Thursday, August 23, 2007

Breastfeeding After Reduction...

After four long years of trying to conceive, I'd had two miscarriages and the issue of my enormous breasts was really getting to me. So, concluding that we might never have children and even if we do, it might be in ten years or whatever, I opted for a breast reduction. The surgeon removed almost 3kg and it was a huge weight of my shoulders, literally! He knew of my intention to breastfeed should I ever have children, so performed the procedure most likely to retain that capability to the best of his ability. (I’m convinced now he did a fantastic job!)

During a year away in Europe we conceived and I came home exactly 24 weeks pregnant! From then the research started, I found out EVERYTHING I could about breastfeeding in general and breastfeeding after a reduction. (An excellent book for someone in the same situation is ‘Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction’ by Diane West). Sometimes I don't think that helped; sometimes all the knowledge made me nervous and sometimes it is what saved our breastfeeding relationship.

Marty was born 10 days late after a wonderful labour and I couldn't attach him straight away (I didn't know about baby led attachment - see, not enough research!) but he was so eager to suck. I gave up after about 5 minutes and he sucked my finger for around half an hour. He had such an excellent strong suck and it still devastates me that I didn’t take full advantage of that.

Over the next six days in hospital I fed him as much as I could and started expressing around day 3. My milk never 'came in', the colour just gradually changed from yellowish to milky white. The day before we left hospital the midwives finally convinced me to give Marty some formula and he drank that 100mL in lightning time. I know he was hungry and I knew it then - it was just so hard to realise I couldn't provide him with everything he needed.

When I came home I started taking Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle to boost my supply. Over the next few months I also took Motilium which helped greatly. The best I achieved was breastfeeding Marty all day/night and he received 120mL of formula in the evenings. I started solids early because I hated formula so much! So for a while there he was 'exclusively' breastfed with a solids meal in the evenings.

During all this time I contracted mastitis 6 times (add that to the one time I had it before I even fell pregnant with him!), endured deep and severe unexplained breast pain, found out all about vasospasm and spent hundreds of dollars on medication, ultrasound and laser treatment. I’ve breastfed, used a nipple shield, useda supply line, finger fed, fed with a soft cup feeder and bottle fed. Breastfeeding probably didn't end up cheaper for us but I will never care.

It’s Marty’s first birthday next week and he is still having two feeds a day (after my last bout of mastitis and subsequent cracked nipples etc). He enjoys a beautiful long lazy morning feed next to me in bed and one to fill his tummy for beautiful dreams right before bed.

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