Going the distance

I don’t have a problem nursing babies in public, but sometimes I do find myself nursing out in the van. It’s usually because we’ve been running errands and baby is just not going to wait until I get things situated while we’re out and about. I’ve had a few impatient nursers. Little B was one of those.

Once, we were out in the van following a diaper blow out of epic proportions. It’s been 8 years but I still remember how he used to blow out the diapers. It wasn’t pretty and was one of the big reasons I quickly became a cloth diaper drop out. Little B was at the age where he liked to look and flash a smile exposing my 38 Fs beyond a little dangle.

It was on this occasion that I found myself in the very back of the van nursing him. He unlatched. And my milk squirted out like it was participating in some sort of Olympic distance event hitting the front window! I’m sure if the window hadn’t been in the way, we could have gone another 6 feet.

It’s about this point I started to question my milk supply! Not that I had too little milk, but maybe I had too much!

When I think of women with too much milk, I think of my mother-in-law. She told the story of how when she was nursing, she used to hold a bottle on the side the baby wasn’t nursing on to collect the milk as it poured out of her breast. She could catch a full 8 ounces on the other side! She also told me how she couldn’t even be around another baby in public while she was nursing. If that baby cried, her milk would let down and she’d be completely drenched.

That was certainly not my problem! But it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that milk squirting a good 6 feet straight out of nipples that pointed straight down wasn’t exactly normal.

This problem is actually more common than we’re lead to believe. Most moms worry about not having enough milk, but it’s far more likely baby is fussing at the breast because mom’s milk is coming out like water from a fire hose. Having held on to a fire hose on full blast, I can tell you, it’s not an easy task! I can just imagine that a little baby trying to keep up with a hose on full blast is not going to be happy. The tricky part for some moms is that the milk only comes out full speed when the baby is attached.

Overactive letdown is a very common hiccup in the breastfeeding relationship. Babies are usually fussy and pull off the breast frequently, gulp, gassy, explosive diapers (nice to know that now!), and even experience symptoms of reflux!

The cure? Many mothers like myself have had great success with block nursing. That is we only offer one side at a time unless baby seems really interested. With one of my darlings, I could only switch breasts every third feeding.

As soon as you feel let down, pull the baby off the breast (have a cloth handy!) until the sensation stops. Then put the baby back on.

Gravity is not your friend. Try lying down to nurse.

Also, sometimes what mom is eating can make overactive letdown worse. I thought I didn’t have enough milk so I was eating things to boost my supply. I’ve since discovered that I can’t even eat oatmeal cookies unless I want to drown my babies. It’s very tragic because I love oatmeal cookies.

Overactive letdown usually resolves itself as baby gets bigger and better able to handle the flow of milk.  Even though my Little Miss is 16 months old, she still gets irritated if my milk lets down first. My Terrorist Toddler (who is also nursing a bit) has discovered that if she is “helpful” with breast compressions while Little Miss is nursing, Little Miss will finish much sooner, pull off and not go back on because the milk came too fast! Sibling rivalry at it’s finest!


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Z
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 02:49:34

    Thank you for this. I’ve been tandem nursing for almost two years (4yo & 2yo) They both decided (sadly) to stop just after their new brother arrived and for the first time, I’ve been dealing with oversupply and a newborn. I had a lot of milk with my first, but it was never as much volume or flow rate as it is now. I spray across the room on the side NOT being nursed when I let down. My little bub is currently 5 weeks old and has gone from 10lbs to almost 14lbs already, but still chokes and fusses on the breast. I mostly do side-lying because he prefers it and I didn’t know why until now. I’ll also try catching the milk on the other side in a bottle instead of just using compression then changing my shirt (and sometimes drippy pants) several times a day. I’m already walking that line of pumping to relieve pressure without increasing my supply, battling blocked ducts and currently fighting off pre-mastitis.


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