Breastfeeding After A Breast Reduction Surgery: My Success Story

by | June 26, 2018

Is breastfeeding after a breast reduction surgery possible? 

My breasts had been a troubled subject for some time, in many ways I’m sure others will relate but equally a bit of backstory is required and may give anyone else the reassurance I have to offer. I never thought that breastfeeding after a breast reduction would be a possibility. Long-legged in my running shorts, my completely undeveloped body, complete with ‘boyish’ (as I was repeatedly informed) haircut, I envied the more developed girls of high school. They got the attention. They could wear the fashion (although I realize now how in the late 90s/00s fashion was a rather questionable term- the two strand gelled fringe…need I say more?!) and there I was in my baggy sports gear and braces. But as karma or some dramatic hocus pocus would have it, the year I turned 15, I went from cotton crop top wearing flatness to bolder holding underwired DD cups. My hair grew, my clothing marginally feminized, and some male heads occasionally turned. Add on another 6 months and I was an FF cup, my weight generally hadn’t altered and I was still trying …(underneath the 2 sports bras I relied upon) to run and compete in athletics competitions. My school leavers book was a consensus of ‘good luck Flipping Fantastic’, and ‘see you soon FF’. It had already gone too far. My breasts were already larger than my mums by several cup sizes and my grandmothers both had petite frames and chests to match. I’m eating healthily (for a teenager) and exercising daily, why was my body growing in this way.

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When I started university, I had long hair, below my shoulders, a lovely boyfriend and accepted a crevice of a cleavage was part of the daily package to consider and learn to dress. I had to embrace it because it would take a tent to conceal the now GG cups. Running was getting harder. I heard every pun along the lines of ‘you must get two black eyes running with those’, such original comedy from EVERYONE. This led to increasing difficulty from a psychological point of view. Running was my sanctuary outside of the house but now having a guaranteed round of toots if traffic lights gave opportunity, I had to force myself to put my trainers on. I wore sunglasses in hope of projecting ignorance to this crude attention. Amongst the vans and work vehicles, I had fire engines and even ambulances honk horns and shout out pretty awful things. Ironically I’m now married to a firefighter! These were grown men gawping at my ‘bouncing norks’ (yup that’s one word I heard frequently) even adding in hand gestures whilst their partners sat oblivious next to them.

I’d wrongly been put in a female only flat. Uni started so seemingly well but gradually and an undercurrent of bullying and tortuous manipulation by two of the flatmates led to some rather unpleasant months of my life. One tactic they took was to body shame. Having been previously told by friends to make the most of my assets, hold my head high and appreciate many women would pay for such a chest, these girls marred any confidence I had in doing so. During this time I was also finding lumps and returning to my doctors to check whether any required further assessment. My posture, curved, I had an indent in my shoulder bone from the thick determined bra straps and an equally large indent in the bank balance to afford these ‘big bust’ bras. With the cup size continuing to increase, lumps forming, silver thin stretched skin and a multitude of other psychological and physical issues, I was offered a dual breast reduction.

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Rounds of photos and surgeon’s artwork put into place the new boobs coming my way. I had a complete freak out in the lead up to this operation, breaking up with my boyfriend, leaving university and transferring to one closer to home and generally feeling panicked. I was told the operation would mean I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed after a breast reduction, but having children wasn’t even on my newly single radar. The op itself was apparently harder than planned because my running and persistent exercise had caused my breasts to be very fibrous and more like a water balloon rather than a chunk of fat to cut away. Reconstruction was required and then an attempt to get the other breast to look as symmetrical as possible.

Initially healing with the blessed assistance of morphine went well. I needed a lot of help with dressing and personal care tasks due to the pain. My axillars permanently damaged and a thick deep dose of keloid scarring – who knew? Genetically passed on, I didn’t even know about this treat… my new C cup boobs sitting pertly and beautifully in whatever lingerie I wanted but with these increasingly widening, purple/red painful scar lines. “Own them,” friends said, “use them to cipher out the bad guys,” my family said. With new reasons to be self-conscious, had it not been for the ease of running again I would have definitely regretted the decision to have this procedure. Again I was advised breastfeeding after a breast reduction would not be an option because of what had needed to be removed. But one success element was my nipples. Often false nipples are used should the reattached nipples fail to reconnect blood supply. Neatly stitched back on, complete with keloid scar surround, my nipples did, in fact, reconnect and stay put but were now over-reactive, ‘pinging’ at a slight touch and going white in any remotely cold weather.

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Acupuncture (woven through the scar lines), reiki, massage and so many lotions were used to break down the scar lines and promote healing. This went on for years. And reactivity settled to what I can only hope are normal levels. I got pregnant and due to the severing and snipping involved with my op, I had been told breastfeeding wouldn’t be an option. Too many ducts and glands had to be removed and the nipple too damaged to connect any remains ducts to the areola. The internal scarring was expected to also cause issues. But when in the early stages of labor I felt irrationally compelled to make breastfeeding after my breast reduction an option, a wonderful lactation consultant visited me and taught me there and then, whilst bounding on the birthing ball, how to hand express. There it was, the golden yellow liquid. This meant breastfeeding after a breast reduction was possible. Though my lactation consultant advised, the next few weeks would require some persistence to build supply from the few glands I had left to get them to cater for my baby. Fast forward 4 years and those glands have worked throughout, tandem feeding 4-year-old and stepping up a notch when my twins arrived last year prematurely.  It took a few weeks but with frequent feeding & expressing we got there.

