Breastfeeding after Cancer

Breastfeeding multiples, twins, tandem feeding. Or when mum or baby has special circumstances due to illness etc. Share it all here.
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MamaMagoO?
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Breastfeeding after Cancer

Post by MamaMagoO? » Sun May 01, 2011 2:31 pm

My sister is a breastcancer surviver. She had surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy and has now, thankfully, been cancer free for 2 years. She doesn't have children but would like to one day.

Yesterday we went out for a pedicure and lunch and had a really long chat about babies and breastfeeding etc. She told me that she has been told that because of the radiotherapy she will never be able to breastfeed from that breast she is not sure if that is because it will not be able to produce milk or because it could be dangerous for the baby. She asked me if I knew of any problems that feeding from one side only could cause- specifically she wondered if there was a greater risk of mastitis or the like. She has a friend from her cancer support group who is currenntly BFing from one breast only.

Anyway I told her what I knew about supply and demand and how I think the working breast would just compensate for the non-working breast. I did say that she would probably be quite lop-sided as the working breast would become bigger than the other. I figured that there wouldn't been any increased risk of mastitis as long as it was well drained but I'm just really not sure about any of this stuff.

So I just wondered if anyone out there has any experience or knowledge about this sort of thing. I think its wonderful that she is taking an interest and thinking about breastfeeding when/if she does have a baby one day (hopefully her fertility hasn't been too compromised by the chemo) and I'd like to help her if I can.
Little Magoo 07/08. Breastfed for 3yrs3mths.
Miss Magoo 10/11. Breastfed for 4yrs3mths.

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Andrew's Mum
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Post by Andrew's Mum » Sun May 01, 2011 8:56 pm

Only talking from "general" breastfeeding knowledge here not anything more. My understanding is that she shouldn't be at any more risk of mastitis in the working breast than she would be otherwise. The breast would be drained possibly more frequently anyway.
She may be at risk of some blockages in the damaged breast until the milk involutes. I would think that her milk from that breast wouldn't be dangerous (radiation has a half life and the levels drop by half each half-life. She wouldn't be allowed in public if the levels were dangerously high; but probably best to talk to her oncologist about that, however if she can get pregnant she wouldn't have any higher levels of radiation in her body than you or I). I would think that it would be because of scar tissue from the radiation that may mean that she can't feed from that breast and if she had a lumpectomy then maybe some of the ducts were damaged and won't work/lead to the nipple.
She will probably be lopsided particularly in the early days, but I'm sure she can find some tricks to manage that.
How exciting for her to be able to plan ahead for life beyond this horrible disease. :D
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MamaMagoO?
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Post by MamaMagoO? » Mon May 02, 2011 10:24 am

Thanks AM. That is pretty much what I thought. Yes, I am really excited that she is now at a stage where she can think long term about the future. There was a stage when we were just taking one chemo session at a time.
Little Magoo 07/08. Breastfed for 3yrs3mths.
Miss Magoo 10/11. Breastfed for 4yrs3mths.

Jennamary
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Breastfeeding after breast cancer

Post by Jennamary » Thu Jan 26, 2012 8:14 am

Hello my baby is 3 weeks old and I had breast cancer (partial mastectomy, 2 surgeries), with chemo then radiotherapy back in 2007. I was told by the surgeon that the breast wouldn't produce any milk and to not bother trying. Apparently its the radiation rather than the chemo which seems to kill off the milk production and I think it also depends where your surgery has been also.

My baby is quite small as was 2.5 weeks early (nothing to do with having had cancer, he just came early) so he's having trouble breastfeeding as has a small mouth and also had a tongue tie which was cut this week.

But ... I've been breast pumping into bottles for him and there is definitely life after breast cancer! The breast can produce a few drops during each pump and I could pump more from it if I tried, its more a time issue. I was really happy that this breast gives some milk, even if a few drops. Feels like a great achievement.

The other breast is fine with giving milk, so all up I encourage women to not worry about the breast thing and what the Dr says, just give it a go if you want to. I've even put baby on the affected breast for a bit of nibble/comfort time and he's quite happy. The lactation consultant said you can use the breast like a dummy and let the baby just comfort itself on it for some special time with mum if its not hungry. So far so good :) I don't produce enough for him each day so have to supplement with formula but at the moment he's getting about 60% breast milk each day and increasing.

The only challenge I felt really was that as pregnancy progressed, the good breast became huge, getting ready for baby and the affected breast didn't increase in size. So I had a melon on one side of my chest with a lime size breast on the other! So I went to a department store and booked an appointment for a breast form or prosthesis they call it. Was a bit upsetting and brought it all back, but they are very helpful and experienced in fitting women, and I got a breast form for a full mastectomy. It took some getting used to, quite heavy, so i wear it just when going out etc. You can claim one breast form back on medicare every 2 years. It also fits well in a maternity bra, rather than having to buy the special bra to go with it.

On another note... I was supposed to have been infertile after the cancer, having done IVF egg harvesting before chemo on the Drs recommendations. We used up all the embryos by 2010 which didn't work and I was swaying in and out of early menopause from the age of 38, due to the cancer treatment. But I did then fall pregnant naturally and had a healthy pregnancy with a natural birth. It can be done and sometimes you have to take what the Drs say and then go away and create your own positive world, hoping for the best and believing the miracle can happen,

Get plenty of quality support, the ABA have been great and I hire a pump from them.
best wishes to you all!

