I had breast reduction surgery when I was 17. Before my breast reduction surgery I was a 38DD. I didn’t like my breasts, they caused back problems and I struggled to find properly fitting clothes. The surgeon advised me before agreeing to preform the surgery that breast reduction surgery and breastfeeding may not be compatible. During breast reduction surgery the milk ducts might be severed. At 17 years old, breastfeeding seemed a long way off and I wasn’t too concerned about the warnings.
Fast forward a few years, now I am 28 and pregnant. I am eager to be the best mother I can be. The more I learn about breastfeeding the more determined I am to breastfeed my child. I know very little about breastfeeding. My family does not not have a history of breastfeeding. I was not breastfed as a child. Yet deep inside me is a driving force that compels me to breastfeed even though I know very little about it.
Well aware of the complications the breast reduction surgery may cause for my breastfeeding aspirations, I contact a lactation consultant before Conner’s birth. I was concerned that I may not produce enough breast milk. The lactation consultant said it would be difficult to determine breast milk production before the birth. There is not a direct correlation between breast size and breast milk production. Throughout pregnancy my breasts grew and I was able to express colostrum, the very first type of breast milk a mother produces. This got me really excited about breastfeeding Conner.
Conner arrived ten days late and after 41 hours of labor by emergency cesarean section. Despite my determination to have a natural birth I had an epidural (at 35 hours) and Pitocin. There went my vision of doing everything the natural way! My birth plan stated that I wanted to breastfeed Connor within the first hour of his birth. Unfortunately I was too heavily sedated to contemplate breastfeeding. It took three hours before I was able to bring him to my breast. His first breastfeeding latch was that of a champ. I was elated!
I was in the hospital for four days following my c-section. I breastfed Connor on demand and gave him as much skin-to-skin contact as possible. I used this extra hospital time to go to breastfeeding meetings. I also saw two lactation consultants to insure the best start to our new nursing relationship.
Conner and I left the hospital on day five. The lactation consultants were already concerned that Conner might not be getting enough breast milk. He was rapidly losing weight.
It took ten days for my breastmilk to come in. This is very late. I attribute this all the drugs I had been taking during delivery as well as our delayed start to our first time nursing. Connor lost 18% of his body weight before my breast milk came in. The doctors told me to put him on formula right away or else we were headed for the ER. I was devastated. Of course I did exactly what the doctors told me. I was terrified this would compromise my nursing relationship with Connor.
I got in contact with a local Le Leche League Leader who was literally my life line. I would ring her on the very hard days and simply cry. She encouraged me by saying that I only needed to get through this breastfeeding session. I could decide later whether I wanted to continue breastfeeding for the next one. Her support and guidance really helped save our nursing relationship.
I had some really hard nights. Middle of the night breastfeeding sessions would escalate to Connor screaming at my breast in frustration. It hurt me to see him so hungry and frustrated that my breast milk wouldn’t flow fast enough for him. My husband was wonderful through this all. When I would cry out in tears ready to give up he would simply come and take over.
Connor’s weight did slowly recover and we began reducing the amount of formula. I was unsure how to proceed or exactly how much breast milk I was producing. My Mom suggested that I give up if breastfeeding was too hard. She had breastfed my brother for six weeks before switching to formula. I was determined not to accept defeat.