Nursing after Breast Reduction

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Unable to nurse my first - can acupuncture help with 2nd?

May 2007

i am pregnant with my 2nd child. i had breast reduction surgery 9 years ago. with my first child (born almost 5 years ago) i was not able to breastfeed, although i believe that my lack of education and preparedness and the medical establishment's lack of knowledge had a lot to do with this. during that pregnancy, the only answers i could get out of my ob/gyn when i asked if i would be able to breastfeed were, ''you'll know after the baby's born.'' then in the hospital, the nurses almost immediately put my son on formula. i believe this is because they read in my chart about the surgery. i was leaking colostrum. we went to see a lactation consultant who gave me the book, ''breastfeeding after reconstructive surgery'', which is where i learned that things could have been vastly different had i had this knowlege before. i pumped like a mad woman for a month or two and got some milk, but not a whole lot. anyway, this time i hope for things to be different and am doing all i can to prepare to breastfeed. i believe that i will be able to partially breastfeed if not entirely.

so finally, my question is, does anyone know if accupuncture or accupressure can help with milk production or let down? if so, any recs for a knowledgeable and reasonably priced practitioner?

for those of you have been in this situation, any advice is appreciated.

thank you.

Congratulations!!! I am currently BFARring (BreastFeedAfterReduction)my second who is 9 mos. old. I had a similar experience as yours with my first :( I have read a wonderful book/resource ''Defining Your Own Success'' by Diana West (of LLL). It established and saved my nursing relationship. I could loan it to you if you like. I have also had accupuncture done to increase milk production and letdown which was very effective. I recommend going to Berkeley's Accupuncture Integrtive Medicine College on Shattuck. They have a clinic which is reasonable and the 'interns' who work on you are very knowledgeable/experienced in TCM. Another thing I would recommend (there is a whole section in the book) are taking galactagogues like Fenegreek, Milk Thistle, Goats rue, etc. I used Motherloves' Extra Special Blend tincture which is specifically for mothers who have had breast surgery, it helps repair milk ducts, etc. From my experience, the LCs have very little experience on BFAR. Do yourself a favor and go to and join our forum-yet another wonderful resource and support system for mothers in our situation. There is sooo much you can do to have a successful breastfeeding relationship with your baby. I hope this helps. Feel free to email me if you like! Oh and as a mother of two, I suggest you get the bulk of your research done BEFORE the baby comes and stock up on herbs too. You may even choose to take a medication for increasing milk production, which I did for 3 months-very helpful, however, the side effects honestly weren't worth it for me so I stopped. And that was MONTHS ago and we're STILL nursing! You can do it. Good luck sister~ lisa
Acupuncture can absolutely help with milk production! as well as many other issues pre and postnatel. I was diagnosed with ''boderline'' gestational diabetes so I needed to test my blood sugar 3x a day but because of acupuncture and herbs I was able to easily control my insulin levels. I also used acupuncture and herbs for helping to get my hormones under control after the birth of my son as well as Bell's Palsy that I got in my third trimester... so, if you can go to someone that specializes in women's health and that is also very qualified in herbology than you can have some amazing results! The gentleman that I use is in San Francisco and was reccommeded by my mid-wife and doula....has been doing this for 20+ years and also teaches. Good Luck!! Darlene
I know many women who have been able to sucessfully breastfeed their children after reductions. It is definitely hard, but not impossible. I do not have firsthand experience but I hear that is a great resource for moms who have had reductions. Laura

Guilt due to breast reduction: couldn't breast feed

March 2007

I still feel (even after 4 yrs) a sense of guilt because I couldn't breast-feed my daughter after she was born. I had had a breast reduction surgery years before, and could not have known how inadequet I would feel later in life when I had a child and was not able to nurse her myself. This experience was compounded by my husband (we are since divorced) thinking that my entire body was disgusting after the birth (he never did touch me again), reinforcing the feeling of failure that I already felt in not being able to breastfeed. This was exacerbated by the nurses in the hospital in Scandinavia saying ''breast is best'', like an endless mantra. I knew breastmilk was best, and tried to nurse. The milk ducts had been cut, so I became very ill with mastitis. After 3 weeks of getting very sick, my doctor finally suggested that we stop the nursing, and gave me pills to stop the milk supply.

Can anyone else relate to this experience? Maybe I even feel like I would still be married if I'd been able to have ''properly functioning breasts'', twisted thought, but true.

Mama who needs to just let go.

