got (enough) milk?

October 13, 2009

Infant growth charts can be a massive source of anxiety for new parents. Your baby is measured and weighed and compared to standardized curves that tell you how big your baby should be. Actually, that’s not what they do, but that’s how it often feels for a parent, and if your baby falls into the lower percentiles, it’s so easy to panic, even if your baby is totally normal for his/her age.

A nursing mom’s milk supply can also be a huge source of anxiety. A lot of women only breastfeed a few weeks, and there’s definitely a lack of readily available information about how your milk and your breasts change if you continue to nurse for 3, 6, 12 months, never mind if you nurse for years. The information is out there, but you have to look for it.

That’s what this post is about: infant growth charts and milk supply.

The background: last week, one of my best friends wrote me an email. Her first child is roughly 4 1/2 months old, and at her last well-baby check-up, registered in the 20th percentile for weight. My friend was concerned, wondered whether her milk supply might be dwindling, and she asked me for my thoughts. I sat down and wrote her a loooooong email (I had a lot of thoughts on the subject!), and I thought I’d share it with you, too. Of course I’ve taken out personal details regarding my friend and her baby.

Spend 2-3 days in bed with baby and just sleep, eat and nurse, nurse, nurse!

Spend 2-3 days in bed with baby and just sleep, eat and nurse, nurse, nurse!

Here were my first 2 pieces of advice:

1. First of all, Don’t Panic! Your milk supply hasn’t disappeared. If it has diminished, there are plenty of ways to increase it. And most important of all: 20th percentile is still normal. It just means that 20% of normal babies are at about that weight. And baby’s being at the 20th percentile for weight at her age doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with your milk supply.

2. An extension of Don’t Panic! is that this is not a reason to supplement with formula. Don’t do it. Your milk supply really would drop if you did.

Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to the Motherwear Carnival of Breastfeeding! For many of us, our New Year’s resolutions include some breastfeeding goals…

My breastfeeding relationship with my 19-month-old daughter almost ended a few days before 2008 came to an end. I had thought that plugged ducts and blebs were a thing of the past for me, but a painful breast and bloody milk had me seeking out a doctor in a town far from home, where we were spending the holidays with my in-laws. Although I only had to wait about half an hour in the gynecologist’s waiting room, I was so weak and in so much pain that I had to ask the nurses to find a spot for me to lie down while I waited. When I described my symptoms to the doctor – painful breast, bloody milk, pain in my back, neck and head, chills, hot flashes and swollen glands – she smiled compassionately and said that yes, mastitis could cause all those symptoms and more. She asked me whether I definitely wanted to continue breastfeeding. I answered yes, in theory.

She didn’t push me one way or the other, but she gently suggested that I consider weaning – not because there was no good reason to continue nursing, but because she suspected that this bout of mastitis was a cry for help from my body. She asked me about my general health, and it seemed plausible that my body had just run out of fuel. I admitted to being exhausted all the time, and stepping onto the scale confirmed what I had been suspecting for a while – not only had I gotten back down to my pre-pregnancy weight long ago, but I now weighed just over 15 pounds less than I did before pregnancy. I was underweight by any standard, and this despite the fact that I easily eat more than my husband and daughter combined! Feeling as miserable as I did and faced with what I knew to be at least partially true, it seemed to make sense that it was time to wean. The treatment the doctor prescribed included lactation suppressants, which are approved in Germany, where we live (the FDA has not approved them for use in the U.S.). I went back to my in-laws feeling somewhat relieved but also defeated.

I nursed my daughter for what I thought would be the last time. It broke my heart. I took the lactation suppressants and slept for most of the day. After putting my daughter to bed that evening, I ventured downstairs and had a bite to eat, got comfy on the couch and did a little Internet research on weaning, particularly sudden weaning. Two things in particular bothered me:

1. Marie was definitely not ready to be weaned. I was sure she would cope with it somehow, but nursing was still a big part of maintaining her equilibrium. The thought of taking that away from her made me feel sick to my stomach.

