I’m continuing to share about my experience breastfeeding, or providing breast milk, after a breast reduction. You can read more about my personal experiences with breastfeeding post-reduction here.  Today I’m talking about tips and general things I’ve learned feeding two children that have helped me be more successful, happy and sane on this journey. 

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1. Do not feel guilty about having a reduction. Honestly, this never occurred to me the first time. I simply felt like, and told people, it wasn’t something I could help. Leading up to my second, Nathan’s, birth, I wondered if I could go back and not have the reduction and thus be able to breastfeed exclusively, if I would change my mind. I wouldn’t. I strongly believe that was absolutely the best decision I could have made and it greatly improved my quality and enjoyment of my life in the seven years before I had children. Even if you don’t feel this way, feeling guilty simply isn’t going to accomplish anything.

2. Educate yourself on how to breastfeed and what to expect in a normal situation. The first time around I took a breastfeeding class at the hospital I would deliver in, taught by one of the lactation consultants. The second time, I didn’t attend this class, but watched several webinars led by a lactation consultant available on the Isis Parenting site. The ones I found most helpful were Breastfeeding in the Hospital, First Week, Breastfeeding Concerns (you could almost skip this one if you’ve had a reduction, as you know you have a reason to be concerned, but this talks about other factors that can affect supply, and since I experienced several of them with my first birth, I found it useful), and Making More Milk. You can also participate in webinars every Thursday, and many of them are open to all questions, which would be a great thing to participate in if they work with your timing. I found these much more helpful than the class simply because they covered more than an hour-long class could.

3. Find someone who has been there. One thing that has been invaluable to me this time is knowing someone who has been through low supply with babies who don’t latch well. While her problems weren’t the result of a reduction, just having someone who knows what my situation is like who can encourage me when I feel like quitting and genuinely celebrate with me when I text them about how my supply is increasing or a freakishly large pump session is amazing. If you can’t find someone in “real life,” see if you can find someone online (e-mail me!). Even someone who has struggled with supply later in their nursing relationship or pumped when they returned to work can be encouraging.

4. Set small goals. Honestly, this is probably the number one thing that has helped me this time around. In the beginning, when things were so hard with latching and sleep deprivation, my goals were to make it my lactation appointment, then until his weight check, then to my next visit with lactation, and so on. I do have an over-all goal to make it to six months, but even that seems terribly unreachable many days, so I focus on just going week by week. Small goals are great because if you don’t meet one, like not giving baby a bottle in the hospital, you can simply set a new one, like getting baby back to birth weight, and focus on that rather than a perceived “failure.” It also simply breaks things down and makes them feel much more manageable.

5. Find a lactation consultant who will be in your corner and support you, whatever your goals are. I’ve lucked out both times with lactation consultants who have never made me feel bad about having a reduction or my decision to pump rather than to continue trying nursing. They were both supportive of my decision to pump and one spent an hour on the phone with me trying to figure out why I was having such pain with pumping (part yeast, part apparently just how I’m made). They also both affirmed me, while I was still trying nursing and after, which was so needed.

6. See lactation while in the hospital and make an appointment for a few days after leaving. I didn’t do this this time, and wish I had. I think it might have made a few issues we had with latching and clogged ducts less problematic the first week home. Even if everything seems good at your baby’s post-discharge appointment, lactation can weigh your baby before and after feeding to make sure they are getting enough. I also found just letting them help me with position and latch to be incredibly valuable; I was taught a different hold to help my son be more effective in emptying my breasts.

7. Don’t compare yourself to others. I read what one post-reduction mom wrote of her experience where she said she was proud of herself for using a supplemental nursing system with donor milk because she did what most other moms find too hard. Seriously? I think what she did, giving her child a nursing experience and all breast-milk, is wonderful, difficult, and should be celebrated, but she shouldn’t be proud because she did something more than other moms. She should be proud because she did her very best to do what was best for her and for her child. Evaluate what works for you, your family and your child, and then do the best you can with that. Be proud of what you accomplish because it was the best you could do, not because it was better than someone else. I’m very proud of what I have accomplished in giving breast milk to both of my children. Even though one experience has yielded much more milk for a much greater period of time, I know I did my absolute best each time.

8. Don’t expect to save money not buying formula. At the moment, we are probably spending more money on herbs and medicines to increase my supply than we would to give my son all formula. However, I feel giving him breast milk is the very best health-wise for him and since it can also have health benefits for me (like reducing my risk of breast cancer), that make the extra cost worth while to me. Some women can cut back and even eliminate all of these things and keep their supply, so this may not be a long-term cost, but I haven’t tried cutting back yet. If you have a full-supply, or make half of your baby’s needs without needing supplements, you probably can save money, but for me the whole “breast milk is free and saves you so much money” just isn’t true. In addition to buying herbs, medicine, and formula, there’s also the cost of nursing bras and tanks.

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