I don't have specific advice, but I wish I could give you a big giant hug. You poor thing, I hate that you feel this way. You didn't KNOW about the breast reduction! You did your best! And there are many, many ways to be a great mom other than breast-feeding! Do you feel comfortable going into therapy? Because your ex was emotionally abusive and you deserve to heal. Hugs to you, you fabulous, caring mom. I Hate Your Ex
would you consider talking to a therapist? phyllis klaus is great with perinatal issues. she really helped me get over guilt from not being able to give birth to my breech babies due to a malformed uterus. and it drove me into severe depression for a period of time. she is in the yahoo people. she lives in berkeley. anon
I can relate to your message, although I have really been able to come to terms with the fact that I could not breastfeed. I had breast reduction surgery about 12 years before my son was born, and it was the best decision I ever made. As a 20 year old, there was no way I could see far enough into the future to see how this would impact my experience as a mother. When I got pregnant, I knew going in that it would be unlikely that I would be able to produce enough milk to solely breastfeed.

Best case scenario, I would supplement my own milk supply with formula. Then my son experienced some trauma during child birth and had extremely low blood sugar when he was born. They had to give him formula right away. Although I did try to get him to latch on from the very beginning, it just never worked. I tried everything!! He was in the NICU for about a week, and I would try to breastfeed, pump and also give him formula. There was SO much pressure to breastfeed from nurses and lactation consultants at the hospital, as well as the community as a whole. I felt like an alien feeding him formula!!!! But I really think that because it was so difficult to get milk out of my breasts and so easy to get formula out of a bottle, he just went that route. Believe me, it wasn't for lack of trying! After the incredibly emotional week in the NICU, I just couldn't take it anymore. I resigned to pump for as long as I could and to supplement the mik I got with formula. That lasted for about 2 months (which is unbelievable to me in retrospect!!). At that point, he was strictly a formula baby until he turned one. At that point we switched to regular milk... My son is a very smart, healthy and wonderful 4 year old now.

You should NOT feel guilty about not breastfeeding!! You have to make decisions as they arise in life, and I'm sure that your decision to have your surgery was one that was made with thought and care... It is wrong of society to make us feel like we're horrible mothers because we don't breastfeed. I had to throw away a Dr. Sears book, because it practically blamed every infant problem on formula!! Hang in there, and try to feel good about all the love and care that you give your child. That's the most important thing! Been there

The Bay Area is a high pressure environment for mothers! We've idealized natural childbirth, nursing, baby wearing, co-sleeping, etc. I've had mothers apologize to me, a perfect stranger, for giving their babies bottles. Each had a reason, a GOOD reason for using a bottle, and I felt so sad that the pressure was so great that they felt like they had to explain.

We all have our griefs in motherhood. Mine is that I couldn't even attempt a natural birth because of an injury I had years ago. In fact the doctor was so nervous about me having any contractions at all that he recommended that I deliver by c-section 3 weeks early, and I agreed. My son was so unripe, so unready to be born, colicky and miserable for weeks. Oh well. He's fine now, and I am too, and I hope you will be soon.

Lots of love, Perfectly Imperfect

You poor thing! I sounds like you've really been through some difficulties. Try to go easy on yourself. Okay, so you could not breastfeed your baby--but she's healthy, right? You lover her with all your heart, I have no doubt. Breast is only best when it works for both mother and baby. In your case, the way you fed her and loved her was the best for the two of you. Remember that. As for your exhusband, it sounds like his problems were not your fault, either. Please don't blame yourself for his immature views. Sympathetic
you've had a lot thrown at you.

dont take the opinion (or should i say betrayal) of your exhusband to heart. HIS is the warped viewpoint, he obviously is incapable of relating to a person, rather than just a shell/body.

maybe you can work through some of this by finding a way to help pass the word on to others considering breast reduction, as a peer counselor ar some such. at least there is usually a valid reason for such surgery (pain), as opposed to implants. i recently read that ~350,000 implant surgeries are done each year, a shocking # to me considering there are 300,000,000 people in the US of which half are male and half are probably ''too old'' or ''too young.'' so that leaves maybe 1 woman in 300 having implants every year... so maybe 1 in 20 will have this surgery at some point??? (speculative numbers, but you get the drift).

lastly, there is a book called Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding after Breast Reduction Surgery by Diana West, BA, IBCLC (also available through amazon, but with a different cover). i haven't read this one, but most LLL books feature a large number of interviews, and several have helped me have a sort of a ''support group in a book'' with other breastfeeding issues. and you may also want to talk to a LLL leader. they are usually willing to talk out issues on the phone, and are women who have heard a lot of problems and tend to be nonjudgemental and kind. anon

