Written By Rachel
As a young girl, I knew something was wrong with my breasts when they began to develop. I had asymmetric tubular breasts, and it quickly became my biggest insecurity. At the age of 20, I saw a doctor who told me a breast augmentation would “fix” them. Trusting her medical opinion I had breast augmentation surgery. Now they were double the size and sagging from the weight of the implants. It was worse than what they originally were, making my anxiety and insecurities heightened. After a few years, I decided to get them removed by another doctor who specializes in reconstruction surgeries. I got the implants taken out, a lift of the skin and fat removed from my stomach to fill the empty pouches. With two surgeries comes many scars and of course trauma to the breast tissue.
“Tubular breasts” is the name of a condition caused by breast tissue not proliferating properly during puberty. The condition is also called tuberous breasts or breast hypoplasia.
While not extremely common, tubular breasts cannot be considered rare because many women don’t seek treatment. While tubular breasts don’t pose any direct threat to your health, some women may seek to correct it. Tubular breasts can also present problems for women who wish to breastfeed. (source Healthline)
Struggling with my insecurities of developing differently my entire life, I never wanted to breastfeed. Why would these deformed breasts work to give a child nutrients? As a young adult, I also didn’t care if I could or couldn’t breastfeed because again, this was a struggle my whole life and it never seemed like I would be “normal” enough to do something every other woman could. Fast forward seven years after my breast reconstruction, I’m married with a baby on the way. My biggest prayer was to be able to breastfeed my baby, but I knew going into it the likelihood was very, very, low and there was no telling if I could until the baby came. I had the mindset of trying my best but knowing formula would help my baby thrive just as well breastmilk.
My beautiful baby girl was born on June 2, 2020, smack dab in the middle of a global pandemic. With the help of three nurses, we immediately tried to latch her, but no surprise to us all, it wasn’t easy. A shield was given to me and I latched my baby as best as I could, hoping something would come out. I was given the choice to supplement with formula at the hospital until my milk came in, so we did that but continued trying to latch her at every feed. I quickly realized breastfeeding was going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. Once we brought our baby home, we continued what we learned at the hospital every time she ate. My husband would help position the baby as I would hold on the shield, we would attempt to latch her through her screams, using a syringe to squirt formula into her mouth to get her on and hold our breaths that she’d stay on. Usually, we’d get her on for a few minutes, she’d fall off, and we’d fight through her crying to put her back on again, because “mamas are supposed to breastfeed, and it’s what is best for my baby.”
After a week of headaches and heartache listening to our daughter scream as we fought with her to latch, stay latched, and drink from me, only to have to give her a bottle afterward. I decided to meet with a lactation consultant. I knew this couldn’t be it. There had to be a better way or something that I was doing wrong or that I could do better. Because of being in the middle of COVID, I struggled to find an LC. I called countless companies and the local hospitals, but no one could help, or I would have to pay $300 out of pocket because insurance didn’t cover it. Knowing that there was no way I was doing this right and that I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel, I kept searching and found a company based out of a city four hours from me who offered virtual visits that my insurance covered. For two hours, I worked with an LC through video chat who showed me different techniques to help my baby latch, using her babydoll and jelly breast. After that, we did find more success with feeding, but it was still a struggle for all of us.
The LC recommenced I begin pumping after every feed. So that’s what I did. I started to pump and to my surprise, milk came six days after she was born! A half-ounce each pump, but man, I was excited! We were able to slowly begin making bottles of breastmilk to give our baby along with formula bottles for what I wasn’t able to produce. Our stress level began to dwindle but putting her to my breast was still such a struggle and something I dreaded doing.
After meeting with another online LC and one in person, we decided for our sanity, that I would just pump to give her as much breast milk as I could, and for what I couldn’t, we would continue to give formula. During my LC appointment in person, we did a weighted feed and realized she was getting barely anything from me, 4 grams in 15 mins on one side to be exact. No wonder she would fall asleep and had to eat after—she was working so hard. This decision to pump full time allowed my husband to participate in feedings at night while I pumped, and best of all, the screaming fits and fighting to latch our daughter stopped, and our quality of life drastically improved. My milk slowly started to increase. Now I’m able to pump 0.5–1 oz on my left breast and 0.5–1.5oz on my right at each pumping session.
We still put the baby to the breast for many reasons, but accepting that she isn’t feeding on my breasts until she’s full was a hard pill to swallow.
It’s been a struggle to decide if giving my baby three bottles a day of breastmilk is worth it. Is it worth all the time I’m spending hooked up to the pump to only get a total of 0.5 oz most time? So many days I wanted to quit, because sitting there for 30 mins to get less than an ounce, and then to have the baby not finish a breastmilk bottle and dumping it down the drain, was clearly taxing on my soul! But I’m proud to say, we are five weeks (almost six) in and I am still pumping every 2–3 hours around the clock. I am able to give my baby 3–4 bottles of breastmilk a day. I usually produce 10 oz total in one day of pumping. The most I can get would probably be 12 oz and that’s with pumping extra in a day, which is very hard to find the time to do!
It is still hard to look online and read the stories of over suppliers (how I wish I had that problem!) or watch some women pump 10 oz in one session when that’s what I get in the entire day. It’s discouraging. It’s taken me the whole five weeks to accept that I’m a freaking rockstar mom and if I’m able to only pump three bottles for my baby then so be it. At least it’s three bottles! I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is hard work, and it may be harder for me because of my history; however, I do think breastfeeding is just hard in general—but my baby girl is worth it.
I don’t know how long I’ll keep this up. I don’t know how long my milk will last. I honestly don’t know if my body registers supply and demand like it should, but I know that today I’m not ready to give up, and I hope that continues. And when I decide enough is enough, I’ll be proud of the ten ounces I was able to make in a day to give my baby, because the odds were certainly stacked against me. Trying to find a lactation consultant to help me learn how to breastfeed made me totally understand why so many women feel like they can’t continue breastfeeding.
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