3 Lessons on Breastfeeding After Breast-Reduction Surgery
When I was 21, my plastic surgeon asked how I would feel if I wouldn't be able to breastfeed. I wasn't in a relationship and babies weren't on my radar, so I had no insight as to what I would want to do as a mother after breast-reduction surgery.
Fast-forward 10 years. I desperately wanted to breastfeed my first baby. Many well-intentioned people told me that I would not be able to do it and to prepare myself for formula. I was determined to breastfeed, but I also knew that I would be working double time, as glandular tissues and milk ducts are removed in breast-reduction surgery.
I remember spending hours on the pump, taking supplements, and overdosing on anything that has been linked to increasing milk production. Not only was I nursing my baby, I was also spending 20 minutes afterward on the breast pump. This was incredibly challenging for my relationship with my baby, my mental health, and also my relationship with others. With my second baby, breastfeeding came more easily, although there were also challenges that came up. I breastfed my first for 13 months and my second for 26 months. Here are three lessons I learned about breastfeeding both of my children.
1. Seek the Help of a Lactation Consultant
The first night with my child, I didn’t know what it meant to get a “good latch” or express milk. We sought professional help, which provided me with the knowledge necessary to succeed with breastfeeding, including how to ensure a good latch, proper positions, and how to maximize my pumping output with several breast massages.
2. Have Flexibility
When my firstborn was 6 weeks old, I would be walking up and down the hall, both of us crying, while I tried to get him to breastfeed. He wouldn’t latch and was overtired, but I was determined to exclusively breastfeed. It wasn’t until I accepted that he needed a bottle when he was tired that our relationship (and my emotional well-being) improved.
3. Let Go of the Need to Have Your Breastfeeding Journey a Certain Way
My first child needed a bottle and was quick to tell me when he was done breastfeeding. I wasn’t ready for either of these things, but I had to take his cues. With my second, she refused the bottle. I was determined with my second to balance both breastfeeding and bottle-feeding. But she had different plans. I attempted for seven weeks to give her a bottle and she absolutely would not take one, despite all the different guidance I followed. Eventually, I stopped pushing the bottle, and we continued our strong bond. Despite my own wishes with both children, they each had their own individual and unique needs.
Through my breastfeeding journey, my children were trying to teach me something: Stop pushing my agenda on them. This has been a powerful lesson in my role as a mother in all areas of parenting.
This post is part of a series to recognize World Breastfeeding Week, which is celebrated every year from August 1-7 “to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world.”