Sarah is a Mum who kindly
offered had her arm twisted to write something for us a while ago. We hope it will, again, offer massive support to other women who’ve had some form of breast surgery (breast enlargement & mastectomy can have similar issues, but it’s not always clear cut whether breastfeeding will be affected). First published June 2010.
I had only a 50/50 chance of being able to breastfeed as I had a breast reduction operation in 1996. When I was first being referred to a consultant, at the age of 21, I met with an extremely unsympathetic male doctor who suggested I had a baby and breastfed so that my breasts could be put to their real use This was extremely unhelpful as I was in the middle of a teacher training course at the time. And, to be honest, having children, let alone breastfeeding, was the last thing on my mind at the time.
A few years later, I found myself married and pregnant. We attended NCT antenatal classes where I had the opportunity to talk to a breastfeeding counsellor. She was empathetic but admitted not knowing much about my unusual situation. She referred me to a website but I found the tone of the site patronising and not very helpful – the only real bit of advice it gave was to supplement feeding using a tube going over one shoulder and attached to the nipple with tape!
So, we went into parenthood not knowing if I was going to be able to feed our child. I thought I was quite pragmatic about it but the pride I have felt in successfully breastfeeding my children has made me realise that I would have been disappointed if it had been impossible.
That is not to say it wasn’t without problems. My first child, despite feeding for an hour each time, did not put enough weight on to keep to his line on the magic chart. I received a great deal of conflicting advice – feed on both sides; only on one side; express to increase milk production; don’t express as that would deny my child the milk when he wanted it…the contradictions went on. I also had blocked milk ducts twice – I have never known pain like it, trying to breastfeed a baby when it feels like he is sucking razor blades. Luckily they cleared up quickly. In the end we did what was right for our family – we did alternate breast and bottle feeds until he was 7 months old, when he decided formula was the way for him.
My second child was totally different and was a professional breastfeeder. I’m not sure why or how. It could be that having fed one child semi-successfully, the tissues and ducts that had been damaged during surgery rejoined themselves, or maybe I knew what I was doing second time round and had more confidence, or it could have been second child syndrome – with an older brother demanding attention, he had to learn to feed in 10 minutes or he would go hungry!
I learned quickly how to breastfeed discreetly, wearing loose tops and having the ever-present baby muslin to hand to drape over us. This meant that I could be much more spontaneous and able to travel so much easier than having to make sure I had boiled water and sterilized bottles with us. I became an expert at feeding on the move, even during a Cancer Research Race for Life! (walking, not running!) Other people thought he was just sleeping or having a cuddle.
So why am I writing this? I think my main aim is that if someone is unsure about breastfeeding, or how to face any problems or difficulties they may encounter, they will read this and get some hope, help, or just the realisation that they are not alone. Although not always easy, breastfeeding is a wonderful, free, hormonally beneficial method of feeding a baby.
If you need help or advice with the bras you need to wear after breast surgery, our Bra Lady team are here to help. We can get pockets put in nursing bras, or adapt bras to suit all requirements. If you just need someone to talk to, give us a shout – 0845 373 3875, or [email protected]