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Breastfeeding after Breast Reduction Surgery

Annetjie Smith
Bonaero Park, South Africa
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 15 No. 2, March - April 1998, p. 43

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time

I had breast reduction surgery in March 1990, and at the time I told the plastic surgeon that I wanted to breastfeed if I ever had children. I became pregnant in December 1994 and even before I knew I was pregnant, my breasts became so heavy and sensitive that I had to go out and buy bigger bras. I thought this was a good sign that indicated that everything was fine and I would be able to breastfeed. I visited my general practitioner when I was 20 weeks pregnant and then decided to go to an obstetrician for the first time. I never discussed my breast reduction with my general practitioner, but decided to check with my obstetrician.

What a shock I had when the obstetrician told me that I would certainly not be able to breastfeed! According to him, during breast reduction surgery, the nipples are totally removed and then stitched back in the correct position, so all the milk glands would have been disconnected and no milk would flow. That same week I read an article in a magazine that confirmed what he said. This was not what I wanted to hear, so I phoned the plastic surgeon who had performed my surgery. He reassured me that I would definitely be able to breastfeed.

My son Arno was born by emergency cesarean on August 28, 1995, almost four weeks premature. He weighed 2.5 kg (5 lb. 8 oz.). I tried to breastfeed him as soon as possible after birth, but could not get him to latch on. Several nurses came to help me and although my problem seemed to be with the latch-on, each one first checked my breasts for colostrum. They told me my baby was probably too weak to stay latched on to my breast because he was so small, and I should keep on trying. Fortunately, they didn't suggest that I should bottle-feed my baby. I would have cried much more if I'd had to cope with suggestions like that as well.

It seemed that I didn't have enough hands to keep my baby on my breast. Luckily my husband, Ferdie, was with me and he held the baby while I tried to keep my nipple in our baby's mouth. On the second day after Arno's birth, my husband had to return to work. I eventually found another feeding position that I could manage with out Ferdie's help.

I struggled with very sore nipples until Arno was seven weeks old. Arno was also colicky. I persevered and was very proud to tell my obstetrician at my six-week checkup that I was successfully breastfeeding my baby.

I returned to work part-time when Arno was five months old and expressed my milk for the feeding that I missed. I introduced solids when Arno was eight-and-a-half months old, and until then I breastfed him without supplements. At fifteen months I still expressed milk for him during the day. Arno is now a toddler and we still enjoy a lovely breastfeeding relationship.

Editor's note: Annetjie's experience shows that breastfeeding after breast reduction surgery is a possibility. Medical evidence shows that for many women who have had such surgery, breastfeeding may be difficult or impossible. However, if the mother is unable to produce enough milk, breastfeeding can continue with supplements.

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