Saturday, February 23, 2008

All better

Well, that was fun while it lasted, but the Great Boob Crisis of February seems to be over. Whew! I don't know what it was, but after much massaging, heating, and (unbelievably painful) breastfeeding, the lump is gone, and most of the soreness has dissipated.

The lovely M-B asked how I got my supply up on the left. I'm not really sure what actually worked, but what I did was:

a) ALWAYS fed Eggbert on the left first. Sometimes I just let her finish on the left (she was usually happy that way, which is why I was always suspicious that it was a pumping problem, rather than just a supply problem), and sometimes I switched her in mid-feed.

b) When pumping, if I needed e.g. five oz, I didn't just pump until I had 5 oz (which invariably resulted in 4 from the right and 1 from the left), but rather pumped until I had half from the right (or a little over half, in the beginning), and then stopped pumping on the right and just continued on the left until I got the other half. My left is MUCH slower in production, so pumping for the same time on both sides meant that my right was doing all of the work. If I didn't get enough from the left in a reasonable period of time, I stopped, but then pumped again in a half-hour or so until I had enough.

c) Breast compressions on the left both while feeding and pumping (thank you Hadjare for this suggestion). I was absolutely amazed at the difference that this made while pumping. I often got an extra ounce or ounce and a half after I thought that the left had completely given up.

After a few days of this strategy (which was kind of a PITA, and probably wouldn't have been possible if I was working full-time), the left started producing WAY more. It was kind of amazing, actually.

So, I'm going to stop obsessing about my boobs and move on to something else now. Thanks for listening.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

More boob issues

I had big plans to write a contemplative post about what it means to be infertile with a child, but I'm having a little crisis, so we've interrupted our normal programming for this bulletin:

My boob hurts. I don't mean that it's a little sore. It REALLY hurts. It hurts all of the time, but when Eggbert nurses, it feels like I'm being stabbed. There's also a big hard painful lump near the base of the breast. However, I don't have a fever or redness, so I don't think it's mastitis. I have a doctor's appointment on Wednesday, but that seems like a very long time from now. Any thoughts? Tips? Sympathy?

This is the boob that was underproducing. The funny thing is that after an unhealthy level of attention and cosseting, it had started producing like a champ. Yesterday it yielded 4.5 oz pumping, which was a new record. I do think it was partly just a pumping issue (it still takes a lot longer to pump on that side), but the supply is clearly up too, since the letdown has gotten a lot stronger. Could this pain be related to its new productivity?

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.