There was no way to manage my milk production in the first six weeks postpartum, with both my babies. I think my body needed that time to calibrate the needs of my kids. Incidentally, that is also how long it took for my oversupply issue, which I did not have with my first child, to subside. But until then, I had to come up with a few creative, somewhat surprising ways to control my leaky, breastfeeding boobs. Trust me when I say I did not want to walk around with perpetual wet spots on my shirt.
I had trusted my body to nurture my gestating infant for nine months, so I thought I could trust it to provide an appropriate amount of breast milk once the baby was born. I didn’t foresee having any breastfeeding problems. I do consider myself lucky, though. I know so many women would like to breastfeed, but are unable to. So at least my personal wish to nurse my kids was able to come true, even if it was a messy experience.
And that’s an important lesson of new motherhood: messiness doesn’t indicate anything is wrong. It just means we have to have more towels on hand, and that we should, maybe, lower our expectations. There are no neatness awards for nursing moms.
So if you need some tips on how to control the milk flow, here are some surprising ways I learned to manage my leaky boobs:
I bought cases of nursing pads. I had never stuffed my bra before and now that I was the biggest cup size I had ever been, I started shoving padding inside my shirt to help avoid the inevitable leakage.
I found sports bras a little more comfortable than nursing bras and would mostly wear them when I was home, where I knew I wouldn't be self-conscious about my giant uniboob. The compressive nature worked wonders in safeguarding my outer layers from my leaky boobs.
If I tried (operative word here) to nurse on a schedule, I was able to sort of condition my body to produce milk at certain times, and, more importantly, not at others. This sort of worked, but not until I had entered my fifth trimester and returned to work full-time. I had no choice but to get on a strict schedule, nursing the baby before I left for the office, pumping twice a day, and then nursing again in the evening.
Before I went back to work, when my baby was 12-weeks-old, I had to start trying to pump or nurse on a schedule to “train” my body to lactate at certain times. But being home with a baby on maternity leave, my days were not very regimented. Setting a timer for every three hours as a cue to feed the kid, or to pump, was a good goal. I just was never able to follow through, since my kid went through periods of cluster feeding, and I found that responding to her cries by bringing her to my breast calmed us both down, even if it had only been an hour since her last feeding.
The scent of her newborn head would practically trigger a geyser of milk to shoot out of me. While I did keep a picture of her in my breast pump bag, to help get me in the feeding mindset, I had to avoid her while she was napping, lest I’d spring a leak when it wasn’t time to nurse.
I’m a stomach sleeper and having engorged boobs really got in my way. But if I was able to find a face-down position that didn’t totally squash my chest, but just compressed it somewhat, it helped to stave off the milk flow during its most inconvenient, middle-of-the-night times.
I’m a terrible procrastinator. That trait really worked against me when I felt my breasts filling with milk and I thought I had a little while before I had to either express or get my kid to nurse.
I couldn’t start doing this until the baby was about 3-months-old and we had established a tiny bit of a rhythm with sleeping, at night, and feeding. Slowly, I’d try to stretch out the amount of time between feedings, especially at night. Not only was this giving me the illusion that she was sleeping better at night (she really wasn’t) but it was helping to train my body to not erupt in milk showers as frequently.
I only had to be told once (by a good friend, thankfully), that I was leaking through my shirt to start paying attention to my boobs in the early days of nursing. From that point on, I was constantly looking down at my shirt, hoping not to find any wet spots. Can’t be too vigilant, right? I also learned to just wear blazers or cardigans at the office and never just walk around with one layer covering my top half.
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