Breastfeeding After Breast Cancer


Earth-shattering. Life-changing. Breath-taking (in the worst way possible). At just 24 years old I heard the words, “You have breast cancer.” It was a moment in my life that I will never forget.

After a mastectomy, months of chemotherapy, 30+ doses of radiation, and years of hormonal treatments – that scary chapter was behind me. It was not a small feat, but it was possible because of the support and love of my husband (my then-boyfriend who hung in there with me through some of the worst days). The deep love of my family, the sweet care of my friends who stepped up like family, and of course, the amazing treatment from my team at Dana Farber.

Six Years Later

About six years later, my husband and I were honored to welcome our first child into our world. In a whole different way, that moment was earth-shattering. Life-changing. Breath-taking (in the most amazing way possible).

During my pregnancy, as I prepared to become a mom, I pondered the usual decisions. What baby names do we like? How will we decorate the nursery? Will we formula feed or breastfeed? And that one question took me aback unexpectedly.

I had never really thought about breastfeeding after breast cancer nor had I known anyone who had done it. But given my history, it somehow felt like the only decision. I decided to attempt breastfeeding my son with my one remaining breast.

Making It Happen

When I made that decision, I had no idea what that journey would truly entail. There were many little struggles that I hadn’t anticipated along the way (as there are with any breastfeeding mom!). Being able to switch the baby to the other side when one side needed a break – was not an option for me. And oh, how I wish I could have switched sides now and then!

It is amazing to witness what the body can do because my one breast made enough milk for my son. It did leave quite a…lopsided situation to deal with. Finding a favorite nursing bra is hard enough as is, but finding one that didn’t look awful with my unevenness was even more difficult!

Self-care became vital because one case of mastitis or even a clogged duct could have easily derailed the breastfeeding experience. Changing out nursing bras frequently, staying hydrated and fed, and getting a soothing, prescription ointment called APNO were keys to keeping things status quo.

At every pediatrician appointment, I would have to remind the doctor of my situation when asked how nursing was going and if I routinely offered milk from each breast. (I don’t fault the pedi office on this one – nowhere in a baby’s medical chart is there a typical place to note that mom only has one breast!).

I have to admit, the one bonus was never having to rack my brain in the middle of the night to remember which side I had last fed on – a big win for those foggy-brained newborn days!

The Positives

Overall, the positive takeaways were undeniable. It was wonderful to see my son healthy and thriving from the breast milk I was able to provide him. It was amazing to bond with my child in such a special way during nursing sessions. But perhaps the most amazing thing was the, dare I say, redemption. The freeing feeling of using this part of my body to sustain another’s life, when just six years prior, that very part of my body was at the center of the fight for my own life. Breastfeeding after breast cancer felt like such a huge victory.


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