Women who have undergone breast reduction surgery often wonder whether it is possible or desirable to breastfeed their babies. Surgeons asked this question pre- or post-surgery will do their best to be helpful, but may be working with incomplete or outdated information. So can women breastfeed after a breast reduction?
There is no simple answer to this question. But in general, it is definitely a good idea to try. Many women are able to exclusively breastfeed their babies, some are able to partially breastfeed along with formula supplementation, and some are able to at least provide the all-important immunity-filled milk in the early days of breastfeeding.
**It is important to note that even women who have attempted nursing a previous child may find greater success with subsequent children,** as the most significant factor in ability to exclusively breastfeed appears to be the length of time that has passed since the surgery. As time goes by, the body actually rebuilds the ductal connections inside the breast and nipple, and there is quite a high rate of success when the surgery was 5 or more years prior to the baby's birth.
Guidelines for Attempting Breastfeeding after Reduction Surgery
• Keep a Breastfeeding Log – It is important for a mother nursing after a reduction to keep a detailed feeding and diaper log for the baby. The number of feedings, as well as the number of pees and poops will give a health professional important information about whether the baby is receiving adequate nutrition. If supplementing formula or expressed breast milk at breast or by bottle, the ounces given at any feeding should be recorded as well.
• Consult with and IBCLC and Pediatrician – It is important for the mother and baby to be under the care of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in partnership with a pediatrician to monitor the health of the mother and baby in the early weeks after birth. The baby's weight changes as well as the information in the diaper log will be used to assess whether the breasts are able to product adequate milk for the baby. It may be necessary to monitor this progress for several weeks or months as the baby's needs increase. The IBCLC will also be able to answer any questions the mother has about nursing and establishing adequate supply, and watch for common concerns like plugged ducts.
• Maximize Milk Supply – It may be helpful to consider galactogogues – herbal supplements or foods known to increase milk production. See my article on "Increasing Low Milk Supply" for more information on options. Gentle breast compression during feedings (from the base of the breast) may also help to fully empty the breast and deliver milk more highly concentrated with fats. If the baby does not seem to fully empty the breasts each feeding, pumping after feeds may also be useful to establish maximum supply. Discuss with a lactation consultant whether these options would be advisable in your situation.
• Any Milk is Important – Remember that there is not one version of "success!" Any breast milk is better that no breast milk for a baby, especially in the early days.
There are wonderful resources available for women exploring breastfeeding after breast reduction surgery. Check out the Breastfeeding After Reduction website (www.bfar.org) and the book "Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction Surgery" (linked below). Having support and the wisdom and encouragement of women who have walked this path before is invaluable.
Disclaimer: All material on the BellaOnline.com Breastfeeding website is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Although every effort is made to provide accurate and up-to-date information as of the date of publication, the author is neither a medical doctor, health practitioner, nor a Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). If you are concerned about your health, or that of your child, consult with your health care provider regarding the advisability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your individual situation. Information obtained from the Internet can never take the place of a personal consultation with a licensed health care provider, and neither the author nor BellaOnline.com assume any legal responsibility to update the information contained on this site or for any inaccurate or incorrect information contained on this site, and do not accept any responsibility for any decisions you may make as a result of the information contained on this site or in any referenced or linked materials written by others.