Breast feeding is best for your child if your breasts and you are able to,and want to, but I have one sister out of six of us who wasn't breast fed, and she is just as well adapted (or more so) as the rest of us. My SIL wasn't breast fed and she is the more well-adapted than her sisters, though they were breast fed. I am guessing that you are a perfectly wonderful mother. I think breast reduction surgery can be good for a woman's back, and may be good for her self-esteem. If you could let go of your guilt (not an easy thing to do I know), it might have been a really good choice for you. I am not sure what's going on inside your ex husband's head, but he sounds a bit strange (okay I am trying to be diplomatic here). Your wonderful, beautiful, body just gave birth to a wonderful beautiful baby, and he doesn't want to touch your body after that?! I don't think I can be very diplomatic about that. I do know that there are many men that would react differently, and I am hopeful that you have found or well find one that does. As for the breast feeding fanatics, they go in my book with all other fanatics. Breast feeding is great, if it all works out, but bottle feeding can be wonderful too. And there are many brilliant, wonderful, nurturing mothers who can't or don't want to breast feed. Please be kind to yourself. Being kind to oneself is one of the best gifts we can give our children. Best wishes for no more guilt
I didn't read your post, but am all too familiar with the guilt that goes along with not being able to breastfeed after reduction. I strongly recommend you check out It is a wonderful, supportive forum of women who have had the surgery and either chose to breastfeed with the help of herbs/meds/supplemental systems or weren't able to breastfeed and either pumped what they could produce and supplement with ebm/formula in bottles. A good book is Defining Your Own Success, although you may want to check out the site first. As for me, I have had two children. I only nursed a month with my first and am currently nursing my second going on 8 + months. And that's been with the help of herbs/meds/supplemental systems. Whatever your situation, you need to be at peace with the decision you make about this. Personally, I suffered a lot of post partum depression around failure to nurse my firstborn. I also had very little support from my then husband at the time. So please,don't beat yourself up. You are the mama, you know what is best for your babe and when it comes right down to it, you will love your baby either way. If you need to talk about any of this, your baby is young and you are interested in trying to BFAR (breastfeed after reduction)

Guilt free after bottle feeding first and nursing the second. lisa

Pregnant and concerned I may not be able to breastfeed

February 2003

I am almost 8 months pregnant and am concerned that I am not going to be able to nurse my baby. I had breast reduction surgery 16 years ago and have barely gone up one cup size since I got pregnant. I have read the book ''Defining your own Success: Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction Surgery'', but I would love to hear from other women in this situation.

