With my first child, I started to experience undersupply shortly before it was safe for her to start transition to cow’s milk. She was 11 months old and I was producing about one feeding’s worth short of milk for her a day, so I needed to supplement with formula for a month before we introduced cow’s milk. So while I didn’t have undersupply with my second child, I had oversupply, and a lot of guilt about it. Though I breastfed my children for over a total of four years, it was hard to feel I was ever “winning” at it, thanks to my undersupply, and then oversupply, issues.
I felt guilty, first for not making enough, and then for making too much. It’s easy to see everything that’s going wrong in the earliest days of motherhood, since it’s all so new. I was charting new territory every day, even with my second baby (after all, this was the first time I had more than one kid). Thankfully, my insurance covered a visit from a lactation consultant, who assured me everything going on was totally normal, because there is no “normal” when it comes to unique sets of breastfeeding moms and babies. With her encouragement, suggestion to use a nipple shield (which, actually, didn’t help me but it could help someone else), and her confidence that my baby was perfectly fine, I was able to tamp down the guilt.
The cons of breastfeeding have always been outweighed by the pros, in my case. But I do not speak for all women who struggle with nursing issues, that's for sure. And my reasons for feeling guilty about having oversupply were unique to me. But maybe a few other moms share these:
Knowing that other women were anxious about not making enough milk for the babies, while I had a ton of it pouring out of me (and into towels), really killed me. I was literally throwing away food, which I was sopping up as it missed my baby’s mouth because there was too much of it at once. If I could have controlled the stream, I would have, and bottled the excess. But my boobs had terrible aim.
Instead of feeling at least relieved that there was enough milk for baby, I focused on the difficulty of having oversupply. From the mess of milk spewing everywhere with the painfully forceful letdown, to my child getting hammered in the face with white streams that made him sputter, I was totally seeing oversupply for all its inconveniences, and not for the gift it provided so I never had to worry about making enough for my kid.
Though having oversupply meant my son would always have enough breast milk, it also meant that delivering it to him was challenging. He choked on the jetstream of milk that shot out of my boob and into his mouth. He got shot in the face with milk. He got soaked with it when I couldn’t shove a towel between me and him in time. Luckily, he remembers none of it.
Because I had experienced undersupply with my first child, I started feeling really guilty that I was producing enough (and more than enough) for my second child. I felt like my first kid got cheated, despite the issues my oversupply was causing us both. In hindsight, I realized my guilt was totally illogical. After all, both my children were fed, and I’m totally on board with the idea that fed is best… no matter what the method.
I did not enjoy anticipating the pain of my overactive letdown. I did not look forward to cleaning up the milk that got everywhere. I did not like watching my son sputter as milk poured over him before I could maneuver a rag over my spouting breast. I did not like breastfeeding during these six weeks when my oversupply was in full effect.
Thankfully, about a month and a half after his birth, my body found its supply rhythm, better matching his demand, and the milk baths ceased. Finally, I could breastfeed without a bunch of towels at the ready.
When I was experiencing oversupply, I hadn’t known anyone in a similar situation. It just wasn’t talked about. There seemed to be plenty of forums for breastfeeding moms to discuss their undersupply issues. I had been one of them with my first child. But oversupply wasn't discussed as often, which compounded my feelings of guilt. If no one else was complaining about having too much milk, what made me think it was OK for me to?
Part of the reason why I breastfed both my children for two years each was because our nursing sessions were when I could really be with them. As a working parent, the opportunity to settle into a peaceful moment of parenting was rare; it seemed like I was always rushing to get them ready for daycare, or rushing to get them home after daycare to get fed, bathed, and put to bed. Cuddling them during a breastfeeding session meant so much to me. They were calm, sated, and mostly still, and that is when I could enjoy them the most.
But with my oversupply, and the messy gymnastics I had to employ each time I nursed my son, it made that bonding time with him more stressful than relaxing.
I had a hard time taking obstacles in stride as a new mom. There was always something to make me feel like a failure, and oversupply was just the latest catalyst in my journey as a mom learning to be a mom. Though it didn’t last long, those six weeks dealing with oversupply definitely knocked my self-confidence down a few pegs. But getting to the other side of the ordeal, with a well-fed, healthy baby, proved that neither of us would be broken by these small snags. It hurt, it was frustrating, it felt endless, but I got through it because I was determined to. I never thought oversupply would test me, but I’m glad it did because it has helped prepare me for all the other things that inevitably were going to trip me up as a parent.
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