Twelve years ago, over Christmas break during my Junior year of college I had a breast reduction.
I lost 2 pounds from my right side and three from my left side going from a 40DD to a 36C.
It was, at that time, the best decision I had ever made.
I was told when I had the surgery that I most likely would not be able to breastfeed, but that meant nothing to me.
Fast forward to when I got pregnant with Little G and I was again told that I would most likely not be able to breastfeed.
Then a good friend of mine asked me if I would be breastfeeding and I said that I didn't think I could and she said that was nonsense! That I could breastfeed. She pointed me in the direction of the Breastfeeding After Reduction (BFAR) website. She was right...it turns out I COULD breastfeed, even if just a little.
I told my mom that even if I could just breastfeed for one hour, it would be enough for me and I set out to learn everything I could to help that dream come true.
I read the books on the subject.
I spoke to lactation consultants about it.
I discussed it with our doula.
I explored the concept of natural childbirth so that I could better my chances of success.
I researched pediatricians with it in consideration.
I decided on a hospital based on it.
I prepared my breasts in the hopes of being able to overcome it.
And then he was born. And I breastfed him within the first hour and he took to my breast like a champ. And I continued to breastfeed him at every feeding. I felt everything I was supposed to feel; my uterus cramped when he was on the breast in those first few days, just like it was supposed to. I felt my milk come in a few mornings after coming home. I even fed him at at his first pediatrician appointment so they could weigh him before and after a feeding.
I had milk. I had lots and lots of nourishing, antibody producing, mother's milk.
And then I got an infection on my left nipple. It was an infection from Little G not latching properly over the span of just a few hours. We went to the pediatrician because I thought we had thrush, we didn't. I went to the OB because we thought I had mastitis, I didn't. Instead, it was a topical infection and I was put on antibiotics and told not to feed from that side. Not to even give what I was pumping from that side to him.
So for over a week, I only breastfed from the right side. And we supplemented with formula because I wasn't pumping enough to feed him. It was an incredibly rough week. I was trying to pump 8-10 times a day, on top of feeding him from my right breast and supplementing from a bottle - all while being home with him alone for the first time. To make matters worse, he was going through his 2 week growth spurt and was cluster feeding.
I didn't do well. He was very cranky. And I yelled at him and felt awful things towards him. All things I am told are normal feelings, but still, when you yell at your newborn and then he cries even harder, you start to cry and feel like a horrible person and then your newborn cries even more and sooner than later you are both sniveling messes sitting on the living room floor trying to make sense of what the hell just happened.
I called the lactation consultant sobbing and she suggested that my milk supply was low and to start taking Fenugreek, an herb that helps to boost milk production. She also suggested pumping every two hours, so my husband and I worked out a timeline for him to feed/change/etc. at night while I pumped.
Finally, after ten days, I was given the go-ahead to nurse again. Little G latched on the same as before, with gusto. And for two days, I fed him exclusively from my breasts. We both felt much better, but he was still very fussy after a feeding. We thought it was because he was just a fussy baby, so we introduced him to the pacifier which seemed to help.
A visiting nurse came on Monday and noted that Little G had lost weight since her last visit. I mentioned that I was going to a breastfeeding support group the next day and she suggested that I weigh him before and after feeding him again.
So I went to the group and we weighed him and he only gained half an ounce from feeding from both my breasts. That isn't enough.
The lactation consultant started telling me about another drug I could take that wasn't approved in the US, but was available in Canada that would also help to boost my supply. And she suggested that I pump some more so that I could supplement Little G with breast milk.
I got home from the meeting and he was hungry and my breasts were soft. So I made him some formula.
In the middle of the night, my husband and I had yet another long, tearful talk about our options and we decided rather than quitting, I would feed Little G from the breast and then supplement with a couple of ounces after each feeding.
The next morning, I tried to breastfeed and the pain was ridiculous. I decided right then to cut my losses and fully transition to formula feeding our child. That was yesterday.
I wrote a letter to Little G that fully explained how much I wanted this for him and how hard I had tried and that even though this wasn't the decision I wanted to make, it was the best decision for us. Sadly, the letter is forever lost in cyberspace.
I can not even begin to describe the emotions running through this entire sequence of events. I never ever thought that breastfeeding was even an option for us. But I was doing it...and doing it well! I had milk! I had lots and lots of milk!! And now I don't. I know that giving him what I was able to give him was the best gift I could give him...and yet I am so angry that I can't continue to give that gift.
I am scared to tell my friends that I have failed at this. I live in an area where I am afraid people will look down at me for not breastfeeding my child. I am afraid of people saying 'I told you so' when they hear I finally quit. I am frustrated at the amount of money I poured into nursing bras, shirts, pjs, breast pads, pump equipment, etc. I am annoyed at myself for even considering the cost of all of this as a factor. I am sad that in the end, I quit because I couldn't find a way to feed my child and pump and supplement without losing my mind; as a mother, I should be able to fight a lion for my child, and yet I gave up, I didn't fight hard enough.
Twelve years ago, I had a breast reduction. It was, at that time, the best decision I have ever made.
I do not regret having the surgery. If I hadn't, I most likely wouldn't have worked at Disney in entertainment, I wouldn't have met a boy and moved to Jacksonville. I wouldn't have had to escape Jacksonville for the first place that responded and ended up in Boston. I wouldn't have met my amazing husband. I wouldn't have my beautiful son.
Yesterday, I decided to lay down my weapons and surrender the fight. No matter how much it hurts, it is the best decision I have ever made; for my child, myself and my family.