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Learning by Leaking: Ups and downs of breastfeeding even when milk arrives

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The trope around breastfeeding is that it’s “so intuitive,” but it isn’t always. Between all the elements and contraptions around breastfeeding this stuff get's pretty complicated even if your milk supply shows up. Here are some anecdotes from my breastfeeding days for all you fellow producers who still have some totally legit wtf moments:    

Leaky Boob 

In Week One I remember waking up in a puddle of milk... several times. Finally I mentioned it to mom friend Aviva. “Yeah, you need to wear a bra and nursing pads to bed. You got some in the postpartum care kit I gave you” Ohhhhh. I was to be one of the lucky ones with milk coming in. Like, lots. Little did I know the first time I slipped those babies in my bra that I would wear nursing pads for the next two years of my life.  

(our favourite Google image search result for 'leaky boobs' mra mra)

Pick a Side

Right after my son was born, he was fine eating from one side, but we just couldn’t get the hang of it on the other. For three days, every nurse on duty in the Mother-Baby-Unit tried to help, but to no avail. My right boob was rock-hard and my baby was hungry, so the work-around was to expel into a sterile cup, and feed my newborn with a syringe. Oh, the glory of such a natural process right?

About a week later, and following a visit from a Public Health nurse (they're awesome and free, call them), we had gotten the hang of it and my poor right boob had been relieved. 

All-You-Can-Eat All.The.Time

Like most newborns, my son ate all the time. And he cluster-fed on and off for I can’t remember how long. A month? Two? All I know is that it was always in the evening, lasted about three hours, and made me feel really crabby. I don’t know if cluster-feeding was an occurrence within Millenial-babies (ugh, milennials), but my mother and mother-in-law had no idea what I was talking about. “Well you never did that. I’ve never even heard of it, but I’m sure it’s fine!” Great, thanks. 

Econ101: Managing Supply and Demand

My son figured out the whole sleeping thing very quickly, and by six weeks, he was pretty much sleeping through the night (!!) This amazing development came with one slight caveat: no more night-feed so he was literally starving before bed and right when he woke up. My body just never learned to keep up. So for six months, I woke up at 4am to pump, so that my son could have a nightly bottle. It worked out well once we figured that out. Bonus: We always had extra milk on-hand if I ever ventured out of the house, sans-bébé.

Dump the Crappy Pump

Looking back, I should have invested in a good breast-pump. What I used was an electric hand-me-down single-pump, and it did the trick, but very slowly. It took about 45 minutes to complete the job. Honestly, I hadn’t thought about breast-pumps at all during my ninth-month mom-prep. Turns out, it was one of my essentials. Another essential – a “milk-catcher” – a small container that attached to my free boob while I breast-fed, and caught all the rogue milk that flowed during letdown. I had never even heard of such a thing, before a friend with the same challenge mentioned their existence.    

Ok to Cry Over Spilled Milk 

That 4am milk was liquid gold, and if ever something happened to it, I would freeeeak. A couple times, I knocked it over on the night stand. Once, my husband didn’t tighten the bottle cap and poured it all over our son. And once, I was so tired, instead of putting the bottle into the fridge, I straight-up dumped it down the sink. And then I cried. (That was a bad day). If you feel an urge to protect your milk with your life I totally feel you - and most other moms will too. 

Workin' and Breastfeedin' Mom

In September 2016, I went back to work. My son was one and we were down to one feed a day – right before bedtime. My intention was to take a stand and cut him off around that time, but I didn’t want to affect his excellent sleep-schedule, and there was something kind of nice about putting him to bed every night for our special time. He’d always ask for milk, so I just kept feeding him, and we went on like this for another year. 

The Last Time

By the summer of 2017, I didn’t feel badly about taking an occasional night off from breast-feeding, for the purpose of my social life, and he seemed okay with it. It was happening slowly, but my not-so-little boy was getting closer to fully weening. One night in late September of this year, I asked him if he would rather cuddle or have milk. “Cuddle mummy,” he said, and we’ve never looked back.

My two years of breastfeeding felt kind of long, but whatevs, you know? Through this whole saga I have learned to really go with the 'flow'. It’s just what we did, and though it was rough sometimes, it felt right. Breastfeeding, formula-feeding, on a sched, on-demand – do what works for you and your kid.

And try not to stress – you’ll both figure out this whole feeding thing eventually. You'll also figure out ending feeding thing when it's time (and not a day sooner). 

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