Today, I am so happy to share a part of my mothering journey that I don’t talk about on Intentionally Well. My breastfeeding journey with my children. I am a mom to three awesome kids, ages 9, 7, and 4. And I nursed each of them into toddlerhood. I unexpectedly became passionate about breastfeeding after my oldest was born.
I knew nothing about breastfeeding before having children, and quality information was hard to find nearly ten years ago when I was embarking on this journey. The one place I continually found helpful, research backed information was KellyMom. Also, I was so lucky to find a wonderful IBCLC (international board certified lactation consultant), who not only helped me with my breastmilk oversupply but also mentored me.
Producing too much breastmilk sounds like a dream, especially if you are struggling at the other end of the spectrum. But having an oversupply comes with a whole host of problems and challenges for both mom and baby. And goodness, I experienced all of them with all three of my babies.
All the crying! Poor babies and poor mama. When mom has too much milk, her breasts become so engorged that it leads to an over active letdown. Milk flows faster than baby can keep up. This causes baby to take in a lot of air while feeding leading to extensive gas pains.
This, honestly, is a big reason why I did not enjoy the newborn stage with my babies. They would hurt and cry so much, and it was really hard. Every night for the first twelve weeks, they would cry for about four hours because of gas pains. I did have a trick of letting down into a burp cloth until the pressure of the milk flow eased, but that only helped so much. I just had to wait this phase out. Once my babies grew bigger and stronger, they eventually were able to handle the fast flow. The bonus later on was they became fast nursers.
Mastitis is an inflammation of breast tissue that often involves infection and mainly effects breastfeeding women. Mastitis symptoms feel like the flu. Mastitis often occurs from having plugged milk ducts or when milk is not flowing well through the ducts. When you have an oversupply, plugged milk ducts and mastitis are common.
With my first child, I only had it twice. However, with my next two babies, I got mastitis within one week of giving birth. Furthermore, it became recurrent. Basically, I would get mastitis, take the needed antibiotics, have symptoms improve, then have symptoms return within a week.
This went on for months. I was on so many medications trying to effectively clear the infection. (And yes, you can continue to breastfeed while on most antibiotics) Eventually, I had to have my milk cultured in a lab to find the right medication. I remember my OB with my middle child gave me something like ten refills once we found the right antibiotics, so I didn’t have to keep calling her. Bless.
Was breastfeeding worth it? For me, yes! Absolutely. Were there times I thought about giving up? Also, yes. Honestly, the big thing that kept me going when I wanted to give up was the fact that I would still have all this milk to deal with regardless if my baby was drinking it or not. Breastfeeding is a marathon, and we all have moments where we want to throw in the towel. It’s normal to have those feelings, because breastfeeding is hard work. If you are having those feelings today, they are real and valid.
Keeping the big picture in mind is what kept me going in the hard moments. There is so much research on the long term benefits of breastfeeding to both mama and baby. Furthermore, most of my challenges with oversupply were resolved after about six months. By then, my babies were big enough to handle my fast flow, and my supply was better regulated to what they actually needed. Once I reached this stage, my breastfeeding journey became pretty non eventful. I continued to nurse until my children were around two years old.
I learned a lot during my combined six total years of breastfeeding. I have been privileged enough to be able to help other mothers along the way as well. Here are some tips if you think you have an oversupply of breastmilk.
First, please see an IBCLC to confirm your suspicions. It is normal to feel like you have a lot of milk and engorgement the first few weeks after your milk comes in. Most of the time, you body can adjust on its own. Second, spend some time learning how to relieve gas pains for your baby. I, personally, loved the Windi. Lastly, taking a lecithin supplement every day is an effective way to prevent plugged milk ducts(consult with your IBCLC before starting any supplement).
I hope my breastfeeding experience dealing with oversupply encouraged you today. I’d love for you to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below and share this post with your friends.