Have you noticed yet? This week is World Breastfeeding Week. August is National Breastfeeding Month. The ads, quotes, and informative articles are already blanketing social media. Are you dealing with breast cancer and hope to have children someday? This is another time when it’s important to take things with a grain of salt. You might be thinking, “If I hear one more time how formula is going to give him asthma, a lower IQ, SIDS, etc…, I think I’ll scream!” Yes, there are benefits to breastfeeding, but formula-fed babies do just fine. Also, breastfeeding after breast cancer works for many women. We’ve put together 8 facts to help you sift through all the drama. Read them and “latch on” to some hopeful and helpful realities.
1 Many women cannot breastfeed
From illness to latching problems, this is just a fact of life for many women. No, it doesn’t make your situation better to know this. However, these women have formed support groups and coping techniques that could be valuable to you. This post about how to make up for any supposed “deficiencies” is encouraging and practical.
2 If you had a double mastectomy, you don’t have to play the guessing game
Pack the bottle in the hospital bag, because you just won’t be able to breastfeed. There are so many “what ifs?” related to having a baby. Breastfeeding is one less thing you need to worry about. It’s been decided for you.
3 Plan ahead if considering breastfeeding after breast cancer
Make sure to tell your doctor that you want a tissue and nipple sparing lumpectomy, and request to have the surgery done in such a way that you will be able to breastfeed.
4 If you are breastfeeding now, it may be possible to have a biopsy or minor surgery and still breastfeed
As reported by the Le Leche League, it is possible in some cases to have minor surgery and continue to breastfeed, as illustrated in this story.
5 You can breastfeed with one breast
If you have a single mastectomy or if your lumpectomy leaves you with only one breast capable of breastfeeding, don’t worry. Breastfeeding is about supply and demand. As breastfeeding moms of twins, and small-chested breastfeeding women know: if your baby demands it, your breast will supply it.
6 Educate yourself about breastfeeding
As emotionally difficult as it may be, given the reality that you may not be able to breastfeed, read through the information that is being put out there this month. As a mom who has breastfed eight children successfully, under a variety of circumstances, I guarantee that knowledge is crucial when it comes to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding can be confusing for many women, and no matter how much you’ve read, you should take the advice of your hospital’s lactation consultant, or find one on your own. Ask a lot of questions because things can go from easy to difficult in a short period of time. Don’t be shy about asking for physical help with getting baby to latch on properly and as soon as possible after delivery.
Also, we live in a time when independence and freedom are celebrated, and the breastfeeding lifestyle doesn’t always come naturally. At least it didn’t for me. Breastfeeding requires one to make many physical sacrifices: sitting or lying down many times throughout the day when you want to move, enduring discomfort or outright pain, dealing with leaks on clothing and bedding, avoiding certain foods or drinks, and more.
7 Keep calm
If you’re like me, your imagination can go wild, and all kinds of questions and concerns pop up in your mind. I can imagine worrying about sticking to doctor’s recommendations about waiting for pregnancy after radiation, for example, or side effects to baby or myself if things don’t turn out exactly as they should. Stories and talking with others can really help. This woman’s story about her accidental pregnancy and breastfeeding after breast cancer might help calm your nerves a bit.
8 Breastfeeding is not the end-all, be-all
If you can get this into your head, you’ll be much better off in the long run. Yes, you may be able to breastfeed. But then, you may not. It is like with anything in life. If you can learn to be flexible and accepting of what’s thrown at you, you will be the better for it.