Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Jenna, Gianna and Athena- Breastfeeding after Breast Reduction Surgery
We're happy to share a guest post by our friend Jenna and her breastfeeding experience. Heather has breastfed two little girls so far and has overcome some serious obstacles to do so. A story of love, determination and commitment, Jenna share the heartache, joys and triumphs she has experienced in her breastfeeding journey. We appreciate Jenna's voice and her sharing her story with us. We hope you enjoy and are as inspired as we are by her story.
The only thoughts going through my head the day my surgeon set the date for my breast reduction was how the pain in my lower back and shoulders would finally go away and my self esteem would return. Living with a tiny body and DD breasts was not easy. Little did I know that by signing on the dotted line, I was also signing up for a world of heartache many years later.
I fell pregnant with my first daughter in August 2006. In the first seven or eight months I carried her, I honestly didn’t give nursing much of a thought. I’d considered it. But my husband and I had stocked up on freebie Enfamil samples and bottles. I bought and skimmed Diane West’s book on everything I needed to know about breastfeeding after reduction surgery and it was all so overwhelming. I joined an online forum, BFAR.org, in hopes that these wonderful women could translate all the lingo.
As I approached my due date, something started to change. I started to feel myself veering onto the unpaved path, away from the mainstream. I signed up for a midwifery-led birth, I started reading more and more about breastfeeding and even attended a few Le Leche League meetings in hopes of meeting someone like me.
Gianna was born on April 25th, 2007 via c-section and when I met her for the first time back in my room, something just clicked. I was this child’s source of nutrition and protection always. I nursed her then for the first time. She latched like a champ and the lactation consultants were impressed. But it wasn’t always bliss.
The first several weeks were torture. I’m not talking about the raw, cracked and bleeding nipples torture. I’m talking about the little to no weight gain torture, the fussy baby at the breast torture, the feeling of not making enough for your baby torture. I gave Gianna a bottle of formula for the first time after nursing her at around 3 weeks old. She hadn’t gained back enough to reach her birth weight and although the pediatrician and lactation consultant insisted I was doing all I could and urged me to not begin supplementing just yet, I followed my mama instinct. She gulped that bottle down and wailed for more. I think she took four ounces that night and I’ve never cried so hard in my entire life.
I refused to be a formula feeding mother so I started taking BFAR’ing a little more seriously. I researched galactagogues, I started pumping after every feeding and I ordered Medela’s Supplementary Nursing System (SNS). I loaded up on fenugreek, blessed thistle, domperidone, goat’s rue and tinctures and teas and oatmeals. I’d been a member of a due date forum on a “mommy board” of sorts and one of the women there offered to ship me her pumped breast milk. She remained Gianna’s donor for months until she returned to work and needed to pump exclusively for her son. Gianna had two more donors after that but we also had to use formula. I hated it but at the end of the day my daughter was breastfeeding and was getting well over 60 percent of her supply from me.
The SNS does not allow a mother to be discreet so nursing in public became my norm. If I wanted to go out then I was certainly going to have feed my child. It sucked having to experience the inconvenience of lugging around bottles of milk (to be dumped into the SNS when time) and a cooling bag and everything a formula feeding mother needs but I felt proud that I was doing what a lot of women in my position say they’d never do.
The camaraderie I found on the BFAR.org forum was the only thing that kept me positive a lot of the time. My family and even my husband urged me to give up the stress and bottle feed my daughter. But if anyone truly knows me, they know I don’t go down without a fight and this was my fight to win.
Soon both my daughter and I got the hang of the SNS. Months went by and there was never a glitch in the program. It was our new normal and we were okay with it.
Gianna nursed with the SNS until she was 15 months old. I weaned off the herbal supplements and medication I was on and then I weaned her from the SNS. She continued to nurse on whatever I made alone until she was 26 months old.
I gave birth to my second daughter three weeks ago. I established a committed, full time donor months ago and have a breast milk stash anyone would be envious of in my deep freezer. I started the domperidone and herbal supplements the day she was born. Athena is a happily breastfeeding baby. Together with the help of her milky mama, she will be fully breastfed for as long as her little heart desires.