So this is obviously not for moms that struggle with milk supply. I apologize profusely if you are one of them. I know you can make lactation cookies as well as take some supplements and herbs to help…but I have no idea about that issue.
No. No this is a post about my hypERlactation. And the weirdness of my letdown, milk coming in, and feeding.
First did YOU know there is such a thing as hyperlactation? I sure as hell didn’t. Obviously my computer didn’t either because I’m getting the little red squiggles under the word “hyperlactation”.
First and foremost, the history. When my son was born he latched beautifully. No issues, no complaints – there was obviously the soreness that comes with having your nipples go from sexy play time, to being used as a milkshake straw (I say milkshake because I vividly remember feeling like I needed Hoover vacuum strength to get a newly mixed milkshake out of the damn cup), but overall it was great…
Ten day three hit.
I’m going to segue here a moment to tell you that day three was the worst, most depressing, exhausting, and emotionally draining day of my entire life. Look for THAT cheerful post soon!
So day three, my milk was supposed to have come in that day. My midwife said it would, my mom said it would, my friends, WebMD, BabyCenter.com, TheBump, my 50 iPhone apps, my mom chat group…All day long I waited. All day long my son screamed every time he fed. I KNEW he was starving, but I couldn’t do anything about it. My body is different in many ways than the norm, I’ll detail that later, but one main way is that I’ve never felt the “waterfall” or “gushing” sensation of let down. Also…I barely leak. Add that to hyperlactation and you get engorgement. All the time.
The first time however, my boobs were massive. I’m talking Dolly Parton massive…but no pain. They were rock solid, my nipples were even swollen, but seriously – no pain.
By hour ten of constant screaming from my child, sobbing from me all day, regular phone calls from my husband checking in (and feeling helpless, poor guy) who had to go back to work, and refusing to have anyone at the house so I could finally figure this breast feeding thing out because I KNEW how beneficial and important it was to both me and my new child, I had tried everything I could think of, researched online and heard about. We tried the cradle hold (traditional breast feeding position), the football hold (exactly as it sounds – the baby is on your side like a football), on our side laying down…and at one point I was actually naked from the waist up, on all fours, with my boob in his face, praying that gravity would help him stay latched on and actually get food while tears streamed down my face and the feeling of utter failure and self hatred coursed through my veins.
Suddenly there was a knock on my door…and I was pissed, annoyed, and terrified that someone would ACTUALLY see me like this. I didn’t want to answer, but for some reason I did. I grabbed my screaming kid, threw a housecoat on backwards just to cover my naked self, and answered the door. Thank god for small miracles because Tanith, my downstairs neighbor who had a 5 month old said exactly this:
“Hi! I just wanted to see if there was anything…OH HUNNY!!! LET ME HELP YOU!”
She shoved me inside and I lost it. I blurted everything – every tiny stress and issue. Then, she did what someone (specifically my midwife, and/or lactation consultant) should have done BEFORE I gave birth…she showed me how to use my breast pump, explained different breast anomalies, and offered a nipple shield.
Dear. Lord. *rolls eyes and does a facepalm*
First and foremost – here’s the education part for some of you ladies – my son had a tongue tie at birth. It means the little piece of skin connecting your tongue to your jaw was too far down the front of the tongue, his was cut…but I’m still not convinced it was far enough. If your baby can’t stick their tongue out, they can’t latch correctly. If they don’t open their mouth wide, they won’t latch correctly. And if you have a slow start to your let down, your child (who has no fathomable idea what patience is) will flip the f*&k out and keep unlatching so the milk won’t release.
Tanith gave me her nipple shield (yes it was cleaned and sanitized) to use because she noticed these little things. The nipple shield looks like a clear mini sombrero that you literally put on your nipple before breast feeding. It forces the baby to open their mouth wider, and also helps with inverted nipples and a fast release. It is NOT recommended for everyone. Suddenly, my son was opening his mouth wide enough to get my nipple into his mouth. He was actually eating!!! I cried again. After a small while, my son passed out in my arms…finally full. But my boobs were still huge and rock hard.