THE ‘HONEST BODY PROJECT’ AIMING TO NORMALIZE BREASTFEEDING IN PUBLIC

My surgeon was amazing, better than he even realized! I’m healthier now and able to exercise, so although they’ve been bashed and bruised, mocked and teased, these beauties are continuing to exceed expectations. Love your mind & body. It’s capable of more than we are sometimes led to believe. Do you have a story you want to share? Let us know in the comments below!

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Lilli Docherty

Lilli Docherty, is a mum to x4 under 4 years old, self-employed with her own craft business and raising her family vegan. Lilli writes about daily life and the challenges she faces throughout her pregnancies, breastfeeding and vegan lifestyle, with an honest and fun reflection of her journey.

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One Response to “Breastfeeding After A Breast Reduction Surgery: My Success Story”

  1. Darcy Reeder
    June 26th, 2018 @ 7:45 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. I’m going to paste a comment I just wrote to someone else in the FB group about my nursing-after-reduction experience. I want to share it because I experienced a lot of shame, of feeling like a failure, because I ultimately needed to supplement. I had read a lot of nursing-after-reduction success stories while pregnant, and I had it in my head that it was all mind over matter. But the fact is, for some of us, even if we put our everything into it, our bodies just might not be capable of it. I am very glad I was able to nurse, but for me and my body, it wasn’t enough, and that’s okay. I write this to tell someone else that if your breasts ultimately don’t make enough, that’s okay too. You’re okay too. And I’m sorry this is so hard. Okay, I’m just going to copy/paste now:

    I had a reduction, and I was able to breastfeed but couldn’t make enough for my little one to grow. I did it exclusively (nursing + pumping) for 2 months while she dropped dropped dropped on the charts and my post-partum depression/anxiety went craaaaaay. I was in a cycle of blame, not sleeping so I could pump every hour and wake her to nurse every 2 hours, so I was always (literally) either nursing or trying to pump, and then blaming myself for my low supply because stress can cause low supply. When I finally went to a lactation consultant and she told me to ask on my FB page and my state’s Human Milk 4 Human Babies page for donor milk. From 2 months til 6 months, I nursed alongside donor milk (always offering breast first). From 6 months til a year, I nursed alongside soy formula and food (figured others could use the donor milk more). At 1 year, my baby learned to suck her own finger and started blowing raspberries on my boobs and laughing instead of nursing. I kept pumping for a couple weeks, but it was only a couple ounces a day, so we stopped. Anyway, it is very different for everyone. You might be able to nurse exclusively; you might not. This is what I was told when I was pregnant too. Unfortunately, I took it to mean that some people don’t try enough and that if I tried enough I could do it. My baby was .007% height to weight (not 7%) before I finally accepted help. There is a prescription that can help that I did not try (I did lots of natural galactagogue supplements though).

    So my advice is to not wait to see a lactation consultant; and to trust in your body at the beginning, paying attention to wet diapers like it says here: https://kellymom.com/hot-topics/newborn-nursing/ (Kellymom’s amaaaazing for legit info), knowing that it’s totally normal for babies to lose weight at the beginning. It will take a few days after birth for your milk to come in; this is normal; it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong. So if you want to, then start out nursing exclusively, and if the diaper sitch is okay, then you’re okay for then; even if you end up needing to supplement, your baby’s not going to drop dead just because you’re giving a little less than an ideal amount. If you have wet diapers, you have time to see if baby’s going to grow slowly or not at all. I borrowed a scale from my midwives and weighed her daily pre-supplementing; this might be something to look into. Whether you’re able to nurse exclusively or not, you can keep on nursing. It’s not a one-or-the-other thing. The benefits of breastmilk still apply, even if it’s not the only thing you’re giving baby or if you don’t do it as long as you’d hoped to. And accept help, in terms of donor milk if you end up needing it, but in all the things you need help for in your life. If it turns out you need to supplement, know that it doesn’t mean you did anything wrong, doesn’t mean you failed. Means you are doing everything you can to take care of your baby. <3

    Oh, also, we were giving her the pumped milk through a dropper at the beginning so as to not introduce nipple confusion with a bottle, since my nipples were flat — you can buy this anywhere, if you need it, and it was a lifesaver https://www.lansinoh.com/lansinohr-latchassistr-nipple-everter — and then eventually low-flow bottle nipples, so she wouldn't give up on my breasts.

    Also, one of my breasts worked way better than the other (my baby was clear about that when she got old enough to communicate), but I just kept using them both.

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