2. Sudden weaning can be very hard on a mother’s mental well-being, in part due to the massive change in hormone levels. I have been battling major depression for years now, and I considered it a miracle that I hadn’t suffered from postpartum depression as well. Having dodged that bullet, it seemed reckless to put myself at a heightened risk for a relapse into more severe mental illness. There was a purely pragmatic concern, too. If my body was falling apart already, how was I supposed to give my daughter the extra love and attention she would undoubtedly need over the next few weeks? How was weaning going to improve the state of my health if it was going to be so much work?

I shared my thoughts with my husband, as well as with other nursing moms in the kellymom discussion forums. One mother suggested that I postpone my decision regarding weaning until after the mastitis had cleared up, that perhaps I shouldn’t make such an important decision while I was feeling so sick. That logic struck a chord with me, and I resolved to go back to the doctor the next day and tell her that I wasn’t ready to wean my daughter yet. To my relief, she completely understood my change of heart and immediately adjusted my treatment. But she also impressed upon me the importance of taking better care of myself, reducing stress and getting more rest. Otherwise, she said, I would continue to be susceptible to infections. I agreed with her even though I had no solution. I still wasn’t really sure how things would continue.

A 48-hour migraine that began later that day would prove to be the turning point. The doctor who treated me praised me for breastfeeding my daughter beyond infancy, and my husband was able to keep Marie happy for an entire breast-free night. As I drank water out of a champagne glass and rang in the new year, I realized that night-weaning our daughter was feasible – something we hadn’t dared to hope for in the past – and it has become the cornerstone of my goals for improving the breastfeeding relationship I almost lost:

  • Go to bed early. I can’t honestly pretend to be surprised by my exhaustion when I go to bed after midnight, night after night. I may be a night owl, but for now, getting enough rest takes precedence. I will aim to get ready for bed at 10, meaning I’ll be in bed by 10:30. Realistically, this won’t happen every night, but if I make it 5 out of 7 nights, it will make a big difference.
  • Eat nourishing food at every meal. Avoid empty calories. Most of the food we buy is locally grown, organic, healthy food. But it often spoils before we use it, and since we don’t plan ahead enough, we find ourselves hungry and in no mood to cook. The result is to eat something fast and unhealthy. Inspired by Half Pint Pixie, I started meal planning a few weeks before Christmas. I intend to continue this, as it has made it much easier to eat healthy, well-balanced meals every day. It has also made it easier to eat our meals together as a family, and we’ve hardly thrown away any food since starting this either! My body needs all the nourishment it can get, so this is a big part of my plan.
  • Strengthen my body. I walk a lot, but I don’t do anything to strengthen my body anymore. I’m no longer into a lot of the high-impact sports I used to play in years past, but a weekly yoga course would do wonders for my creaky back. And as soon as the weather gets a little less sub-zero, I can add riding my bike to the mix. We don’t have a car, and using a bicycle is a great way to save money on public transportation. I’ve wanted to return to regular yoga for a long time now, but I’ve been postponing it for over a year, mainly because the Iyengar class I want to take is concurrent with Marie’s bedtime. But bedtime shouldn’t be an issue anymore if we …
  • … night-wean Marie. I don’t merely need more sleep. I need uninterrupted sleep. After over a year and a half of waking up every 2-3 hours at night, I simply can’t go on. This means my husband will take over the bedtime routine and all night wakings for a while. It will be hard, but we’re hopeful.

I think these steps will go a long way to giving me the physical, mental and spiritual energy I need to continue nursing my daughter, but there is another important aspect to the breastfeeding relationship that I need to address: our actual nursing sessions. For a few months, I have come to enjoy feedings less and less. In fact, there are days when I spend the time in between feedings dreading the next time Marie asks to nurse. On weekends, when I am at home by myself with Marie all day, it has been hard to enjoy nursing x times a day when I know that I’ll be nursing her on and off at night as well. So I am optimistic that night-weaning will give me the break I need to enjoy daytime nursings.