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JMc
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Post by JMc » Thu Jan 26, 2012 12:07 pm

Wow, Jennamary! Thanks for sharing your story. It's so wonderful to hear a story with such a positive outcome like yours. Great that you are able to breastfeed and I hope things get better and better for you and your new little boy :-D
DD - November 2009 (Breastfed 19 months)
DS1 - August 2011 (Breastfed 2 years and 8 months)
DS2 - November 2014 (Breastfeeding happily)

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Post by Penguin » Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:10 pm

What a story Jennamary! WOW! Lovely to have you here :)

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ames
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Post by ames » Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:35 pm

Thanks for sharing your story. Congratulations on your little boy.
DD1 2005, DS 2007, DD2 2009, DD3 2011
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Monicat
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Post by Monicat » Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:24 pm

Just wanted to say what an absolutely inspirational story, have you thought about writing it up and sending it in to Essence, the Australian Breastfeeding magazine? I'm sure a lot of women would enjoy reading it:)
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Jennamary
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thank you

Post by Jennamary » Wed Feb 01, 2012 2:33 pm

Thank you for all your comments its great to have some encouragement. yes I'll think about the article as I was trying to find others like me on forums and it helps to read someone else's story and see what they're doing.

Everyones story is an inspiration and its great to connect with others like this :D

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Post by Lilypad » Wed Feb 01, 2012 2:48 pm

Penguin wrote:What a story Jennamary! WOW! Lovely to have you here :)
This. Such a happy ending!

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MamaMagoO?
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Post by MamaMagoO? » Thu Feb 02, 2012 12:43 pm

Thank you so much JM. If you don't mind I will share your story with my sister.
Little Magoo 07/08. Breastfed for 3yrs3mths.
Miss Magoo 10/11. Breastfed for 4yrs3mths.

NuMummy
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BF after Cancer

Post by NuMummy » Mon May 13, 2013 7:22 pm

Hi, I've just become a member and was pleased to see this post about post-breast cancer pregnancy and feeding. I too had BC (lumpectomy, chemo and radio) at 32 about 5 years ago and was told my fertility would be most probably be affected and to resign myself to the fact. I did do that on the whole but always had a glimmer of hope and quietly wished it to be untrue. I got married and we went off to have IVF last year. 4 days before we were due to start I discovered I was expecting! Luckily prior to that - at the end of my 5 years of treatment and meds - I came out of my early menopause, my periods returned and all the tests and scans came back favourable.

I'm now 24 weeks along and everything is going well. With all the joy and excitement, I've also had to deal with the physical emotional aspect of my effected breast. It hasn't changed in size while the other is going great guns. I don't mind the fact it may not produce milk but I guess, selfishly - a vain womanly thing perhaps- the size difference bothers me. It's not too noticeable now in winter clothing but I wonder what it'll all look like after baby is born and I start feeding from the other breast.

So along with all the other aspects of a changing body and the prospect of motherhood, the questions over how will I feed, will my 'good' breast cope, will my BC breast produce and how will it all look hangover my head. Any advice would be appreciated!

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Post by Mummy woo! » Mon May 13, 2013 7:56 pm

Hi numummy

Welcome to the forum and congratulations on your pregnancy! Have you considered taking an ABA Breastfeeding Education Class for expectant parents? Many mums and dads find them a wonderful way of building knowledge before bubs arrives.

You might face some special challenges breastfeeding from only one breast, but it is possible. Many mums feed twins which is one breast per baby. It is difficult to say how it might all work out for you, but an ABA counsellor will be able to work with you once bubs arrives on any thing that comes up.

But you will also face the regular ordinary old challenges that all new parents face - sleep, poop, crying etc. A BEC can really help with those, and getting to know your local ABA group will mean you are tapped in to a good support network.

If you have good support with the 'ordinary' stuff, I expect that would make any 'special' challenges a bit easier to deal with.

You can also call the ABA helpline for a chat with a counsellor right now (well, maybe wait until the morning :wink: ) We do have women calling during pregnancy to talk through any concerns they might have about breastfeeding once baby arrives. Or try to get along to a local meeting and get to know the counsellors in your ABA group - then you can build a relationship with someone local to you.

You asked about breast size and it is difficult to say how that will work out long term. Some mums find their breasts go back to a more usual size in the months after baby arrives, some it takes a bit longer and some stay a bit bigger for the whole time they feed. So you could be lopsided for a while. One thing we do know is that breastfeeding and weaning gradually is your best chance for having your breasts return to their pre-pregnancy shape and size - so the best long-term chance for having them even is to breast feed and wean gradually. But you may also find your feelings are different after baby arrives - many women find birth and breastfeeding changes how they feel about their bodies. Your pregnancy care provider might be able to refer you to a counsellor if you are really unhappy about the changes in your breasts to work through your feelings.

I'm glad you found the forum - have a snoop around and see what everyone is up to, then get posting! We make a great support network and it is nice to have some internet-friends to chat with if you find yourself a bit housebound in the early days.
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Post by strolltotheshops » Tue May 14, 2013 2:35 am

Welcome. Mummy woo! Has given excellent advice. Best wishes for a successful breastfeeding and mothering journey.

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Post by fellare » Tue May 14, 2013 5:47 am

Congrats! It must be so awesome to be pregnant after surviving cancer!

I' ve been lopsided at times, mostly cause I was too lazy to use both breast. I currently fed from one 90% off the time. Honestly I'm too tired to care about how it looks. If people have an opinion on my breasts they need to realise it's rude to look at them and that they are lucky i got dressed in the first place, lol. Your body image changes and it becomes less important for a lot of women.

Good luck. Feeding from one breast is entirely possible.
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