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Breast Reduction Surgery and Breastfeeding

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

As a fairly well endowed woman, it always strikes me as just a little bit funny when women wonder aloud if they can have breast implants and still breastfeed. Why? Because I always wondered if I could have breast reduction and still breastfeed.

I guess no one is happy exactly where they are, eh?

While I've done some research into breast reduction surgery and given it a bit of thought, I knew there were enough risks that I'd never be willing to consider reduction surgery unless I knew with 100% certainty I was done having babies and therefore, done breastfeeding.

Of course now that I'm in a position where I know my breastfeeding days are behind me, I've decided against breast reduction surgery for other reasons (including the fact that I'm a great big chicken), but I have no doubt there are still other women out there wondering the same thing.

So I thought I'd share my findings...

You CAN breastfeed after breast reduction...

...but how well you can do it depends on a lot of factors. Breast reduction does tend to put both your ability to nurse and your milk supply at greater risk than some of the other common breast surgeries. This makes sense if you think about it, as the removal of all that tissue makes it far more likely your milk ducts will be damaged.

What tends to happen after breast reduction surgery isn't that mother's can't breastfeed, but that they have to work quite a bit harder to establish and maintain a milk supply. That means these moms are at risk of needing to rely on some type of supplementation which in turn tends to make it harder to keep up a milk supply. It's sort of a downward spiral for most moms and since few health care providers know how to properly support these moms, most give up.

The thing I found interesting in my reading was the concept of recanalization. If you've never heard of it, it's basically the concept that as a mother lactates and produces milk and lactation related hormones, the milk ducts that had been previously severed will work to regenerate or even to build new pathways.

It also turns out that it's far more common for breastfeeding mothers who have had some type of breast related surgery to deal with a condition known as nipple vasospasm. This is when the nipple gets rigid and turns white. Basically, all the blood flow is squeezed out of the nipple for a period of time before blood flow returns. It can be quite painful, but can be treated with medication and changes in latch position.

Overall, the common consensus was that breastfeeding after breast reduction (or any type of breast surgery) was usually possible, but a heck of a lot more difficult.

If you'd like to do a bit more research on your own, you can check out some of the great resources I found on breast reduction surgery and its impact on breastfeeding.

BFAR - Breastfeeding After Breast and Nipple Surgeries.
This is a wonderful resource site that talks not just about breast reduction surgery, but also about breast augmentation surgery, breast lifts, nipple surgeries and a variety of other things. (They've also got forums, so it's a great place to take your questions.)

Defining your Own Success: Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction Surgery
A book by Diana West (IBCLC and retired LLLL). A great resource if you've had any type of breast surgery and are looking for some information and help establishing and maintaining a milk supply.

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  1. Blogger Diana | 12:41 PM |  

    Thanks for your kind words! My newest book may also be helpful: "The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk" (published by McGraw-Hill).

    http://www.amazon.com/Breastfeeding-Mothers-Guide-Making-More/dp/007159857X%3FSubscriptionId%3D07CXNJSZXWSPFC03G9R2%26tag%3Dsalranexp-20%26linkCode%3Dxm2%26camp%3D2025%26creative%3D165953%26creativeASIN%3D007159857X

    Congratulations on your breastfeeding success!

    Diana West, IBCLC

  2. Anonymous carol | 6:37 AM |  

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