A Nursing Mother's Breasts Don't Always Know How To Keep Up
A house with a newborn can be a crazy, busy place. When the infant first comes home, your complete focus is on that baby's care -- and other things like your social life don't rate at all. If showers barely rate, how can a social life hope for attention?Three months after our second-born, Justin, arrived, the time had come for me to reclaim a little piece of my life, outside my role as a mother. An invitation to two parties seemed like a wonderful reintroduction to adult life. A Sunday brunch, followed by an elegant afternoon tea. How lovely! This was more adult company than I had had in months!
In hindsight, it does seem like an ambitious plan, even for a confident, experienced nursing mom. It was also a lot of social activity for him. Cute as a button and good-natured, he was the center of attention at both parties. Who could resist that smile and those big, blue eyes? His round cheeks, at both ends, got pinched -- and he soaked in the love.
One party was joy for this milk-drunk child, but a second was too much. He grew tired of the attention and did as all overwhelmed babies have done before him. He sought comfort at my breast. He nursed and nursed and nursed and nursed, and then when he was done, he nursed some more.
Monday arrived and Justin caught up on his sleep. Now babies like routine, and it turns out that breasts like routine too. On Sunday, they had been given the signal by Justin that he was really, really hungry. Monday, there was a different signal. Frankly, they were confused.
Milk? Less milk? More milk? What do we do? What do we do?
By Tuesday, for a deceptive few hours, things seemed to be back to normal. Justin nursed on schedule, but before too long, the whole thing wasn't working: Justin was crying and cranky. And, my breasts were surprisingly full. The milk didn't seem to have anywhere to go and Justin couldn't be satisfied.
Now, even confident nursing-pro moms can panic and I am no exception. I pulled out all my books. I scrounged for the training notes. I called friends and applied every breastfeeding technique that I had ever heard of, from hot compresses and even hotter showers, to cabbage leaves and the dreaded nipple manipulation.
By Wednesday morning, my breasts were the size of two large melons and as a hard as granite. The right one, Justin's personal favorite, seemed to stand at attention. Was it an infection? Was the baby sick? Had the milk turned to shakes that were stuck in the tubes? The quick call to the experts at a hotline confirmed the obvious: It was time to get some serious help! So, Justin and I headed off to the clinic, trying desperately to keep up with my breasts.
At the clinic, we took our seats among the many new moms who were learning how to nurse for the first time. They gently held what seemed, in comparison, to be tiny newborns. They tentatively uncovered their breasts and the lactation consultant took them through the basics. It was a calm, reassuring atmosphere -- the ideal place to nourish and bond with your child.
Then, there was us.
The lactation consultant took one look at my super-sized breasts. The "tut-tut-tut" that she muttered gave me some clue that this was serious business. The verdict was clear.
"You have blocked ducts. The white specks here are not an infection. They are dried milk. All we have to do it 'flick' this off and the milk will start flowing. Let me get my 'tool' to take care of this."
Ours, apparently, was a case of exceptional educational value. "Would you mind if I call in some of the consultants-in-training?" asked the consultant. "We haven't had a case like this in a long time."
"Sure, that's fine with me," I replied. (Anything to get those breasts flowing again was fine by me.)
One person in a lab coat entered this already crowded room.
Then a second. and a third..
There were others lined up outside who couldn't get in. And the parents of newborns all gathered around, anxious to learn a trick or two that might help down the road. I tried not to be embarrassed. Desperation, I've discovered, can often be a handy mask for embarrassment.
The consultant took her "tool," and flicked at the dry milk spot - and it started. Milk didn't leak out. It didn't flow out. It didn't flush out.
It shot out.
It shot out across the room, across the line of consultants, over the tired mothers and the anxious fathers. It sprayed the filing cabinets on the other side of the room, and it kept spraying for 20 minutes.
Justin was called into action. What better way to use breast milk than to give it to the hungry child?
Now breast milk is a good thing, but there can also be too much of a good thing. He sputtered. He spat and he couldn't keep up. Instead, we taped a bottle liner on each breast and watched three bottles of milk spray from my breasts. Then, and only then, was Justin ready to take up the challenge and finish the job he had started.
If he grows up with a fear of fountains, I should be able to explain it to