t have anything. At five months I was trying another bout of pumping every two hours, making me too tired to enjoy our holiday, when I had an operation to remove my wisdom teeth. The afternoon I went in was the last time she ever fed and I remember it clearly. I’d been so desperate to get to six months but in perspective I did my best with what I knew at the time and probably torutred myself. I did it differently the next time round and we’re still breastfeeding two years on.
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