Birth and beyond: breastfeeding after a reduction
Such a long time between posts, these days. Truncated posts die on my laptop from neglect. I’m sure I planned to write this one 10 weeks ago. It’s about boobs.
I love to breastfeed, and I’m embarrassed occasionally when I bottle feed in public as I’d much rather be displaying just how comfortable I am breastfeeding my baby anywhere. But you do what is necessary. And often, for me, a bottle is necessary.
With the momentous cliffhanger that was the reveal of this baby’s gender well past, the next mystery on the list was whether these truncated breasts could do their milky thing. If you’ve visited this blog before, you may remember that, confident my family was complete, I enjoyed a breast reduction about 6 years ago and donated much of my milk-manufacturing tissues to medical research*.
My immediate post-partum doubt lay in whether there was anything left in the soon-to not-be-so-pert lumps that would be of any satisfaction for the little fellow. (I did, after all, tell the surgeon to “take as much as you bloody can”.)
I’d spent hesitant pre-birth months wondering: will they work? Or are they now mere decorative objects?
The short answer is: yes, they work. Kind of. The manufacturing part still happens. However, the storage facility doesn’t seem to be up to premium capacity. So we’re doing both, breast and bottle. Effectively it means I’m feeding double (twice?). I started the first month or so feeding breast first (twice and sometimes thrice each side), then a bottle of formula a little later. Manic pumping, I tried daily, in between actual feeds, to stimulate these remaining milk ducts and store a little of my own milk. My arse was permanently attached to that bloody couch, boob or bottle or pump in hand. I managed a mere ounce each pump, and gave the process up, leaving a handful of sad little milk bags in the freezer.
Excuse this detail, if you’re freaked out by it (not sure why, but that’s your issue) – but this is the kind of information I couldn’t find when I was pregnant and wondering about feeding post-reduction. So here’s some more bosomy news: my milk came in a day later than the last two babies. A was born Friday morning; I decided to comp-feed (give a complementary formula bottle) on Sunday night. I had thought he was satisfied because he hadn’t cried after I’d fed him virtually nothing on day three; I now know he’s just a chilled little man and maybe I should have started the comp feed on Saturday night. He lost 10% of his birth weight in the first four days, which is on the outer reaches of acceptable. His nappies were mostly dry and he was still passing a couple of urate crystals, suggesting dehydration. He soon made up for it, though, and is a bonnie lad these days. We are fortunate that he has always taken a bottle comfortably, and readily switches between bottle and breast. (He prefers breast.) I understand there’s a battle avoided right there.
Incidentally, when my milk came in, it was never with the lumpy sprinkler-like tidal wave for the other babies, rather a fuller swelling. The breast pads in the bathroom cupboard, I fear, are superfluous. I can get uncomfortably swollen, but not to bursting, it seems.
Now, nursing a three month old with a healthy appetite who’s hovering around the 80-90th percentiles on the growth charts, I still kind of demand feed, but it’s established a rough pattern. He takes a standard formula feed every 3-4 hours during the day, with breast feeds in between on demand. Bottle before bed around 6pm, and another when he wakes in the middle of the night (often 3am-ish). Then breasts when he wakes again (and by then, we’re both really ready for that!).
So there you go. Quite a specific post, this one. Wonder how many readers we lost along the way?
*As a side note, I now live across the back fence from a scientist whose breast cancer research is quite possibly using that same tissue. Weird or cool?