When I decided to try and breastfeed my daughter, I had every intention of breastfeeding and pumping for at least the first year of her life. To be honest, I was so concerned about the possibility of not having enough milk than the thought of having an oversupply didn’t once enter my mind. I never even worried about it. Instead, I focused on making milk round the clock so that she'd never have to go without. I never stopped to think about how I'd feel about my oversupply, which pretty much explains why I had no idea how to handle having too much milk.
I’m not sure if the reason I had an oversupply was due to the Mother’s Milk tea, fenugreek, or the bowls of oatmeal I ate to boost milk production every single morning, or if it was simply my body’s doing. As a first-time mom, I didn’t recognize any of the signs to indicate I had an oversupply. But all I knew was that my body was making so much milk that I was embarrassed by it. Breastfeeding in public was stress-inducing, not merely because I was worried I'd possibly expose my bare breast to strangers, but because my nipples were like sprinklers. My daughter typically ended up covered in milk during the few seconds it took me to get her to latch on. Milk came at her from every which way so all she had to do was open her mouth and wait for it.
Aside from my nipples acting like super soakers, I once had to make an emergency stop while out running errands to buy cabbage to help slow my milk flow. Because I'd just fed my daughter, there was I no way I was going to wake her from a nape and force her to eat again, so I pulled into my grocery parking lot and asked my mom to run inside and buy green cabbage leaves – to place on my breasts. There in the parking lot, with cabbage leaves in hand, I cut holes in two leaves and placed them over my breasts hoping that the discomfort would dissipate enough so I could continue with my errands. Can you imagine trying to navigate life with cabbage covering your boobs?
Having an oversupply also meant being hyper aware of my body and over time, it also meant being able anticipate potential leakage to avoid embarrassing and uncomfortable situations. Some very memorable memories include having to interrupt our day to pump twice while at Disneyland, taking a break from wine tasting in Temecula to hand pump in the car, and once, I had to excuse myself during a long meeting to sneak into a bathroom stall to expel milk into a wad of toilet paper.
Breastfeeding moms understand the tightness and pressure that happens in your breasts after not breastfeeding for a few hours. And this feeling was almost constant for me, even when I pumped at work. The only way to avoid the discomfort was by breastfeeding my daughter on demand, or by pumping, or by sneaking away into the bathroom to drain some milk from my breast into a wad of toilet paper.
My forceful letdown often resulted in my daughter coughing and choking on my milk, which sometimes resulted in her spitting up milk all over me. I never left the house without packing an extra shirt. And the constant pressure in my breasts and leakage meant I always had to wear double nursing pads, feed my daughter whenever she seemed hungry, and carry a hand pump in my baby bag just in case I needed to get some milk out quickly.
On occasions when I tried to ignore the discomfort I felt, and go without pumping for an entire day, I ended up with mastitis, which was absolutely terrible. According to the Mayo Clinic, mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue that causes breast pain, swelling, warmth, and redness, and may include pain while breastfeeding, fever, and feeling ill. It was like having the flu plus added discomfort in my boobs. It hurt to breastfeed but that was the only way to rid myself of the infection.
Having an oversupply also meant being hyper aware of my body and over time, it also meant being able anticipate potential leakage to avoid embarrassing and uncomfortable situations. Some very memorable memories include having to interrupt our day to pump twice while at Disneyland, taking a break from wine tasting in Temecula to hand pump in the car, and once, I had to excuse myself during a long meeting to sneak into a bathroom stall to expel milk into a wad of toilet paper to save myself the embarrassment of possibly leaking through my shirt in front of my coworkers.
Feeling like I was always on the verge of a huge leak was absolutely mortifying. Though I wanted to breastfeed my daughter (and I'm thankful that I could), it was still embarrassing to always have to worry about the what ifs of breastfeeding in public.