Breastfeeding: Can you nurse after breast reduction surgery?

I had breast reduction surgery. Care was taken not to cut the milk ducts, knowing that breastfeeding was a future desire. How will this surgery impact my ability to breastfeed?


Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Breastfeeding is possible following breast reduction surgery. The amount of milk that you are able to produce is dependent on the type of surgery that was performed. There are two basic types of breast reduction surgery. In one, the nipple and areola remain attached, while excess breast tissue is removed -- pedicle technique. In the other, both nipple and areola are completely removed, severing glands and nerve pathways -- free-nipple technique. If ducts and nerve pathways remain intact, there is a better chance of producing enough milk for your baby. Research also shows that the less breast tissue removed, the better the chances for establishing lactation (Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery of the Breast, J.O. Strombeck, 1976).

Even if your milk supply has been compromised, you can breastfeed. Though you may not be able to fully nourish your baby, you can enjoy nursing, while supplementing him at your breast, using a nursing supplementer. This device consists of a container, which holds the supplement and is worn like a necklace. Thin tubes are taped to your breasts. As your baby nurses he will be receiving the milk you are able to produce along with necessary supplementation. The amount of milk you produce is not your measure of success. Success is establishing a close and loving relationship with your new baby.

There are several ways to be certain that your baby is getting enough milk. Your newborn should be nursing a minimum of 10 to 12 times in a 24-hour period. Most feeds in those early weeks will last about 30 minutes. By the second or third day following the birth, as your milk supply is increasing, you should be able to hear active sucking and swallowing. It is normal for babies to occasionally pause while nursing. Keep an eye on your baby's output. During your baby's first two days of life, it is normal to have only one or two wet diapers a day. Once your milk becomes more plentiful, around the third day, your baby should be having six to eight good, wet diapers and at least two or three bowel movements each day.

In the first four days following the birth it is normal for your baby to lose up to 10 percent of his birth weight. Most babies have regained their birthweight by two weeks of age. During the first six months of life, normal weight gain is four to eight ounces a week. If your baby is gaining weight normally while exclusively breastfeeding (all sucking and nutritional needs are met at your breast), has adequate output and is healthy and alert, your milk supply is meeting your baby's needs.

You want to be assured that your milk supply continues to be adequate. When you have had breast surgery, it is very important to keep a close eye on your baby's pattern of output and weight gain, even after breastfeeding appears to be well established.

Since you have had breast surgery, it is very important to work with a Board Certified Lactation Consultant familiar with your particular situation. She will be able to help you in positioning your baby to best access your milk and in using a nursing supplementer, if it becomes necessary. To find a Lactation Consultant in your area contact ILCA (International Lactation Consultant Association) Best wishes!

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