Will My Breast Reduction Affect My Breastfeeding?

Jenny Benjamin

balloonsI was an early bloomer, so my extremely large and heavy breasts had been both a physical and emotional issue for me from the time I was 10 years old. They gave me back and shoulder pain, made it tough to do any exercise, and following a car accident at 18, I had started to hunch. And then there was the unwanted attention that plagued my teen years. Sure, boys would comment, as many teenage boys do, but the drunk ones would often reach out to touch them or squeeze them, as though they were freakish appendages not attached to my body.

One afternoon, during my lunch break from a summer office job, I was crossing the street in pretty conservative attire, when I felt barraged by one drive-by of lewd comments after the next, all about my big breasts. It was then that I made the definitive decision to get a breast reduction, a surgery I have never, ever regretted ... until now. Because now that I'm pregnant, I want to breastfeed my twin babies, and I'm not sure I'll be able to.

When I had the surgery 14 years ago, the last thing on my mind was having children, much less whether or not I was going to breastfeed them. I do remember the doctor explained some of the long-term affects to me, and yes, the inability to breastfeed was one of the risks. But, my mom never breastfed me or my brother, and we were probably the healthiest kids in our class -- rarely a sick day, never a flu. So, at the time, it was the least of my concerns.

And it was the right decision at the time, and honestly, probably still is. It alleviated almost all of my back pain, I could finally stand up straight, it gave me the ability to dance and exercise, and I no longer felt like a freak of nature. For those reasons alone, it was well worth it! If you'd walked in my shoes at the time, you would understand.

Of course, somewhere in the back of my brain, I've always known that breastfeeding would potentially be an issue for me. But I always pushed it out of my head, knowing I have no control at this point, knowing that whatever will be, will be. My husband wasn't breastfed either, and neither one of us seems to get sick with cold or flu or fever, even when it's rampant all around us. And I would say that about half of my Mommy friends, for one reason or another, haven't been able to breastfeed, and their children are strong and healthy and amazing. So, I think my husband and I both sort of accepted that if we had to formula-feed, our future children would be just fine.

Now that the little guys are growing inside me though, I feel this strong, heartbreaking urge to do right by them. I want to give them the best of everything, including the best of me, and I won't know if I can give them all of that healthy, nourishing, tummy-friendly breast milk until after they're born. And I'll have two mouths to feed with my potentially defective milk-makers. Just yesterday, a few of the mothers were breastfeeding their babies in my pre/post natal yoga class, and it made me want to cry.

I actually found this pretty cool website -- BFAR: Breastfeeding After Breast ad Nipple Surgeries (both reductions and augmentations), which gives some valuable advice, without the guilt trip. From what I gather, women who've had reductions struggle even more with breastfeeding because many of the ducts, tissues, and nerves could be damaged. So, for me, the major question during the first week after my babies are born will be whether or not I can even make milk, which will be followed by whether or not I make enough milk, which will be followed by whether or not I make enough milk for twins. I'll likely have to supplement anyway, which could very well have been the case, regardless of my breast surgery.

For right now, I have no control, so all I can do is gather as much information as possible, enlist the help of a lactation consultant after they're born (and before), and give my babies the best nourishment I can while they're still inside my body. Like I said, I have a lot of friends who weren't able to breastfeed for whatever reason -- including personal choice -- and I've always supported their decision, knowing that they are loving, devoted mothers who care just as much about their own children as those who breastfeed. I have a feeling this is one of many lessons that I'll have to learn as a Mom -- all you want is to do right by your children, but some things are going to be out of your hands. At a certain point, you probably have to stop beating yourself up and just do the best you can.

Did you have issues with breastfeeding, whether or not you had breast surgery?

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