Enter the breast pump. Mine was given to me and when I couldn’t figure out why there was no suction prior to birth (I was trying to start labor) and I didn’t think anything of it. Everyone told me “you won’t pump until he’s about 6 months anyway so don’t worry about it until then. It’s too much added stress.” Au contraire. That first night, AFTER my son had eaten his fill…I still pumped over 6 oz. I never truly appreciated that tiny amount (an ounce) until breast feeding came to play. Tanith figured out that the plug to give one side suction while closing off the other vacuum, wasn’t sealing. So we taped that puppy up and suddenly…relief.
But, the real reason I’m writing this, here’s my anomalies that no one tells you about:
My letdown is still not pleasant. I feel as though I’m getting a titty-twister EVERY TIME my milk comes in. Even 7 weeks later. The reason? Because my release is so fast that it’s like opening a trap door on a dam and having a wall on the other side. Most women begin to leak when they letdown. However, though I will drip…it ends there. So even my nipples can get engorged.
Because my release is SO fast, when my son begins to eat, if he isn’t latched correctly at first, I literally just deal with it for three minutes because if I unlatch him and try it again (like the books say), within seconds he is covered in milk. It’s all over my stomach, the pillow we’re using, my arm, and sometimes the couch. Seconds. In addition, sometimes I am literally drowning him, so he’ll pull away and breath like he just came up from the deep end of the pool. I use the nipple shield off and on now, especially in the morning, to help this flooding crisis.
I over produce, so I pump all the time. I know I will have to stop eventually and just suffer for a few days, however until he’s a pro at breast feeding, I will continue to pump. I’m not dumb about it – I don’t pump after he’s eaten, or the other side if he fell asleep on one side if it’s been less than four hours since he last ate. Oh. Right. My son is an expert sleeper. He got that from me. I can tell, even at 4 weeks (the first time he slept nearly 7 hours at night) that he would rather be starving in the morning, and soaked through in the butt, than wake up before he wants to. Most people are surprised…but then again, his mom showers at night, lays out her clothes, and pre-makes breakfast SOLELY so I can sleep longer. I think I started the trend of yoga pants and only mascara…because I valued that ten minutes of sleep more than looking good.
Anyway, hyperlactation, no leaking, and a sleeping champ is not a good combination. I try to co-sleep with my son as much as I can, usually on the couch after morning feedings. The other day, however, I decided after he ate on the left that I would just take a small nap with him instead of pumping first. BAD BAD STUPID move! When I woke up (3.5 hours later), my right boob was twice the size, rock hard and excruciating! It did not help that Little Man’s elbow was jabbing into it because he was fussing. I sat up with him, and immediately put him down in the boppy at my feet. I nearly screamed. Thank god my husband was up, and showered because he took him in to change his diaper. I nearly sobbed at the thought of holding my baby against my chest that whole 15 feet and back. It dawned on me that the last time he’d fed/I had pumped was well over 9 hours. Even my nipple was engorged. So much so…it was hard getting him to get latched at ALL. I blessed the coveted nipple shield yet again.
I told this story because that’s the next thing – engorgement. It means the milk is stuck in your boobs because you haven’t breast fed for too long, you have a clogged, duct or an infection. Here’s the rub…they can all lead to each other. If you have an infection, you can become engorged, but if you’re engorged you can get an infection. Awesome. Not. Hot packs (I made rice packs out of wash cloths and white rice that I use for EVERYTHING), hot showers and massaging all help. But they all hurt. They all suck. Because it can’t just be the warm soothing heat you put on your uterus for cramping…no no no. It has to be 1˚ below 3rd degree burns to help. And the massaging is like doing a deep tissue massage on a pulled muscle. But it IS worth it.
Even though it seems miserable, and there are issues…I am determined to breast feed as long as possible. It may be 6 months, but I’d love for it to be at least 14-20 months. The benefits far outweigh the issues. Besides, moms sacrifice right? We’ll wear heels that make us limp after a few hours, why not go though some boob issues to give my child the best start?