Thursday, January 17, 2013

Breastfeeding: An Oversupply

Last week I talked about my experiences with breastfeeding. Since then I've received so much feedback and encouragement from folks here and on Facebook + Instagram. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. This mama thing is hard work and it helps to be able to talk about it and know that I'm not completely crazy! Only somewhat. *wink*

In case you missed it in my last Bits + Pieces, it's been a pretty rough week around here. Just to recap we saw Benjamin's pediatrician last Friday regarding his rash and tummy troubles. I've since cut out obvious dairy like milk and cheese. I'm not sure if that was the culprit but his rash has definitely started to clear up. The doctor said that I have an oversupply and as it turns out, that is often accompanied by forceful (and painful) letdown. Basically, too much breast milk is coming in entirely too fast and it isn't good for anyone. This also explains why, even when I think Ben's latch is good, I'm still sore, tender, and cracked. He's been clamping down to try to reduce the flow. The pediatrician suggested that I start nursing on my back and to stop pumping entirely.

We somehow survived the weekend but Monday night was absolutely terrible. We struggled a lot with getting Benjamin to latch on and stay that way once I slid down onto my back. I was in such an incredible amount of pain from engorgement that I was up all night crying hysterically while Benjamin slept. It wasn't pretty. Tuesday morning was my 6 week (although technically 7 week) postpartum visit with my OB and as soon as he entered the room I was a bucket of tears. I told him what the pediatrician had said and about how we were struggling. He suggested we go see my Lactation Consultant straight away after my appointment. My mom was with me and the baby and the three of us went to Moms 2 Moms which happens to be on Tuesday (and Friday) mornings. I told her what's been happening and again what the doctor had told me to do. She told me that if I found myself engorged to pump for only 2 minutes to relieve some of the pressure and foremilk so that Benjamin is still getting the good hindmilk. I felt encouraged. But then Tuesday night was as bad as the previous. I felt total despair. There is no other word for it.

Yesterday morning I was beyond exhausted and in terrible pain. I decided to reach out to my Instagram friends, many whom are nursing mothers, and I am so glad I did. I told them what was going on and said that it had gotten to the point where I had an aversion to nurse. I felt bad but I would hold him several seconds knowing he needed to latch on but too afraid to try. I knew things could not continue like this. I needed to do something about it. The advice and encouragement poured in and I couldn't be more thankful. I put Benjamin's swing in the bathroom and took a nice, hot shower, and then pumped for two minutes (for the first time since Friday) before nursing him. Afterward I immediately used cold packs to somewhat numb and inhibit my letdown.

Per the suggestion of others we picked up a Medela Contact Nipple Shield to use during nursing as well as Medela SoftShells. Someone suggested the use of coconut oil instead of lanolin which I had been using pretty fanatically. I looked up "coconut oil for cracked nipples" and came across this blog post. This wasn't the first time I'd come across coconut oil as a natural remedy for something so I thought it was worth a shot.

The last 24 hours have renewed me. They've certainly saved me from throwing in the proverbial breastfeeding towel. I cautiously celebrated mini successes yesterday and all throughout last night. I can see my nipples beginning to heal. *cue angels singing* It still takes Benjamin a couple of tries to latch on properly but the shields are making things infinitely better for the both of us. He's nursing longer and I'm much more comfortable. I'm really praying that this is the answer for us. ♥