Thursday, September 2, 2010

Breastfeeding 102

So I got a little carried away the other day with this post. Well, maybe not carried away, but I forgot to finish the story...

I mentioned during my research online that one link led to another link that led to another link as these things typically happen, but I forgot to mention that the last link that resounded to me with a majority of the "symptoms" that Jax and I were having during feedings wasn't about over-production of milk.

Yeah, I know - it's a major thing to leave out, the real culprit that I was working with! What I happened upon was a few articles about forceful let-down during feedings. Whether you have too much milk or just the right amount, if there's a lot of pressure behind those let-downs during feeding, you can experience painful let-downs that can also be difficult for your baby to feed from. Your milk can come out with such a "gush" or "spray" that it can be hard for your baby to keep up with it all - the volume of milk is too much for him/her to swallow, suck and breathe all at the same time. It's a lot for a little guy or gal to learn how to do!

So to help with this, you have a few options. You can pump a little bit out before you actually start feeding your baby so that the let-down portion of the feeding is over with before you let him/her latch on. (Typically the let-down process will only last for a minute or so, at least that's how it is for me.) That option didn't thrill me, since when our little guy wants to eat, he wants to EAT NOW! I just couldn't see dragging out the pump, pumping for a few minutes and the whole time he's screaming and know? Especially during the midle of the night.

Another option is to allow your baby to latch onto your breast, and then simply remove him during the let-down process is over with and the volume of milk has reduced from a strong stream/spray to a normal volume. You can just express this milk into your burp rag or nearby towel if you have enough milk production to lose a minute or two. This is the option that I chose. Especially using the Medela nipple shields, they made it easy to see how fast the milk filled up the shield. So I would let him latch on and start feeding, then as soon as I felt the let-down process start, I pulled him off and caught the "overflow" into his burp rag. Yes, he cried while this happened, but luckily for me, my let-down process only lasted a minute or two. Once the volume slowed down, I would put him back on.

And since it was only on my left side, this option worked really well for me. The feeding times that I started on the right side, I wouldn't have to express during the let-down period, even when I switched to the left side. It was only necessary when I started on the left side. So this worked for us, and Jax got a lot better. A lot less fussy. He choked a lot less.

I also learned from my research that I was pumping too often. I was letting him feed, and then halfway between feedings, I would pump. That was a great and necessary thing when my milk was first coming in so that my milk supply/production got to the level that he needed for growth. But once the level was reached, pumping more frequently was only increasing my supply and he wasn't able to drain all that I was making during his feedings.

So that's another thing that I stopped doing. No more pumping between feedings. Simple. The really great news? Within two days my milk supply evened out, I was no longer in pain between feedings at night (when he would go past the 3 hour feeding mark) and we were better able to feed without fussing and choking by avoiding the let-down process.

And you know what? Once my milk supply evened out, the let-down process became manageable. For the last few days, I haven't had to take him off to avoid that minute or two. He's able to handle the flow of milk better now that there's not so much there for him to take in.

So see...I didn't really leave it all out, I just didn't finish the story. I'm still keeping the feeding journal, since we're still having spit up problems, but they're getting easier to deal with as I'm noticing patterns to that too through my journal.

The past two days he's been taking bottles of breastmilk only, to prepare him for starting day care next week when I won't be there to feed him myself. This is also to let me have a trial on pumping during the day while at work to see how I like it. He's been taking bottles (both breastmilk and formula) since birth, so I'm not really worried about making the transition between breastfeeding and bottle feeding...but I'm still my overly cautious self!

Did you have issues to deal with and/or learn about while you were breastfeeding? I'd love to hear about it!


Anonymous said...

Hang in there, girl! Breastfeeding is definately challenging - but so rewarding if you stick it out through the tough times! I've been pumping/working for 8 months now - I have a 10 month old little girl. Once you settle in to your pumping routine at work and you have stocked up a good amount of extra milk in your freezer - consider donating milk to the Mother's Milk Bank in Austin. I've donated 600 oz to help feed preemies in area hospitals. Check out their website. They are a great organization and provide a precious service to babies!

Anonymous said...

Another great resource for breastfeeding topics:

AmandaW said...

Awesome! Great job figuring all that out!