Breastfeeding and Managing Oversupply

Sunday, January 10, 2016
Happy Monday! I'm excited to be starting to get back into the swing of things with blogging and personal training. I've missed both!

Everything inside our home is slowly falling into place. Sometimes it does feel like my hands are overwhelmingly full, but that's all just a part of it. The newborn stage is so short and time is always passing. While it's intensely insane, it's also intensely beautiful, constantly reminding me of the intimate, fragile, place I traveled to during labor, to bring Zoe to us. My heart feels wide open all the time.

Aria is transitioning amazingly.

She has embraced Zoe as a part of the family and has not shown even one bit of jealousy, or lack of understanding of all of these big changes. She has handled it with such grace.

Breastfeeding has been a new experience this time around. I'm excited to be writing this post and to share our trials, errors and successes. Breastfeeding is one of the parts of new motherhood that can be truly challenging. And while you're in it, it can make a huge difference to know you aren't alone.

Breastfeeding with Aria was an emotional struggle for us. You can read about it here and here.

With Aria it started with oversupply issues combined with her having bad reflux. Aria didn't have a great latch to begin with, and with the overwhelming flow of milk, she really struggled every time we tried to nurse. And it always ended with her projectile vomiting everywhere. Eventually she started going on nursing strikes. First it was just for a feeding. Then she started going on strike for entire days.

The day I decided to pump her a bottle changed everything for us. Rather than her grasping for air between cries and gulps of milk, she ate peacefully and happily, and we both enjoyed the moment. It changed everything. That day I started to pump exclusively.

Looking back, had I known more, prepared more for breastfeeding and had more support, it may have been possible for us to work through it and ultimately be successful. However, there's no way to know.
Perhaps not though. Maybe Aria and I were meant to take the exclusive pumping route.

This time around has been it's own experience. The first two weeks were the biggest struggle. Zoe was learning and I was learning. I have an oversupply again, and we are constantly managing that. But the key is that we are managing.

The first two days after Zoe's birth we seemed to fall into sync with nursing. Zoe had a good latch and things just seemed to be working beautifully.

Then my milk came in. When the milk comes in, the breast tissue changes and the feeling of the breast to the baby changes. Thats when we started to struggle. Zoe couldn't latch suddenly, the milk was too much for her to handle, and she cried a lot..which in turn meant I cried a lot.

We struggled hard for about 2 weeks. It was very stressful. I was a postpartum, emotional mess, and my amazing doula was at my beckon call. Literally. I called and texted her numerous times a day. She was incredible. She was always able to calm me down and always had new tips for me to try, and they always worked! Even on Christmas she was there for me. I really owe her.

When Zoe was ten days old we had a terribly rough day. She had a long nursing session at 8am and then wouldn't eat for the rest of the day. I spent the day doing skin to skin with her, trying to reestablish the breastfeeding relationship that we were just starting to develop. It felt eerily familiar to the day Aria went on strike.
I pulled out and prepped all of my pumping stuff from Aria, rejoined the Exclusively Pumping groups on facebook, and started to mentally prepare for the long road ahead.
After a lot of tears, a pumped bottle that Zoe refused to eat, and a number of calls to my doula and midwife...out of nowhere, at 4pm she started nursing again. And we haven't skipped a beat.

We still struggle with my oversupply, I've had a round of mastitis, and we're still learning how to utilize alternative positions, but we have enough tools in our breastfeeding tool box that we're well on our way. She hasn't skipped any feedings since day ten.

Lets talk more about oversupply. Oversupply can be very stressful when you and your baby are building your breastfeeding relationship.
In the first few weeks after birth, while the milk supply is being established, many women will experience oversupply. Women can have oversupply after any number of birth. Often times it actually increases with subsequent births.

These are some of the things that have worked and continue to work for us.

1. Stay calm. The combination of the postpartum hormones and your desire to be successful nursing can be a cocktail for stress, and for feeling extremely overwhelmed. Especially when you're concerned with your baby eating enough or eating at all.
Prep your "toolbox" ahead of time. Think about what things are calming to you and have them ready to fire when you find yourself getting to that place.

This is my personal favorite tool to use when I need to calm down. I place my open hand across my chest, palm on my sternum and fingers just touching my collarbone, and then the other hand on top. I press down gently, to encourage feeling of grounding and start to take deep breaths. After a few breaths I feel more calm and balanced.

2. Don't try to nurse when your baby is too worked up. Yes, when babies get hungry, they tend to fuss until you feed them. However, pay close attention to how upset your baby is. It is possible for him/her to get too upset to nurse. With our oversupply struggles, this happened to us a lot those first couple of weeks. It still happens now during witching hour.

Calm your baby down before trying to nurse. Some bouncing, skin to skin or swaddling can be helpful in these instances. Once your baby has calmed down, then try to latch them again.

3. Hand express. You can use a warm wash cloth, the shower, or I used these, to warm up your breasts and encourage let down. Once your milk has let down, hand express some of the milk into a towel, until it is no longer spraying and is more manageable for your baby. Then try latching again.

Honestly, this really works to slow the flow of your milk. I used to think that there was no way hand expressing would make a difference with as much milk as I had, but it really does work very well.

4. Warm bath. Run a warm bath and get in with your baby. If you and baby are worked up from the stress of trying to nurse with oversupply, the bath can be a great option. This will relax you as well as your baby, and is a perfect environment to promote skin to skin bonding and nursing. And as a bonus, you can simply hand express excess milk without having to worry about soaking your clothes and everything else around you.

5. When nursing, if your baby is getting very overwhelmed with the amount of milk, use your hand to pinch (hard) and hold down, around your areola (top and bottom), to slow down the milk flow. This isn't comfortable, but it worked wonders for us those first few days when my milk was out of control.

6. After latching your baby, recline back, resting on some pillows, and nurse with your baby laying on top of you. Another variation of position is to nurse your baby in a way that he/she is sitting upright. Both of these positions can make the milk easier to handle because it isn't flowing directly down his/her throat.

7. One of the really tough days my midwife said to me "You're exhausted. Lay down, nurse on your side, and fall asleep. Both of you." I hand expressed and then layed down to nurse on my side. Zoe ate and we fell asleep. It wasn't a solution to managing my oversupply, but we both got some much needed rest.

8. Let your baby come to the breast, rather than pushing it into his/her mouth. All babies are different. Some respond best when you push the nipple into their mouth. It helps them get the best latch. I tried this with Zoe and we were terribly unsuccessful. She would get very upset and eventually, too upset to nurse. I think this had something to do with how intensely my milk pushed into her mouth during letdown.
I had to learn that Zoe prefers to have me place my breast or nipple right at her mouth, just touching a bit, and she pulls it into her mouth, herself.

The support from my doula and midwife were essential in helping Zoe and I to establish a strong foundation to build from. I can't stress enough that breastfeeding success is all about support! The right support from someone who is invested in you and truly cares about you and your baby, is invaluable!

What was your breastfeeding expereince?

What was the most helpful piece of advice you received? 

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