Saturday, October 6, 2012

The rogue agent

I have a problem.  A personal problem. And so this blog is about to get really personal because I need some serious help, so I'm going to have to tell you all about it.

Bertha has gone rogue.

(Big) Bertha is my left boob.

My "extra" pumping has been, until this point, something I have done in order to build up a giant (and I mean giant) supply of extra breast milk and also something I've done to continue burning as many calories as humanly possible (hey, I love my ice cream).  Samuel has slept through almost every single night since he was about 6 weeks old.  He is now 6 1/2 months old.  I have not slept through the night since sometime during my pregnancy with Samuel because, since he started sleeping through the night, I've been awakened by painful boobs (mostly my left) and gotten up to pump.  I did this with Matthew, too, to build up my supply. So every night since Samuel was 6 weeks old I've pumped and typically I would get I'd say maybe 10-11 ounces of milk in my night pumping. Samuel drinks 7.5 oz bottles. Sometimes I've gone through spells where I'd get 15 ounces of milk, and I would like to tell you that 9 or 10 of those ounces were pumped from Bertha alone. I said that at 6 months I was going to stop the middle of the night pumping. I have no idea how to do this.

With Matthew, around 6 months, he started waking up consistently in the night to eat.  And I'd feed him and he'd always eat way less than the 10 ounces I had been pumping, so for a month or so he did this and my supply decreased and I wasn't in pain because he drinking, but just not that much.   Then, when he started sleeping again, so did I and it was pretty nice.

But this is not happening now. Samuel woke up in the night for about like 4-5 days and I fed him and those nights I didn't pump, and I thought we had a nice streak going that would end my pumping drama.  But then he started sleeping again and I was still waking up in pain.  My supply had definitely gone down but was still there. I was pumping maybe 8 ounces instead of like 10, and Bertha was putting out 5-6. But then I started working nights at the ER (just 3 nights in a row) and so I had to pump in the middle of the night. And now I've been done with nights for like a week or so, but for some reason, the last couple of days my supply has just skyrocketed. I am trying to force myself to stay in bed and not wake up in the middle of the night, but like 5:30 rolls around (which has been my wake up time the last few days) and I am in so much pain I absolutely have to pump. It's like, I had no idea I had bread tissue up by my collar bone. Seriously. And I've gotten like 15 ounces, with 9 coming from Bertha. And after I pump, oh my gosh, the relief.  My aunt Linda once said that pumping that much milk after you're that full is better than sex.  So, so, true.

But...this cannot continue. Because I only have one more day of waking up at 5:30 for work (Thank you, God) and then I will be sleeping until like 7 and I'm not going to be happy when Bertha wakes me at 5:00 or 5:30.

So what do I do? How do I tame this beast? I need to sleep in the middle of the night. But my schedule is so erratic. It changes weekly, if not, monthly, with each rotation and so, therefore, does my pumping schedule, so that's probably not good for tying to decrease things.  Do I just pump until I'm not in pain? (Because today, that was like 6 ounces out of Bertha alone until I was not in pain) or do I set an alarm at like 2 or 3, before I'm bursting, and wake up and pump just like 3 ounces out of Bertha? And how long do I do all this for? How long is it going to take to tame this?  Do I need a stepwise program here to decrease my addiction, here? I'm not sure I can go cold turkey. I'd be in so much pain that'd I'd be awake for hours in the night thinking about my pain when getting up to pump and going back to bed takes 20 minutes to 30 minutes. Not sure how long it would take to decrease things, though, if I went cold turkey.

Has anyone ever dealt with this before? Things just worked so seemlessly with Matthew, but with Matthew I was nursing more often than I was pumping and now that's not really the case with my schedule. I think the pump has caused my problems, which have not really been problems until I decided I really, really, need to sleep through the night.

So, nursing friends, and particularly those who pump a lot (I think I even have some whose kids never took the breast and they exclusively pumped...) fix my problem. Please.


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  2. Check -- she's a board certified lactation consultant and her advice is excellent. Since your situation is specific to overnights and not an oversupply problem in general, you might want to try using her techniques for weaning on just the overnight feeding:

  3. I used to get 11 ounces easy twice a day in 20 minutes when I was working. When I would wait too long it was more like 15-16, 11 or so out of my Bertha! It hurrrrts! I feel your pain.

    Don't set an alarm to get up early or you will end up increasing your supply. Just pump only as long as you need to feel comfortable again, as is don't empty that breast. If your right side doesn't need it, then don't pump that side. Figure out how many minutes it takes to pump enough to feel comfortable again. So say it's 10 minutes. So the next night, only pump 9 minutes. Next night or two just pump 8 minutes, and just continue to step it down till you can sleep through. It will probably take a week or two. Your erratic schedule is going to be problematic though...On the positive side, I bet you have quite a freezer stash! Kudos to you for continuing to breast feed.

    Let me know if I can help you out further!

  4. Also, I didn't read the specific link posted above, but Kellymom is a great resource if you don't know about it already.

  5. I agree with what freeze said. That is what I did wihen John was little. It will take a while as you decrease a minute each night but it does work tomtrain your body. Also, pump right before you go to bed if you don't already and that will help tomdecrease middlemofmthe night/morningmwake ups!

  6. I've never really pumped, but my sister in law did exclusively. I'll have to ask her how she handled that!

    I will say, though, that I FEEL YOUR PAIN. I've breastfed all mine well past a year, and with this last one, I wasn't paying attention to how much I'd been nursing him. I thought we were "weaning" because he was like 13 months old and drinking milk and eating solid foods and all that.

    Then we went on a kid-free 4 day vacation. And I didn't think to bring a pump. Oh, the agony. The second day I was so engorged just wearing a shirt hurt! Have you ever had to hand express your breastmilk into a hotel bathroom sink to find relief? Oh, man. But, I survived.

    And apparently I still have some milk left so he has continued to breastfeed since we've returned. Mostly only at night if he's really fussy and can't be consoled and I am dead tired. I can't be sure he's actually getting anything now, especially since we had to leave him suddenly with the grandparents a few weeks ago and I think I've almost dried up. But like you, my left one is still going. (Is it a right-handed thing that we put the baby to that one more often?!) At least I'm no longer engorged and I think the weaning is almost over. It was SO much easier with the first two. I think. I can't remember. It all runs together, now... Hope you figure out -- this all sounds like great advice. And I doubly recommend KellyMom as a resource!