The trickier part will be improving the quality of our nursings. My daughter likes to twiddle, knead, pat, pinch, poke, prod, scratch and otherwise explore my face and chest while nursing. Some of this is fine – I don’t mind it when she pats my breast, and I love it when she points at different parts of my or her face, expecting me to name them for her. But when she scratches my face, pulls my hair or just plain hits me, I get exasperated pretty quickly. I know she doesn’t do any of these things maliciously, but I have yet to find the right tone of voice that gets the message across that hitting and scratching don’t go with breastfeeding. Her reactions to my attempts to change the behavior range from laughing at me, to becoming very distressed, to hitting me even harder. But she rarely stops. Sometimes redirection works, but it’s the exception, not the rule. Behavior like this, though, is a big part of why I have enjoyed nursing less and less over time, and solving this problem is going to be a big part of making the breastfeeding experience pleasurable again.

I’m optimistic because I’ve noticed that my daughter is more and more capable of cooperation and compromise. When I was laid up with my migraine, for example, she seemed to understand that I wasn’t feeling well, and she made no attempts to nurse. Instead, she came to visit me in the darkened bedroom, briefly cuddled with me, gave me a kiss and ran off to play with her father again. This gives me hope that she can learn to cooperate while nursing as well. Maybe it will be a little like brushing her teeth – one day, after months and months of crying and fighting us off every single evening when we tried to brush her teeth, Marie suddenly decided to cooperate. We have no idea why, but all of a sudden, she started letting us brush her teeth without a fight, and now, she even enjoys it!

2009: the year of tear-free dental hygiene, breast-free nights and cooperative nursing. This is how I hope to make extended breastfeeding fun again!

Don’t miss the other carnival participants’ breastfeeding goals!

Misty of Secrets of Orual writes about relaxing and being brave.

Tanya at the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog writes about her many goals as a lactation consultant and breastfeeding activist.

Zen Mommy writes about relaxing and breastfeeding advocacy.

Hobo Mama reflects on her personal breastfeeding goals, as well as her wish for breastfeeding to become normal again worldwide.

The Beautiful Letdown writes about nursing on demand while tandem breastfeeding.

Angela of Breastfeeding 1 2 3 writes about exclusive breastfeeding and introducing solids.

Blacktating writes about child-led weaning.

Mama Knows Breast sets the goal of making other breastfeeding moms feel more comfortable.

Breastfeeding Mums on publishing her breastfeeding book.

Several doses of lactation suppressants, a doctor’s visit, a long-ass drive and a debilitating migraine later, I’m still breastfeeding Marie. While the mastitis was still raging, I spent a lot of time in bed thinking about what I should do. I was rather tempted to use the infection as an excuse to quit nursing cold turkey, but when I nursed Marie again, the thought of suddenly denying her broke my heart. I also started thinking about the many negative aspects of sudden weaning. While I probably wouldn’t have had to worry about engorgement thanks to the lactation suppressants, I would still have to deal with rapidly falling hormone levels. I remembered reading that postpartum depression sometimes doesn’t emerge until after weaning (making it even harder to diagnose), and after doing some research, I found the following at kellymom:

It’s not unusual to feel tearful, sad or mildly depressed after weaning; some moms also experience mood swings. These feelings are usually short-term and should go away in a few weeks. This is caused, in part, by hormonal changes. One of the changes that occurs with weaning is a drop in prolactin levels. Prolactin, the hormone that stimulates milk production, also brings with it a feeling of well-being, calmness and relaxation. The faster the weaning process the more abrupt the shift in hormone levels, and the more likely that you will experience adverse effects. Moms who are forced to wean before they are ready (or for reasons beyond their control) and moms with a history of depression are also more likely to experience depression after weaning.

Kellymom also offers a link to this discussion about depression following weaning. Considering the fact that I am very prone to depression, it didn’t seem like the greatest idea to up the ante by weaning so suddenly. I also started to think about just how hard weaning would be on Marie, who still loves nursing so much. I imagine what the first two weeks might be like. “Hell” was the first word that came to mind. I realized that although my body was screaming for more rest, less stress and a chance to recuperate from all the demands made of it over the past 2 1/2 years, weaning probably wouldn’t solve the problem anyway. Marie would be just as demanding – and until she adjusted to the lack of nursing, she would probably be more demanding. Kellymom offers more wisdom:

It’s important to be realistic about your expectations for weaning. Stopping breastfeeding does not make mothering any easier or force your child to grow up any faster. Your baby will still demand lots of your attention; supplying this in ways other than nursing can be challenging. Breastfeeding can be a real work saver when you can count on it as a surefire way of getting a baby to quiet down or sleep. Often there are ways other than total weaning to cope with mothers’ feelings of restlessness or being tied down.

