Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Breastfeeding Issues: Hyperlactation

I was producing so much, I began to feel like one of the sea nymphs on the Fountain of Neptune.

I was blessed to have a fairly great breastfeeding experience with very few issues. My boy latched on within an hour of being born, all by himself too! He then quickly bulked up and was back at birth weight within a week. It all seemed to be going well that first month - no pain, no fussing, lots of weight gain... But right after he turned a month old we started having issues.

I began pumping soon after he was born for a couple of different reasons. First, for some odd reason, I envisioned myself being able to go to dinner with friends, or my husband and I going on weekly dates (ha!).  Second, I had horrifying thoughts of me going out and getting stuck in traffic (god forbid!) or even worse, something happening to me and so wanted to have plenty of milk stocked up in the freezer so my husband never having to worry about how to feed the baby.

I pumped between almost every feeding - mostly because, at the beginning, it took me a full day of pumping to get 4 ounces. It didn't seem to be increasing my supply but there also weren't any problems, so I continued with this pattern for a month.

Shortly after my husband returned home from his deployment, nursing sessions suddenly became very stressful. Baby G would latch on and moments later painfully rip away, fussing and sometimes screaming. This would continue on and off for the entire duration of the feeding. He would splutter, cough, and gag, and he often would pull away during let-down and get milk sprayed all over his face. I would scramble to get a burp rag to stop the flow while simultaneously holding a wriggling, whining baby. If I wasn't fast enough, milk would spray into his open mouth causing him to cough and splutter some more. I felt like the lactating sea nymph on the Fountain of Neptune in Bologna. (See the header photo).

He would also be really gassy and would burp repeatedly after, and even during, the feeding. On occasion, I would have to burp him for half an hour or longer after he nursed to get a burp to come up and get him to calm down. Then, he would spit up what appeared to be half of what he ate and then only an hour later, he'd be acting hungry again.  It seemed that only at night would he just latch on and eat peacefully. Daytime feedings were a burping, fussing, painful, messy affair.

I thought surely this fussy period would only last a few days, but when 2 weeks rolled around, I began thinking of getting help. I started first by referring to the many breastfeeding books I had. I looked in the index for "fussing" and "crying" to no avail. I finally found something in the last one I checked. It led me to a paragraph on Hyperlactation Syndrome.

"Typically these babies nurse frequently from both breasts and are gaining more than an ounce per day. Their mothers often have overabundant milk supplies."

Most people worry about not producing enough milk and think that producing a lot of milk would be a good thing! I didn't think it was possible that I had an overabundant supply - it didn't seem like I was getting that much when pumping. I researched hyperlactation and found that it can often be brought on by over-pumping. I thought perhaps it was possible that I was producing more milk than my boy needed - I did have engorged breasts if I didn't nurse soon enough and I leaked through my nursing pads frequently. Though I doubted that hyperlactation was the cause of my problems, I decided to stop pumping for a few days to see if anything changed.

And, miracle of miracles... all of our problems were magically gone. We went back to having peaceful nursing sessions with minimal burping and spitting up and no fussiness. I had a happy baby once again! I may not have been officially diagnosed with hyperlactation syndrome, but it's a pretty safe bet, considering that once I stopped pumping, we had no more issues. (Supply is supposed to meet demand after all... and I guess with all that pumping I was demanding quite a lot!)

I still pump on occasion. I try to have daddy give G a bottle every evening, so I have to pump during that time in order to have a bottle ready for the next day. But I don't pump between every feeding anymore! It's interesting to think that I was making too much milk - that something others may think of as a good thing caused me (and the baby!) so many tears. I'm so thankful that I figured out the problem when I did and didn't suffer through for another month or two. This may also help explain why my little 7 pound, 10 ounce boy became a 90th percentile baby... ;)

Did you or do you know anyone who suffered from hyperlacation syndrome?

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