Kingston, WA, USA
From New Beginnings, Vol. 25 No. 6, 2008-09, pp. 18-19
My son, Finnegan, was born after a relatively smooth birth. In accordance with my plan, I tried to nurse him right away. He seemed to be breastfeeding, and the lactation consultant at the hospital thought all was well, sending us off after teaching me to express by hand. I was convinced my baby already had teeth, but I figured it would all work itself out.
Once home, my vision of serene nursing sessions was replaced by the reality of a poor and painful latch. It was a rocky first week with a well-meaning family member introducing a pacifier -- it did its job all too well, causing nipple confusion and serious engorgement. I finally called my sister-in-law, Amy, who was a La Leche League Leader but lived a few states away. She put me in touch with Katie, a LLL Leader nearby.
The next day, following a frenzied night of hand-expressing my milk and feeding Finn by syringe with my husband's help, I went over to Katie's house. She showed me the finer points of positioning, and Finn finally nursed effectively (albeit with a nipple shield). I returned home feeling thoroughly relaxed and more confident.
We gradually weaned ourselves from the nipple shield, and I was able to enjoy comfortable nursing sessions. At about three months old, though, Finn would start screaming when I laid him across my lap to nurse. I called Amy and she said, "That baby sounds scared!" I brought up my concern at an LLL meeting, and a few other mothers guessed it was an overactive let-down. I had never heard about this before, but knew they were right. There was simply too much milk for Finn to keep up with. I pumped a few times to try to make it easier for him by using a bottle and a less-full breast. He would have nothing to do with the bottle, but I learned something else: I had an over-abundant supply. I could pump six ounces in three minutes!
This is where our story turns a little less serious. Finnegan was very patient as I developed a few necessary strategies to stem the flow a bit. I would coax him with my pinky finger, quickly latch him on until let-down occurred, then pull him off and fill a cup with the initial powerful spray. It would only take a single squeeze, and I would just wait a moment until it tapered off. I would then latch Finn back on, and he would happily drink his fill. My dog would lap up the expressed milk, and perhaps that's why he's still healthy at 14 years old!
Soon enough Finn would pull off on his own when he sensed a let-down and turn his head away to avert the flood. It made him giggle to get squirted on the cheek, and he would sometimes press down on my nipple as though he were turning off a light switch. I ended up with soaked sticky trousers most of the time and dried droplets of milk on nearby furniture, which I still look at with fond memories.
One time I found myself without a lid for my expressing cup while waiting for an airplane, surrounded by carpeting and a silk plant. Finn had fallen asleep after nursing, and the only thing I could think to do was to drink the excess breast milk. I wonder if its health properties benefited me. Once on the airplane, a kind flight attendant brought me a glass of water. I promptly quenched my thirst then used the same cup to express before nursing Finn. The flight attendant did not skip a beat as she smiled and collected my full cup.
By the time Finnegan was about six months old I could stop wearing nursing pads, and he grew stronger as my milk regulated itself. Finn remained an avid nursling but at two years old I stopped nursing him during the day to try to get pregnant again (my period hadn't returned until that point).
Our nursing relationship lasted until I was already a few months pregnant and experiencing soreness when I nursed him, which was only to help him fall asleep at night. He started to reach thirstily for his sippy cup of water we kept by the bed, confirming my suspicions. One night while he was latched on I asked, "Is there mummy milk?" He pulled off long enough to say, "Mummy milk all gone," then latched right back on.
Finn was 30 months old and finally sleeping longer than three hours at a stretch. He had developed an annoying habit of scratching at my moles as he nursed, I was pregnant with no plans to tandem nurse, and so I made the decision to fully wean him. A couple of days later my husband asked if we should set up his big boy bed, and Finn happily agreed. He knew it would mean the end of nursing, but he willingly made his choice.
My second baby is due right around Finn's third birthday. Finn will cuddle up on my chest and say, "Mummy milk in there. Mummy milk is for next baby." The other day he said, "I smell mummy milk. I want some mummy milk." Perhaps this time he'll be the one to empty the expressing cup I fill! Either way, I know he was given as much of my milk as he could ever want: in our case, almost too much of a very good thing.