Lessons in Lactation: Think Milk

Here were are three months and change in and it's easy street. I'm still severely sleep deprived and live through some days in a hypnogogic state, but this experience has overall been incomparably better than with my first son. The first time round, everything that could go wrong went wrong, with two bouts of mastitis in the first five weeks because we were unaware that our son was unable to suckle properly and needed a snip. The situation was so stygian that I had two lactation consultants tell me they had never seen a more distressing situation and even encouraged me to quit. Some may think that when lactation consultants tell you to quit, that you would take that path, but it made me even more determined. I was nursing, bottle feeding and then pumping every two and half hours - and that's from the start of a feeding, so for two months my motto was simply "think milk". It crushed me that I was producing only 3 oz, sometimes even less (now I pump 9-10 oz). It certainly didn't make me feel better that the reason was the fact that my son had tongue-tie which we failed to fix until it was too late. We were also too ready to supplement with formula for we were cautioned our son's kidneys may not be working well and didn't want to risk not having him well hydrated (thankfully, his kidneys were and are fine but we didn't know this until we performed a renal scan around 11 weeks - itself a stressful process for the whole family). While I nursed my first son for 16 months and only stopped because I was well into my second trimester with my second, I still regret that I made so many mistakes in the beginning and ruined my supply so that I had to supplement. At times I feel guilty that I can provide my second son what I couldn't provide my first. For this time, it's a milk bonanza. The freezer is stocked and I produce way more than I need to for my son - now I well understand how a woman can become a wet nurse. It just keeps on coming! I'm usually uncomfortable between feedings because he doesn't take enough, albeit he is growing monstrously.

I remain incredulous at how much milk I'm producing and how fast my let down is. My son now does only single sided feedings and they are very quick - he's a real slurper. He fusses because I'm feeding him too much, which invariably leads to what a friend of mine termed "spilly" - a euphemism I've whole heartedly adopted. Sometimes I panic when he fusses that my supply has decreased but when I squeeze, I spurt his face. The poor lad. I've done this too many times. My husband rolls his eyes. Stop cramming food into that porker! The fear from my previous experience still lingers and sometimes bursts forth, so....we have spilly.

I think my ruin came as a slap from the universe. I had always thought that women that didn't nurse did so after nursing came down the line in their triage. As has occurred numerous times in life, when I've passed judgement on others, I've been smacked right into the same situation to show me how myopic I was. Some women can't nurse  effectively - it's not simply about wanting a good night's sleep and not having your breasts hurt. It's not even about convenience - for it's far more convenient at times to nurse, particularly if like mine, your child can take a bottle of your pumped milk when you are not there and if you don't mind nursing in public (it's your and your baby's right!)- with formula feeding, even those that partly rely on it, you simply can't be without formula. At least you always have milk at hand when your own body produces it. I learnt the hard way and on my own skin that it takes two to tango - for no matter how much milk you have, if your baby doesn't take it and your body doesn't get the signal to make it, you will lose it. While it's still a sore point for me, I am grateful for the difficulty, for it developed me as a person. I understood not only how hard it could be and how naive my prior judgement was, but my brutal experience in trying to nurse exclusively gave me an inkling into what a woman could feel when she couldn't nurse at all or when she couldn't conceive. It made me more empathetic - for it's one thing to imagine something and another to live through it.


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