Yes, You Can Breastfeed After a Reduction—Here’s What You Need to Know

breastfeeding after reduction

When I was 18, I had a breast reduction. “You may not be able to breastfeed after this,” the surgeon warned me in one of our initial consultations. I could tell by the way he said it that I was supposed to care about this. I was 18. I didn’t.

Twelve years later, I welcomed my first baby, a boy. I knew more about breastfeeding at 30 than I did as a teenager. I knew I wanted to give it a try. I also knew that it might not work out for me, and I was OK with that. Fed is best, in my opinion.

What I didn’t know is that lactation consultant after lactation consultant would push formula on me from the start, assuming I would never produce enough milk to sustain my baby. My breasts had been ruined in their eyes, that was clear. They wouldn’t even entertain the idea that my body just might still be able to create that liquid gold. It was my first experience with feeling like a failure as a mom, and it happened before I’d even been given a chance to give it a shot.

They were wrong. I produced plenty of milk for my newborn baby boy. I ended my breastfeeding journey with him after a few months for a number of reasons, and then I went on to have another baby two years later, a girl. I breastfed her exclusively for a full year with no issues.

So yes, it is possible for some people to breastfeed after a reduction. Here’s what you need to know, according to experts.

 

Don’t Expect Answers Until The Baby Arrives

There is no way to know how much milk you will be able to produce until after the baby is born. Anyone who tells you differently is just guessing. It will vary from woman to woman and depend on a number of factors, including surgical methods and the amount of breast tissue taken out.

“Depending on how much tissue was removed during the reduction and the manner in which it was removed, many women can still breastfeed exclusively having had this procedure done in the past,” Ashley Georgakopoulos, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and Motif Medical Lactation Director, said.

 

Advocate for Yourself

It can be overwhelming and intimidating when medical professionals are telling you what to do when it comes to your baby, especially if it is your first time giving birth. Find a team that listens to you, takes your concerns seriously, answers your questions without judgment, and works with you to come up with a plan that fits your unique needs.

I had no idea what to expect or what was normal when it came to breastfeeding my first baby. When lactation consultants told me I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed before even trying, I insisted on giving breastfeeding a shot before calling it quits. I enlisted support from my OB-GYN and pediatrician, who supported my desires. Had I not pushed back, my experience would have been vastly different.

 

 

Keep an Eye on Baby’s Weight Gain and Wet Diapers

How fast babies gain weight, how many wet and dirty diapers they have, and how long they seem satisfied after nursing are all indicators of whether baby is getting enough milk, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

As with any newborn, it’s important to work with your pediatrician to monitor these things, especially early on, to ensure they are getting enough nutrition. This is true regardless of whether you’ve had a breast reduction, are breastfeeding, or formula feeding.

The AAP suggests scheduling your newborn’s first checkup within 48 hours of leaving the hospital. The weight check at that visit will help to know if your baby is getting enough milk from feedings.

 

Latch Baby Often

When a baby latches to the breast, their sucking triggers a response that tells a mother’s brain to release hormones (oxytocin and prolactin) that allow milk to flow and help maintain milk supply, Registered Nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Sarah Schooler of Thrive Lactation Center shared.

“Latching your baby often increases the number and strength of these signals to your brain, helping to increase your milk supply,” Schooler said. “Your body responds way better to your baby latching directly than any other form of breast stimulation.”

With the average baby breastfeeding every one-and-a-half to three hours around the clock (and sometimes more), that’s a lot of opportunities to increase your milk supply.

 

Consider Pumping to Boost Supply

To make breast milk, your breasts need glandular, or milk-making, tissue. Some of this tissue is removed during breast reduction surgery. If glandular tissue is low, it may lead to low milk supply, Georgakopoulos shared.

 

With the average baby breastfeeding every one-and-a-half to three hours around the clock (and sometimes more), that’s a lot of opportunities to increase your milk supply.

 

But there are ways to increase your milk supply, including pumping, power pumping (mimicking baby’s cluster-feeding), hand expression, and breast massage. Opt for a hospital-grade breast pump, which typically has stronger suction, to help maximize your milk production, Georgakopoulos suggested.

If you’re pumping, find a time or times that work for you and try to stick to a pumping schedule as much as possible. If you pump at the same time every day, your body will learn to anticipate needing to produce milk at that time. Most experts agree that milk volume is highest in the morning, so aim for morning hours to get the most out of your pumping session, if possible.

 

 

Find a Lactation Consultant You Trust

If you’re having trouble breastfeeding, getting support from a lactation consultant can help, lactation expert and founder of boober, an online resource that connects parents to experts, Jada Shapiro told us. Just make sure you find someone who understands and respects your breastfeeding goals and unique needs as a mama breastfeeding after a reduction.

“Reaching out for a lactation consultant soon after the baby is born to help monitor the latch and milk building phase of the early days of nursing can make a huge difference in successful nursing,” Shapiro said. “Hiring a lactation consultant can also ensure a good milk supply or catch any early problems with supply. The lactation consultant will make sure you have an ideal latch (which helps build supply) and will also note if there is low milk supply and assist you in pumping and supplementing, as needed.”

 

Discuss Breastfeeding Plans in Advance With Your Surgeon

If you haven’t had a breast reduction but are considering one, make your plans for breastfeeding a part of your initial discussions with your surgeon.

“Breast reduction techniques used today are far more advanced than they were 10 years ago, and surgeons are more knowledgeable about preserving some milk-making tissue, ducts, and keeping nerves intact with the nipple,” Schooler said.

Board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Craig Baldenhofer, shared that as long as the nipple and lactation-related structures are not cut or injured during breast reduction surgery, a woman should be able to breastfeed afterward.

Baldenhofer encouraged women to discuss a breast reduction technique commonly called the lollipop incision method, which can help preserve these structures, with their surgeons. While most women are candidates for the lollipop method, the ultimate decision is made after reviewing the pros and cons of each option.

 

Set Realistic Expectations

Breastfeeding is a different experience for everyone. It can even be a different experience from your first baby to your next. Try not to compare your journey to anyone else’s, and remember that even if breastfeeding doesn’t work out the way you planned, it is not a reflection on your mothering skills.

“The honest truth is that no one knows how much milk you will be able to make after a breast reduction. Setting realistic expectations for milk production can help you find joy in the breastfeeding process and decrease upset when you don’t meet lofty production goals,” Schooler said. “Your baby loves you just the same regardless of if you exclusively breastfeed, partially breastfeed, or only formula feed.”