Thursday, May 8, 2014

Breasts and Bottles: Breastfeeding after Cancer

Last week I posted 10 ways to say a big ol' FU to cancer. And then the most magnificent email landed in my inbox, an email with a story of a cancer survivor. But more than that (like that's not enough), it was an email with a story of a cancer survivor who went on to feed her baby with the breast that cancer didn't take from her. She's volunteering for my Breasts and Bottles series to show there's an even bigger range of feeding experiences out there than I could have possibly imagined. Here's her story:
I have two kids, BC and AC - before cancer and after cancer. I breastfed the first one, my son, with no problems. We worked together really well from day dot and I fed him until he was 11 months old. When I got breast cancer he was five years old and I was 31. I had a mastectomy and completed treatment in 2006 and then gave birth to my little miracle girl, in 2009. It was definitely harder to breastfeed with just one breast. I don't know if I was more nervous or something but it did take a while to get a good latch with her and I went through some of those issues that the other women you've posted about had - the cracked nipples and mastitis and all that. But the hospital I was in gave me private lactation consultants every day while I was there and they helped after as well. It took ages to switch my brain over from what I used to do and what I needed to do but I kept going. The supply thing was really hard because there wasn't another breast to pop her on if she drained the other. and we ended up feeding more often that I did with my son because she wasn't really getting a full meal off the one. So we did some supplement feeding with formula and I pumped a bit at the start to make sure booby had a big enough supply. I fed her for three months and then really needed to stop to give myself a bit more space. I felt a bit bad about stopping but my doctor was really positive about it - she was happy that I tried it at all as she'd not had anyone else want to. Now I'm just really proud I did it. And I'm thinking about having another one but we'll see about that. 
Breastfeeding after a (single) mastectomy is possible. It's even encouraged with breastfeeding potentially giving the remaining breast the protective effect that it offers to women in general. However, it's not for everyone - perfectly understandable, really, when the stresses and effects of battling cancer can leave you with nothing left to give. Anyone interested in trying should only do so in consultation with and approval from their medical professionals as some medications can be transmitted through breastmilk and chemotherapy drugs have a 'cooling off' period before you're clear to breastfeed. It is not at all safe to breastfeed during active treatment.

If you'd also like to share your breastfeeding story, short or long, happy or sad, boring or weird, please email me at: lilybett[at]gmail[dot]com


  1. What an incredibly inspiring story :) xx

    1. I feel so lucky that she wanted to share it hear. I think it's not just an inspiring breastfeeding story but also a fantastic story of beating the crap out of cancer - letting it neither destroy you nor take away from your future family. Not every cancer sufferer/warrior is so lucky, of course, but it's such a story of hope and realisation.


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