Breastfeeding Know-How

Hard-earned Knowledge

My last stint at breastfeeding with my 12th and final child lasted three years and I found myself loathe to wean my last "baby." My husband had to convince me that the time had come to stop nursing. By then I had the feeling that it was shame that just as I was getting really good at this, it was time to stop. It seemed a waste of hard-earned knowledge. I also felt that it was strange that what was meant to be a natural process had taken so much effort and so many years to perfect.

It was painful to wean that last child, and sometimes I still ache to think that I no longer have a little guy suckling at my breast, but lucky for me, as it turned out, my vast store of lactation knowledge has not gone to waste at all. Today, I am a grandmother of 6 children, three boys and three girls, and it seems that not a day goes by when one of my two married daughters doesn't call me at least once, for advice of one kind or another.

Just a week ago, my daughter called me and I could hear that she was feeling panicky. My grandson, at 6 weeks, would start to choke, pull away from the nipple, refuse to nurse any longer, and cry with hunger. I knew what this was. My daughter's milk supply was at the stage when sucking would trigger a strong "let-down" response, and the baby was reacting to the sudden strong gushes of milk pouring down his little throat.

I remembered this happening many times during my nursing career and I knew that this strong let-down reflex would settle within a couple of weeks. However, meantime, my grandson was feeling traumatized and going hungry. Not so good for him, or for my daughter, who was still feeling a bit emotional from being in the postpartum weeks.

I had a good idea that was based on a different breastfeeding problem I'd experienced: sore nipples. During a bout with sore nipples, I used to express my milk manually, just until I experienced the let-down reflex and then I'd put the baby to my breast. What this accomplished was the avoidance of the baby drawing hard on a breast that was not yet filled with milk, a painful experience when the nipples are injured.

In the case of my grandson, I thought that once the let-down had been accomplished, and the pins and needles sensation of the reflex had passed, the milk would settle in the breast, ensuring a more even, gentler flow of milk, less likely to overwhelm the baby.

Profound Gratification 

I advised my daughter that the minute the baby started making the peeping sounds that meant he was waking up for a feeding, she should stop whatever she was doing and express her milk until she let down. We talked it through a bit, I told her to stop as soon as the pins and needles feeling was over, and I left her to give it a try.

A few hours later, a very grateful daughter called to tell me she'd just experienced the best feeding she'd had in a week. The profound gratification I felt during this phone call stayed with me for days. It sure is nice to be appreciated.