I had a breast reduction 13 years ago, and I was also very concerned about it when I was pregnant with my now 12 month old; I didn't increase any cup sizes while I was pregnant. The problems can come because the nipple gets relocated, causing damage to the mammary glands (I believe) which hinders milk production, so it depends on the skill of your surgeon, not the size of your breasts. Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do about it at this point except wait until you give birth, start trying, and see what happens. In my case, flat nipples prevented me from breastfeeding, but I pumped like a mad woman; I had great milk production. Don't hesitate to contact a lactation consultant, I'm sure there are many who specialize, but in the meantime, you just have to wait and see. Good luck! Jill
I had a breast reduction in 1995 and a baby in 2002. When I had the breast reduction, the doctor told me that all of his patients had been able to breast feed. However, I had very little milk supply and faced serious obstacles when trying to breast feed, which included flat nipples, low milk supply, conflicting advice from a host of lactation consultants, and exhaustion. My advice to you: --get advice from a lactation consultant BEFORE you go to the hospital/give birth and continue to work with that person for several weeks after birth. --rent/borrow a pump from the hospital/friend and get detailed info on how to use it. If you need to, you can buy your own later. --check in with your OB on your nipples. If your breast reduction included moving the nipples, then you will want to talk about whether they were moved, but remained attached to the milk ducts, if the nipples are large enough or considered flat (mine changed after the reduction). --keep reading and asking for help, but do the best you can. I had to pump for months and bottle feed. It's lonely, but you can do it. I hope that you end up being able to breast feed for a long, long time!! JK
I had breast reduction surgery and had a very low milk supply. I used a supplemental feeder for the first 8 months of my boy's life, then gave that up, and used bottles, but continued nursing. I'd nurse him until he got all he could from me, then offer him his bottle. He's 19 months, and still nursing. He doesn't care how much milk he's getting, he just loves being at the breast. It's soothing. I love the fact that he gets at least some antibodies from me and other nutritional benefits and when he's sick, it's great because it might be the only thing he'll drink/eat. We are in the weaning process, but I'd never want to have given up this experience, even though it was VERY challenging those first several months. I got the support of a lactation consultant and an on line support group called BFAR (breastfeeding after reduction) and support made it a lot easier. But if you love nursing, then it's worth the extra work. Feel free to contact me. Good Luck.
It sounds as if you are working hard to give yourself the best possible chance of nursing! Using a lactation consultant will probably help, too. They can recommend plans and tube-feeding devices and perhaps nutritional aids. I admire you for wanting to do everything you can to make breastfeeding available for your baby. I also had a breast reduction and had the same issues. In my specific situation, my milk never did come in. I pumped for 4 weeks while tube feeding my daughter and never got more than 1/2 ounce.(It became apparent that I only had 1 or 2 ducts that were uncut.) This is not meant to discourage you! Every physical situation is different. What I do want to say in the way of support is that, having done your best, I hope that if need be you will be aware that whether or not too many ducts have been cut is not in your control at this point, and that if things don't work out the way you want them to you will not spend a lot of energy on guilt. Breastfeeding is very important, obviously, but I am studying child development and learning more about the crucial importance of the mother-child interaction during those first few days and weeks. In a healthy bond, the mother exists in a state that one theorist called ''maternal preoccupation'' where she builds a rapport with her child based on empathic, physical, and instinctual cues. Worry, anxiety, guilt, and anything else that causes the mother to be living too much in her intellect interferes with this vital process. I suppose what I am saying is that I believe there is a point where a single-minded pursuit of ever more obscure techniques reputed to coax milk from you could be a detriment to the quality of mothering. If I had it to do over again, I would definitely have done the pumping and the consultant, but I would have tried to let go of the outcome more. I wish you success and a wonderful experience with your new baby. Feel free to write me if you have any specific questions. lori
First of all, congratulations on your pregnancy! I also had a breast reduction, and was not able to nurse. I know one other mother who has had a reduction, and she was not able to nurse any of her three kids. I don't want to discourage you, since from the tone of your posting I am assuming you want to nurse. But the fact that your breasts have not much responded to pregnancy is not a good sign. The lactation consultants at Kaiser told me that most post-reduction moms end up at least supplementing with formula, if not using it exclusively. If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to try VERY hard to not get emotionally bound up in the nursing issue. Do your best if you want to, enlist all the help you can get your hands on, and then leave it up to fate. It will either work or it won't. Your child will thrive on either breastmilk or formula. Without going into the gory details, I had a terrible, and ultimately unsuccessful, struggle to get the nursing going, with tears from myself and my baby at every feeding, and the ''failure'' to nurse tipped perfectionist me straight into 11 months of post partum depression. Please, please, do anything you can to avoid that. Go into it with the understanding that your solution might just be formula. There are lactation consultants at most hospitals and I recommend you use them. But also decide in advance how far you are willing to go. It's not necessarily a matter of ''baby, meet breast... oh, you'd rather not? OK, here's your formula.'' It can be if you want, but ''giving breastfeeding a try'' can also mean 2-3 months of nursing, pumping, supplemental feeders, herbal supplements, drugs, etc. I personally drew the line at taking drugs to stimulate my supply, but in retrospect should probably have seen earlier than I did that it wasn't working out. All that said, I would like to encourage you to give nursing a good try. Breastmilk is obviously the best food for a baby. But formula is just fine, and there was a lot that I loved about bottle feeding my child. Give it your best shot, keep it in perspective, and if the writing should appear on the wall, try to recognize it before it gets to you. Good luck with your new mommyhood! Didn't work for me but I hope it does for you
May I recommend a great new book that addresses many of the issues you have raised? t's called DEFINING YOUR OWN SUCCESS: BREASTFEEDING AFTER BREAST REDUCTION SURGERY by Diana West

Here's an article about breastfeeding after such srgery: Jen

I don't think you mentioned the type of breast surgery you had, but I did a search at: for ''breast surgery'' and it returned 150 matches. Here is the link; I hope it is of help to you:

In general though, perhaps the baby is getting more milk than you might think. Babies are much more efficient than pumps. I would encourage you to pump and dump during your trip though. If you bring home that milk, you will bottle feed it, reducing valuable suckling time. Please contact your local La Leche League leader for support. (Here's the Oakland/Berkeley website):

It's free and such a valuable resource! The meetings are also so valuable. You can get the support from other moms that sometimes husbands do not provide. Whatever the outcome, I wish you the best. J12