Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
Updated January 2016
Lainie Pascall, Livermore, CA, USA
When I was 24 weeks pregnant, I woke up one morning with sticky stains on my nightgown. “Did you sneeze? That looks like snot!” my husband said. My breasts were leaking colostrum already.
When I went to my local La Leche League meeting to ask if what I was experiencing was normal, one of the mothers remarked, “That’s not uncommon, but, wow, you’re going to be a super producer. Don’t be surprised if you have a lot of milk.” She was right.
The night my daughter was two days old and sleeping in her bassinet, next to my husband, I woke up with a start; my breasts felt hot and heavy. As soon as I leaned forward, milk started leaking and spraying all over the bed.
Over the next few weeks, my milk supply grew and grew. Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly produce more milk, my daughter went through her six-week growth spurt and jumped from the 51st to the 92nd percentile for weight. She wasn’t the only one who was growing—I went up another cup size.
I love breastfeeding my baby, but our feeding sessions have always been stressful for both of us. In addition to having a huge volume of milk, I also have a forceful let-down. Imagine trying to sip from a fire hose that is blasting water down your throat. That’s her daily experience at the breast.
I started “block nursing” (nursing on only one breast for multiple feedings) to try to lessen the amount of milk I was making. Weeks passed and nothing changed, except I was engorged most of the time and when I would finally switch the baby to the other breast, she would sputter and choke at each let-down.
“It’s a good problem to have too much milk. I desperately wish I made more,” one mama confided in me after an LLL meeting. “Why don’t you pump and donate some of it?”
Most of the literature recommends against pumping, as emptying the breast signals that it should make even more milk. However, I started pumping just twice a day for a short burst: once in the morning after my daughter woke up for the day and was full from her early feed and once in the evening before her fussy time, so she could then suck for comfort without drowning in milk. The first morning I pumped, I got nine ounces from both breasts. This was after my daughter had already nursed.
Within a week, I’d made my first donation of almost 50 ounces to a mama with low supply issues who had an underweight son. Over the next two months, I made one-time donations to a pregnant woman who had had a double mastectomy and to a woman who had adopted her daughter. Now, I pump specifically for a friend with low supply issues.
To my relief, my milk supply has stabilized. Nursing my daughter is now less stressful and more relaxing for both of us. She no longer chokes during each let-down, and my breasts don’t get engorged any more.
I know that eventually my milk supply will taper off when my daughter is older, but for now, I’ve learned to embrace what I have and be grateful that I can share my abundance.