17 January 2008

milk goddess

I have laughingly told you of my new “F cups” and touted how far they came to make that grade. I have mentioned to you that I make the milk to go with it. I was so not kidding. And, since this is my world these days, I want to tell you about being a milk goddess. No, really. I AM a milk goddess.

The morning after Baby J and I came home from the hospital, we had to go back to have his bilirubin counts checked (that story, you’ve already heard). My milk had come in the day before, and that’s all it takes for my poor little ladies to get completely engorged (thus finding themselves a size F ½ with all the pain to go with it). I dread this stage every time. Not only could I barely find clothes to fit my still jellied belly much less the now big boobies, the boobies HURT. Oh joy.

While at the lab, which is in the same section of the hospital as labor and delivery, I stopped into the tiny corner that houses a shop for women—breast feeding accessories and wigs for the ladies undergoing chemo as well as essential oils and a few other items. They carry Bravado bras, which I swear by, and they had lovely cold/hot gel packs to take down the incessant swelling (I bought a set and used them for several days!).

It was during the visit to this little shop that I began chatting with the lady working there, a lactation consultant. I was describing to her how excessively I make milk, that my babies cannot reach the hind milk and can never empty one side in a feeding (ultimately, yes, it just takes a bit of time and lots of work to achieve it). We discussed the many aspects of my milk supply. How horribly engorged I get, that I must pump it off or leak it out in order for my baby to latch on. I told her of letting down on both sides at the same time, using washcloths as nursing pads, and soaking t-shirts to the point of wringing them out. I exaggerate not, friends. All of this is true. Indeed, I had a pile (and a rather large pile at that) of burp cloths, receiving blankets, and wash cloths that I was using to soak up the incessant flow of milk in about 24 hour’s time. See, if it’s pumped off, the body reads it as needing to reproduce it and even increase it, just as with a baby eating it. However, if it leaks out (read: aforementioned cloths tucked into open bra as milk drips and spews forth), it will simply help it to decompress. (Let me put it this way: I pumped 3 ounces - a newborn’s serving size - just to relieve the pressure enough to let Baby J latch on, and I was still terribly engorged and full and after he had his fill.)

This is about when the lady said, “You’re what we call a milk goddess”. I seriously thought she was making it up, complimenting my production. She made a suggestion that I try block nursing—nurse exclusively on one side for 3 or 4 of hours whenever the baby wants, then switch to the other side for the same number of hours. She said one woman she knew had to do 6 hours. If I tried this, I should notice a milk reduction within 48 hours. I laughed and said I’d believe it when I saw it. This was vaguely familiar because I’d tried this with Miss C after reading about it. I don’t recall that drastic of slowing the flow then, but figured I could try again. Anything to speed up the relief.

She then gave me her card and said, “If you need any help or have any questions, feel free to call us. And be sure you tell us you’re a milk goddess because the rules are different for you.” Oh. She really meant it when she said I was a milk goddess. I started to feel pretty proud of myself! She also suggested I’d be a good candidate for donating to a milk bank. I’ve always loved that idea, but we’ll see how practical it is in time.

So, I went home and began trying the block nursing. I started nursing on one side only during 6 hours blocks of time (I figured that made the most sense because he’d easily wait three hours to nurse sometimes, thus defeating the intent), allowing the other to get very painfully full, thus telling it to slow production, then switching to the other side. It has been a week since I started this. A WEEK. Is there a reduction of milk? Absolutely. I still leak and spew; that will last six months, no lie. But, I can actually tell Baby J reaches the hind milk now. How can I tell? By the fact that 4-6 hours into a “shift”, I’m no longer massively engorged. That, and his diapers are no longer dark little poops…instead, they are the right color if not yet seedy enough. Definite improvement!

But they still hurt. And I don’t mean hurting from that first week’s worth of learning to nurse the new baby and teach him to latch on and crying out when he gets it wrong or can’t because it’s just too stinkin’ full; I mean the entire breast is sore from being engorged. I actually took Motrin last night in an effort to ease that just a bit! I still do get very full long before I’m due to switch sides since they both let down simultaneously.

All that said, I’m blessed and grateful. I have friends who cannot produce milk at all or only a little bit for a few months. It’s a battle and a struggle for them. I would much rather work to reduce my milk supply than fight to keep it up. So, instead of resentful, I am thankful for this overabundance. In fact, when Miss C was a baby, I pumped a small cooler full of milk for a friend to use with her baby. It was a gift I loved being able to give.

2 comments:

Karen said...

Whoa.

That's all I can say.

I applaud you. I am in awe.

and I really will get those diapers weighed and out the door by tomorrow.

SuperMom said...

I had that same problem!! In fact, only one of my babies ever nursed on both sides in one feeding.

- A Fellow Milk Goddess