Many women are told that they cannot breastfeed after having breast reduction surgery; however, you should obtain specific breastfeeding advice for women with breast reduction surgery before you make that determination.
Breast Reduction Surgery Explained
In breast reduction surgery or reduction mammoplasty, your surgeon will remove excess tissue and fat from the breasts. Your nipples will be centered on the remaining tissue which will be shaped appropriately. The breasts may also be evened out if necessary by your surgeon.
Reasons to have this type of surgery include the following:
- Sweating and infections under the breast tissues
- Pain in the back and shoulders due to the weight of the breasts
- Grooves and marks on the shoulders from the weight of the bra straps
Breast reduction may allow you to participate in sports easier or wear clothing more comfortably. This is a major surgical procedure and should not be entered into without serious consideration about complications. One of the possible complications includes problems with breastfeeding. You should make sure to mention your interest in breastfeeding in the future before your reduction surgery. The best way to avoid this problem is to have breast reduction surgery after your have finished childbearing; however, this is not possible for all women.
Can You Breastfeed?
Breast reduction can dramatically lower your likelihood that you can successfully breastfeed, but this depends on the type of surgery that was performed.
- Pedicle techniques: In this type of reduction surgery, the nipple and areola are moved to a higher area on the breast without disconnecting the ducts, blood supply, and nerves. The nerves generally remain intact which may increase the odds of a successful breastfeeding outcome.
- Free Nipple Graft technique: In this procedure, the nipple is completely removed from the breast and reattached. The nerves that affect nipple sensation and milk release and production have been damaged and may not regenerate after this procedure.
It may be impossible to tell if your surgery will prevent you from breastfeeding until you try. Fortunately, more women have proceeded to try breastfeeding after breast reduction. These women and associated health care professionals and lactation consultants have discovered ways to successfully nurse an infant after reduction and can offer breastfeeding advice for women with breast reduction surgery.
Smart Breastfeeding Advice for Women with Breast Reduction Surgery
Some tips for women who want to breastfeed include the following:
Learn All that You Can Before Childbirth
Because breastfeeding may require some additional effort to have a successful outcome, you need to learn all you can about successful techniques. The book, Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction Surgery by Diane West is a good place to start.
Learn About Ways to Stimulate Your Milk Supply
One of the most important factors in determining your milk supply is the amount that you produce in the first two to three weeks after birth. Removing as much milk from the breast over the first two weeks can be especially beneficial. This can be done both by getting your baby to latch on to your breast or by using a hospital-grade breast pump. Breast compression is another good way to stimulate milk production.
Various herbs and foods may also help stimulate your milk production. These substances are called galactagogues because they work to increase your milk production and include the following:
- Fennel Seed
- Blessed Thistle
- Brewer's Yeast
There are prescription galactagogues available such as domperidone and metoclopramide. You should speak with your doctor before taking any herbal remedies or any other medications to include your milk supply.
Another book by Diane West, Making More Milk, can give you more tips about maximizing your milk supply.
Use a Lactation Consultant
A lactation consultant is one of your most important assets in your quest to breastfeed after reduction surgery. Your obstetrician may be able to suggest someone, or you can investigate names online. Look for a private-practice consultant with experience with women who have had breast surgery.
Use a Supplemental Nursing System
Even if it turns out that you are not able to increase your milk supply enough to successfully nurse your infant, you can still obtain the bonding experience by using a supplemental nursing system or SNS. Your lactation consultant can help you select one and learn how to use it.
You can also get good support and advice from other mothers who have gone through breastfeeding after reduction surgery.
Where to Get More Information: BFAR
An organization that was established for women in this situation is called Breastfeeding after Breast and Nipple Surgery or BFAR. The website contains information and plenty of breastfeeding advice for women with breast reduction surgery about successfully breastfeeding. There is also a forum where you can ask questions.