I used to think that women who made too much breastmilk were so lucky. As I struggled a year ago to hang on to my nursing relationship with Pumpkin as she approached a year old, barely being able to pump four or five ounces a day, and barely able to interest her in a nursing session with her bedtime story, the notion of milk oversupply seemed like a really nice problem to have. I wanted to continue nursing Pumpkin beyond thirteen months, but she lost interest as soon as we started giving her whole cow’s milk when she turned a year old. A lot of factors ultimately ended up making my nursing relationship with her much more difficult than it needed to be, and I’m dedicated to not making the same mistakes again with Peanut.
I’m now faced with the “really nice problem” of milk oversupply and over-active letdown. My first instinct was to pump pretty aggressively to soften the breast that Peanut would be nursing from, and let her eat more peacefully and with less trouble latching and managing the flow of the milk. I understand the biology of breastfeeding, and I know that pumping may actually serve to increase milk supply in the grand scheme of things, since mammalian breasts are based upon a supply-and-demand system. The more you remove, the more is made. However, being so enchanted by the fact that oh my GOSH, I’m making a TON of breastmilk! after the woes of undersupply for the last five months or so of my nursing relationship with Pumpkin, I was initially unwilling to do anything that might decrease my supply, as necessary as it may be. I rationalized it by thinking that as Peanut got stronger over the next few weeks that she would be able to handle the excessive letdown and be able to stay latched on.
In one week’s time, I’ve pumped over one hundred and sixty ounces of breastmilk, and it is now all hanging out in our freezer next to the ice cube trays. It is also blocking our access to the Breyer’s, which is a separate problem in and of itself.
|Just call me Dairy Queen|
(As a side note; does anyone ever imagine that their breastpump is speaking to them? Especially in the night? Occasionally, it says “wake-up”, or “me too”. A few nights ago, it was very clearly saying, “ba-con” to me.)
I suppose that something has to change. In addition to being a thoroughly messy affair (wet baby, wet Boppy, wet burp cloths, wet mommy…followed by sticky baby, sticky Boppy, sticky everything…do you know how much sugar is in human breastmilk?!), I can tell that Peanut is starting to be quite bored with the whole not-being-able-to-eat thing. She can usually latch on for a few seconds or so, take several giant gulps, and then she pops off, sputtering. I put her upright on my chest, she has a hearty burp, and we’re back at it…and we repeat this process half a dozen times in the course of one feeding session. She does do marvelously on a breast that I’ve pumped quite thoroughly, but removing four or five ounces before each feeding is not a sustainable system, and it is only making the problem worse in the grand scheme.
Today, I’ve tried the recommendation of La Leche League; and kept her focused on one breast at a time, after an initial removal of an ounce of milk with the breastpump. It is rough going at first, but I feel good about making a positive change. I’ve also tried nursing with the glider reclined back as far as I can get it, so gravity helps to slow the milk flow as well. I even broke down and put on a nipple shield this afternoon, and Peanut nursed better and for longer than she has yet. I don’t want to get into the habit of relying on the shield (nobody told me that babies needed to be weaned from their use, so I ended up using them for several months with Pumpkin, which got to be a serious hassle), but I think it is a good aid at least until my supply regulates itself.
More later as I continue to figure this out.