I think most of you probably know my story, but maybe not all of you, especially my new readers.
When I was 21, I had breast reduction surgery. I had terrible back problems from my breasts, including scoliosis from the weight of my breasts pulling my shoulders forward and constant pain throughout the back. The muscles in my shoulders and on the sides of my rib cage are still phenomenally tight, 10 years later. They never relax, and after getting massages, they relax for a few minutes but then are right back to how they were before.
I was, of course, warned about potential issues breast feeding in the future, but I was a 21 year old college kid, not in a serious relationship, and having kids seemed very far off. I thought that I would be able to deal with not being able to breast feed if that was what happened, if it meant that I could reduce the physical and emotional pain my breasts caused me. So I had the surgery, and it was wonderful to fit into normal sized clothing, to have less pain, and to feel more confident.
Fast forward 9 years, and it was summer of 2009. We learned in early August that we were going to have a baby. I was ecstatic- finally, my dream was going to come true! But not far into pregnancy, I began thinking about breast feeding. It was apparent to me pretty early on that I was leaning towards a more natural, more AP lifestyle and parenting style. Not breast feeding would be devastating. I began to get pretty depressed over this. I cried sometimes, wishing that I hadn't been selfish and had the surgery. It is one of the first times in my life that I had real regrets. I knew logically that I was a healthier person for having had the surgery, but the idea that I did something knowingly to potentially jeopardize my ability to breast feed Cecilia was tearing me apart.
The solution I came to, with the help of the amazing ladies on www.bfar.org (breast feeding after reduction) was to count on having to supplement, and purchasing a supplemental nursing system (SNS). It's essentially a small bottle that has capillary tubing coming off of it. You line the tubing up with the nipple (early on I used tape to hold the tube, now I am pretty adept at just lining it up) and latch the baby one, and she gets supplement while nursing. There are a few benefits to using an SNS.
1. Baby still nurses for nourishment. Whether the mom makes almost no milk, or like me makes a decent amount (50-75% of Cecilia's needs), the baby can always use the breast to get milk, even if it's coming from an artificial source.
2. Mom's milk supply is still stimulated at every feeding. Breast milk supply is dependent on how much the baby nurses, and for women with low supplies, it's vital that the baby nurse as much as possible. Using an SNS means that the baby nurses for every meal and keeps the body producing milk
3. No worry about nipple confusion. It doesn't happen to every baby, but when it does happen and the baby prefers the faster flow of a bottle to the slower flow and more work of breast feeding, it's devastating to the mom. This also seems to affect low supply mamas more often, since full or high supply mamas tend to have a pretty rapid flow too!
4. Easy to use and keep clean. No mucking about with sterilizing nipples, losing bottle rings, trying to find a bottle that the baby will take (not as easy as it seems like it would be for a lot of babies).
There are probably more, but those are what I can think of right now.
The next question for supplementing is figuring out what you want to supplement with. Many moms choose formula because it's readily available and easy to find. I chose donated breast milk. If I have my way, Cecilia will never have formula. Before she was born, I had amassed around 500 oz of supplemental milk, and that lasted us more than 2 months. Sometimes getting milk is a hassle, but I have not been tempted to give up yet, so I might be able to reach my goal of 100% breast milk for the girl!
My next blog post will be about what happened this week with trying to get another shipment of milk. It's not a happy story!