Making the decision to feed your baby breast milk, in whatever way and for whatever length of time you choose, is amazing. But, every breastfeeding journey is different, and none are perfect. In this ‘Notes From A New Breastfeeding Mom,’ first-time mother Joy shares her experiences in her own words. Her journey, like other moms’, has its flaws and challenges, but it is a real glimpse into the perfectly imperfect experience of breastfeeding. Read Joy’s post Oh, I’ll Cry Over Spilled Milk here.
Part 3: Why Does My Body Think I Had Twins?
I’ve always been “blessed” in the chest department. While many friends see this as an advantage, I’ve always seen it as a disadvantage. I can’t wear certain clothes. I’m always worrying about cleavage. And I can’t just pick up any bra…oh no, I have to go to the boutique shop and spend $150 a pop.
So needless to say, when friends found out I was pregnant there were many comments about how much larger righty and lefty would get.
Once my milk came in, the girls did not disappoint. They got even bigger, and my milk supply was fully stocked.
Within a week, I was producing more milk than my son Grant was eating. A month in, I was doubling the amount he required. I was pumping enough for twins.
My first thought was: “This is great. I can stock up now and pump less later.” I was thrilled my boobs were finally doing something positive in my life.
Then like a cold rush of arctic air, a chill engulfed my entire body – followed by a wave of heat, body aches, a throbbing head and a peculiar red streak on ole righty.
I had mastitis.
For you lucky ones who have no clue what mastitis is, let me fill you in on the fun. Mastitis is an infection in the breast brought on by engorgement, clogged milk duct or incomplete breast emptying. You get flu-like symptoms, extreme tenderness, hardening of the breast and the worst case of fatigue you’ll ever experience.
Luckily, a little antibiotics, a lot of rest, nine large glasses of water a day, hot showers, breast massages and ice packs did the trick. I was up and running again within a couple days.
Life went on for about four weeks – no flare-ups, no worries. Grant even slept six straight, glorious hours one night. It was amazing. I walked a little taller and with more pep in my step that morning. That’s until my one breast started to harden in spots, and I wasn’t producing the normal amount of milk.
My fear was coming true. I had another clogged milk duct.
I knew if I didn’t deal with it quickly, my arch nemesis mastitis would be ready to pounce. I jumped into attack mode – hot shower, massage, pump, ice, glasses of water, repeat, repeat, repeat.
By early evening, I felt I dodged the bullet. But I was crushed. I knew it was Grant sleeping through the night that caused the clogged duct. As great as the sleep was, not emptying my breasts for over six hours isn’t something one can do when your milk supply runneth over. It was a sad, sad evening knowing that while my son could now sleep six hours straight, I couldn’t.
So I went back to pumping. I pumped seven times a day until both of the girls were empty. I was determined I was not going to get clogged again. I went around the house singing, “All I do is pump, pump, pump no matter what. Got milk on my mind I can never get enough.” (Yes, that’s a rip off of DJ Khaled’s song.)
Sadly, it was less than a week…another clog – the worst yet. I could actually feel and see the individual milk glands under my skin. To touch my breast was beyond painful. I was so backed up, and my entire boob was lumpy.
Next morning…clog in the other breast.
Yet still, I went on. I spent an entire weekend dedicated to treating my chest. My shirt was off more than it was on, and I got pretty handsy with the girls. And it worked!
For 36 hours.
I felt like the universe kept kicking me in the boob. No matter what I did, how much or how long I pumped, I was having issues.
After calling my doctor, my next call was to a lactation consultant. In a matter of moments, I had an appointment for later in the week. I took my antibiotics, dropped Grant off at daycare and slept the rest of the day.
By the time I got to my appointment, my infection was gone. But as I explained to the consultant, this appointment was all about creating strategies for preventing clogs and infections in the future so I could continue to breastfeed and pump…because honestly at that point, I was ready to cut ties.
What I learned in my 90-minute session was that I was in a vicious cycle. I would pump. Empty my breast. And repeat six more times a day. However, by emptying my breast, I was signaling to my body that I needed to produce more milk. More milk means more to empty. If I didn’t empty my breast, I got a clogged duct.
It felt like a lose-lose situation…until we developed the strategy. Instead of completely emptying the “milk store,” the plan was for me to pump until I had just a little milk left on the fictional shelf.
I was to spend a couple days keeping track of how much I pump each session and then start pumping until I had just a little less than my previous pumps. Do it for a couple weeks, let my body get used to it and do it again.
The goal is to convince my body I don’t need enough milk to feed twins and to reduce infections, clogged ducts and a fierce amount of frustration. The ultimate goal is to be able to continue to provide breast milk for Grant without sacrificing my health or losing my mind.
I can’t tell you how this ends because it’s still a work in progress. I’m still reducing, and I’m still treating clogged ducts on what seems like a weekly basis.
But I’m still going…and at the end of the day, that’s what really matters. That, and providing Grant with breast milk for as long as I can.
To read more posts from Joy and to follow along her breastfeeding journey, click here.