A True Story of Hope: Breastfeeding after Breast Reduction Surgery

August 17, 2011 Guest Blogger 2 comments

As I write this, I am nostalgic of the day I sat in the reconstructive surgeon’s office waiting to be seen, and a sense of neutrality slowly hovered over me. The room smelled of fresh disinfectant, or maybe a household cleaner, and I continuously tapped my feet on the bottom of the medical table where I was sitting. I shamefully looked down at my breasts, always in amazement of how large they were. A sudden realm of satisfaction overwhelmed me, as this was one of the first times in my life I was happy to be making this choice for me.

The surgeon entered the room and was immediately impressed with my proactive gesture of having my insurance pre-approval already submitted. At this point, it was just a matter of scheduling the breast reduction procedure. As he examined my breasts, went over family history, and asked psychological questions related to how my breasts interfered with daily life, I became even more excited to know that this was truly happening. I referred to the surgery as ‘breast reduction’ and he referred to it as its medically-correct term of ‘reduction mammoplasty.’ Regardless of the terminology, I was finally having the surgery I longed for, and that’s all that mattered.

Towards the end of our visit, the surgeon mentioned, in a matter-of-fact way, that because of the intensity and size of my breasts, it’s pretty challenging to distinguish between fat cells and milk ducts. He then went on to mention that he would be careful when placing my nipples and areola, so that we could hope for minimal interference with breastfeeding or nipple sensation in the future. “I must make you aware that this surgery might make it more difficult for you to breastfeed one day. How do you feel about that?” As a 23 year-old graduate student whose mind was far away from having a baby, I automatically responded: “That’s no problem. How soon can we get this scheduled?”

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there were 65,961 reduction mammoplasty procedures performed by board-certified reconstructive surgeons in 2010 (Source: 2010 Plastic Surgery Procedural Statistics). While this number may not be very large compared to other types of surgeries achieved last year, I often wonder how many of these women were also like me the day I sat in the waiting room waiting on the surgeon to enter.

Today, I am 28 years-old and loving the benefits of my reduced breast size. My back and shoulders no longer hurt, I have better posture, my shirts fit more comfortably, I can exercise better, and my quality of life has improved. My husband and I enjoy conversations about having a baby and our hopes for natural, unmedicated childbirth. While I continue striving to improve my diet and exercise routine so that my overall health improves, I began to research ways that I could possibly assist with milk production when that time comes. Who knows? Maybe my breasts will develop milk with no issues. Maybe my breasts will not develop milk at all. Until that time comes, the outcome is uncertainty. However, I have always believed that women are strong, able, fundamentally creative beings who are conscience enough to prepare accordingly and find alternatives in case such hopes do not go as planned. So, that’s what I aim to do.

Mother's breast diagram
Source: Mount Nittany Medical Center Anatomy of Breastfeeding

I’d like to share with you two of my favorite resources that include mounds of information for improving milk production after a reduction mammoplasty or similar breast surgeries. Honestly, these resources are also suggested for women who wish to breastfeed, but have low milk production, regardless of whether you have had a breast surgery or not:

Breast Feeding After Breast and Nipple Surgeries
This website has provided me with book recommendations, on-line learning, forums, recommendations to relevant organizations and associations for breast care, natural ways to increase milk production, and a list of resources such as physicians and clinical professionals who specialize in this arena. I highly recommend surfing this website for some amazing sources. It has truly pumped my hopes and provided me more faith in what my body may be able to do when that time comes.

Low Milk Supply Yoga
I’m exercising already, so why not add a bit of yoga to aid in circulation. Isn’t this cool? This website truly inspired me because it is filled with information on how milk ducts respond to increased circulation and arm movements to aid in increasing milk volume. How cool is that? It’s important for us to remember how our physical, mental, and emotional health assists in our bodies responding favorably to our requests. This website is still growing, but also has resources for lactation support.

I realize that not all women choose to breastfeed and found that there are so many other alternatives for babies to get the nutrition they need. Thankfully, there are hosts of books, forums, and websites that compare formula options for healthy mothers to raise healthy babies. There are also options for safely collected and stored donated breastmilk (such as HMBANA – Human Milk Banking). The best thing about it all is that women have so many choices available that may not have been available in the past. Whether we choose to breastfeed or not, we are women who have been designed for the purpose of nurturing and loving. It’s so amazing that we each have the opportunity to do what we feel is best for our bodies and our babies.

As I walked out of the surgeon’s office with my pre-op information in-hand, I knew my life would change forever. And as I write this, in the month of my five-year breast reduction anniversary, my pride has drastically dwindled. I’ve never shared this story or that defining moment with anyone (other than my husband) until now, and I am at peace. I know that no matter what happens when my time comes to give birth, I will do the best I can to remember my strength as a woman and mother whether I am able to breastfeed or not. Preciously, I will have a new life in my arms that will warm my heart and fill my spirit with newly found love. As any mother, I too, will do what it takes to make sure he or she receives the nutrition they need to grow and live abundantly. And if I my surgeon was here to ask “How do you feel about that?” I would still answer the same way, as I wholeheartedly trust my body’s ability to do anything. Thank you.

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  • FMD

    Adrienne,

    That was such a great story. Thanks for sharing! I remember all too well that moment when the doctor let me know the possible side affects of surgery. At 21, I was thinking about what was best for myself and not so much about what the future held. I’m excited to see there are options and resources on educating women about what they can do to aid breastfeeding. I look forward to more blogposts!

  • Amanda

    I used to think that breast feeding was overrated and took it for granted. But after giving birth in January of this year and opting to exclusively nurse my son, who is now 7 months old, I’ve realized how fortunate I am to have this opportunity that many other new mothers may not ever have. Great inspirational and informative article! Best to you in the future!