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Starting Over

Karen McNeil
Deep Gap, North Carolina, USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 11 No. 2, March-April 1994, p. 43

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time

For most nursing mothers, the thought of unexpectedly losing their milk never crosses their minds. For others it may be their worst nightmare. For me it became a reality, at least for a short time. The worst part of my ordeal was not understanding what was happening to me and my baby, or why. This is my story, the story of giving up a precious relationship too soon, then miraculously regaining it.

My moment of loss came during my son's seventh month. It was a lazy afternoon and I sat down to nurse. Having always felt sensations I was surprised when, after a few moments of my son's suckling, my milk did not let down. With the help of many patient and knowledgeable La Leche League Leaders, I later pieced together all the reasons for this seemingly sudden breakdown.

I concluded that my let-down problems were the result of a nighttime "sleeping experiment" I tried at the urging of my son's pediatrician. My son, at seven months, awoke to nurse five to six times each night. My pediatrician suggested that I force him to learn to sleep through the night by ignoring his cries. What the doctor didn't know, nor did I realize, was that my son did the bulk of his nursing during the night. He was overwhelmed by my strong milk ejection reflex during the day, and despite wanting the milk, often refused to nurse. After two nights of not nursing, my body responded with a drastic reduction in milk production. Therefore, on the third afternoon, I didn't feel my usual let-down sensations and I panicked. The stress over my perceived "lost milk" only exacerbated the problem. I later learned that what I had experienced that day was an anxiety attack.

My local Leaders made suggestions that helped to get nursing back on track. It was like a miracle to me that I could put away all the bottles, nipples, and formula that my son and I had been reluctantly dealing with for several days.

Since that time, I have completely changed the way I relate to my son. For the first seven months of his life, he was breastfed, but not "breast nurtured." Now I began to really watch his cues. We slept together, bathed together, and napped together. Over the next four months, he completely lost all signs of reluctance to nurse and usually embraced nursing and the comforts that it brought him.

Now, I have a happy twenty-two-month-old who still nurses. Most nursings are for comfort and calming, but a few each day are for the quenching of hunger and thirst. I have continued to experience the kind of attacks that began over a year ago when my milk supply dropped so dramatically. La Leche League Leaders have helped me to preserve my nursing relationship with my baby while slowly, with the help of a sympathetic therapist (who happens to be a nursing mother), I learn to control these attacks.

Breastfeeding has been the most intimate, selfless, loving experience I have ever had. Some fears do remain: fear of the loss of this relationship, and fear of what lies ahead for us after this precious stage of life is over. But I know that we will find our way together. We have become a true nursing couple, "in sync" with each other, and that will see us through all the transitions ahead. I now know not only how to breastfeed my baby, but how to nurture and to mother my growing child as well. I believe completely in the advantages of nursing and thanks to La Leche League, I will now be able to experience them all with my beautiful, healthy, happy, nursing toddler.

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