Thursday, February 7, 2008

The twins--not identical after all

Someone in my household is suffering from a severe case of nip*ple confusion. It's not Eggbert. She has a very clear philosophy regarding nip*ples, which can be summed up as "Gimme NOW!" Silicone or skin, it doesn't matter. Every nip*ple is a wanted nipple. I feel rather guilty about what an easy time we've had of the whole breast/bottle issue, and give 100% of the credit to Eggbert's voracious appetite. She's small, people, but she eats like a big girl.

I'm not actually sure if I'm the one suffering from confusion, or if my nip*ples themselves are confused. I think everyone would have been 100% happy if I were a stay-at-home mom. However, I have started back to work part-time (remember, the Egg has a stay-at-home dad, so somebody's got to bring home the bacon) two weeks ago, which has given the pump a central role in my daily routine. I've managed not to have to pump at work yet, but that means that I have to pump first thing in the morning, and then again right when I get home from work. Eggbert usually can manage with just one 4 oz bottle during the four-hour period that I'm at the office, but occasionally has two, so we have to have two ready, just in case. Anyway, every morning, when I stagger out of bed, place a milk-drunk Eggbert (who has been feeding off and on for the last hour or so) in her crib (while Eggbert has no interest whatsoever in sleeping in her crib at night, she doesn't mind at all hanging out in there for a little while in the morning), grab a cup of coffee, and sit down to pump.

Did I tell you that I have a new pump? After my initial misadventures with the Med*ela Mini-Electric* (pain, bruised nipples, and very little milk, the trifecta of pumping), my sister got fed up with my whining and got me a Pump in Style** for Christmas. I also followed the recommendations of two brilliant commenters and got a bigger size of breast shield. Clouds parted. Angels sang. Not only did pumping no longer hurt, but it actually resulted in milk. Amazing!

The only snag is that every time I pump, while a fountain of milk gushes forth mightily from my right breast, my left breast refuses to yield anything for a good long time, and then FINALLY relents by producing a slow trickle, that drip drip drips into the bottle, producing a total of about 1-1.5 oz (the record to date is 2.5 oz, but that only happened once) in the time that it takes the right to produce 4-5 oz. I suppose this isn't actually a problem, since between the two, they're producing enough for the Egg, for which I am tremendously grateful, but why on earth the disparity? This may sound like a weird place for vanity, but I've always been pretty happy about my boobs. By all accounts they're a good size and shape, and I have always thought of them as symmetrical. However, while they still look the same, their behavior is so different that I just don't know what to make of it. Is the right actually producing 3-5 times as much as the left? If so, why? I make every effort to put the baby to each breast in turn, and obviously they both get the same amount of pumping, so how can the one be getting so much more stimulation than the other? Also, the baby seems equally happy with both, and feeds for the same amount of time at each, which I wouldn't have expected if the left was under-performing so dramatically. Or alternatively, do they just have very different opinions about the pump? Could it be that my left is very choosy, and prefers to only give up the goods for the baby, while my left is of looser morals, and will give it up for anyone that asks?

Does any of this actually matter? Probably not. As long as the baby is happy and healthy, I hardly see uneven pumping to be an actual problem. However, I do worry a bit that taking more out of the right every day will tend to reinforce any asymmetry in production that already exists, especially when I go back to work full time, and am pumping a lot more. And would that be a problem? I guess not, but it might make me look kind of funny.

Tell me the truth, dear readers (if anyone is still reading, given that I'm so bad about posting these days), am I the only one? Any tips for getting the left one a little more enthusiastic about the pump?

*Why didn't I buy a better pump in the first place? Only the Swing and the Mini-Electric are available in Seoul, and the Swing is the equivalent of $250, which is a lot to pay for a sub-par single pump. The Mini-Electric was about $150, which is still very steep, but more reasonable, given that I had it in mind that I might have to upgrade later in the US.

**I've heard rumors that the Symphony is even better, but I tell you that compared with the Mini-Electric, the Pump in Style is an embarrassment of riches.


Rachel Inbar said...

I think one side is usually easier to pump from than the other. To even it out though, it might be worth feeding her more from the side it's harder to pump from.

I have the Medela, but I didn't have problems with it... Nomi, however, wouldn't take a bottle (at all, ever) so I didn't pump for her almost at all (except the few times I tried to bottlefeed her & ended up throwing out the milk.

I'm glad to finally hear about someone who's not having trouble breastfeeding - there are so many less-than-optimal experiences I've been reading about lately.

Lut C. said...

Apparantly, it's normal for one side to produce more than the other.

hadjare said...

While one breast may pump more milk than the other -- and indeed may produce a little more that doesn't necessarily mean that it's that disparate. I have the same problem -- I think the reason is that the right has a slower letdown reflex.

But breast compressions usually correct this problem -- I just have to compress the right one a little more. I could try to describe it to you but you could also just google breast compressions (aka squeezing your boobs close to your chest on and off for seven seconds). Breast compression in combination with the pump gets a TON more milk out than just letting the pump do the work.

Marie-Baguette said...

funny, I have the exact same problem. I can get 5oz on one side and 1oz from the other. I don't have huge boobs (36C) so you can totally tell they are lopsided. Pumping has not made the problem worse. I am thinking of following advice and pump every 2 hours on the slow boob to increase production because it is sort of embarrassing. Max used to be happy on both breasts but recently he has started to scream for the big boob. I don't think there is much to do -- I used to have an overactive letdown on one side and not on the other and despite my attempts to correct the situation by having Max on the small boob all the time, one boob remained a bigger producer.
More on the sugject here:

Anonymous said...

i also could always get more from one side than the other - and it turned out they were even if I expressed manually. So yeah, one side didn't like the pump. You are right about reinforcing asymmetry - I also went back to work early and was pumping several feeds a day, and by six or seven months, I had one huge boob and one shruken boob. After breastfeeding was over, they evened out... but I sure looked weird for a while.

JENN said...

I forgot about this! I have/had the same problem. Now that I don't pump, I don't notice.
What is interesting for me, like you, Little Bean seemed to be getting the same amount of milk from both. Actually, she like the left side better, which is also the one I got less milk from.
Anyway, I think it has to do with angle as well as let down. I once tried changing the angle, to a position that was a little uncomfortable. Voila! I produced more milk.
Sounds from the varying answers you are receiving, no 2 boobs are a like ;).

katedaphne said...

Well, I know absolutely nothing about the topic at hand, and probably won't for a while. But I wanted to say hello and thank you for visiting my blog. I will try to eat better, I promise :)

Anonymous said...

I definitely pump more (about double) from the left than the right, and it's clearly a production issue and not a pumping issue, since my left (high-production) breast is also much more prone to clogged milk ducts and engorgement. I've tried evening out the production, but this generally results in too little feeding on the left, which causes a clogged duct, requiring more feeding/pumping and resulting in even more disparate production. I've given up and just take what I've got, but the munchkin gets plenty, so I'm not complaining.

Ladybug Ann said...

When I was nur sing, I nicknamed my left side "chocolate" and right side "mint". Why? Left side was a good producer, right is a so so. When I pumped, I can get about twice as much from chocolate than from mint. C favoured nur sing from the left too. So, you're not different, we're all lopsided in one way or another.

Cheryl said...

yep same problem here. I refer to my "big" producer side ('ol lefty) as the Mothership. Get it, you just hook the baby in and let it go.. from what I gather this is normal. someone explained that really they aren't the same ever but you usually can only tell when you're nursing.

peep said...

I have no advice but what a fascinating topic. I had no idea. I learn so much from all my blog friends. Thanks!