How true! If I were to wean Marie all of a sudden, how would I get the rest I so desperately needed? I talked to Toffi about it and said I wanted to go back to the doctor and take antibiotics after all. I would take this illness as a sign that I need to make changes and start actively working on nursing less, but I just didn’t want to go cold turkey. I went back to the doctor the next day and explained to her my change of heart. She was very supportive of my new decision and reexamined me. The lactation suppressants and bed rest had already made such a big difference that she no longer believed antibiotics would be necessary. Her recommendation was to take a super tiny dose of the lactation suppressant for two more days, use cabbage leaf compresses and get plenty of rest. She was right. My symptoms continued to get better, and the low dose of the lactation suppressant didn’t cut into my supply so drastically as to cause any problems. The mastitis was completely gone within another 48 hours.

I now feel like I have had a near brush with weaning, but I can’t’t just go on as before. I really need to make some changes for the sake of my physical and mental health. On the drive back to Berlin, Toffi and I talked about what those changes would be. And here they are; you could call them my resolutions for 2009:

  • Go to bed early. This means sucking it up and admitting that although I am a night owl, I simply cannot afford to go to bed at midnight or later, night after night. I will aim to get ready for bed at 10, meaning I’ll be in bed by 10:30. Realistically, this won’t happen every night, but if I make it 5 out of 7 nights, it will make a big difference.
  • Eat nourishing food at every meal. Avoid empty calories. I am about 10-15 pounds underweight, and every time I step on a scale, I seem to have lost even more. I eat a lot, but I suspect I’m eating a lot of food with empty calories. Some people put on weight when they do this. I think I lose it. Most of the food we buy is locally grown, organic, healthy food. But it often spoils before we use it, and since we often don’t plan ahead, we find ourselves hungry and in no mood to cook. The result is to eat something fast and unhealthy. Inspired by Half Pint Pixie, I started meal planning a few weeks before Christmas. I intend to continue this, as it has made it much easier to eat healthy, well-balanced meals every day. It has also made it easier to eat our meals together as a family, and we haven’t thrown away any food since starting this either! My body needs all the nourishment it can get, so this is a big part of my plan.
  • Suspend all translation work while working on my thesis. I tend to bite off more than I can chew, and I think the best way to avoid it during the 3 months I have to write my thesis is to decide ahead of time that I simply will not work during that period. It will temporarily make our finances a little tight, but it will be worth it if I can make it through this time without losing my mind.
  • Strengthen my body. I walk a lot, but I don’t do anything to strengthen my body anymore. I’m no longer into a lot of the high-impact sports I used to play in years past, but a weekly yoga course would do wonders for my creaky back. And as soon as the weather gets a little less sub-zero, I can add riding my bike to the mix. I’ve wanted to return to regular yoga for a long time now, but I’ve been postponing it for over a year, mainly because the Iyengar class I want to take is concurrent with Marie’s bedtime. That brings me to the last part of my plan:
  • Night-wean Marie. I don’t merely need more sleep. I need uninterrupted sleep. After over a year and a half of waking up every 2-3 hours at night, I simply can’t go on. This means Toffi will take over the bedtime routine and all night wakings for a while. It will be hard, but we’re hopeful.

I think these goals are not only far better than weaning Marie completely. I also think that regardless of the weaning question, they are necessary to improve my health. Even if I had decided to wean my daughter, I would still continue to waste away and suffer from poor health if I didn’t make some major changes to my daily habits. And I’m convinced that if I’m healthier and better rested, I’ll be much more capable of being an attentive mother and wife, and I will enjoy my days so much more.

the hour of truth

December 29, 2008

Warning: load of self-pity ahead. Also, possibly TMI. Read at own risk.

A few days ago, I started feeling a little funny. Faintness, weakness, hot and cold flashes. I thought maybe it was the stress of the holidays or an oncoming flu. I took my temperature a couple times and was baffled by the wildly varying readings until I realized the thermometer was broken. No fever; I just felt like crap. The next day, I felt fine. Toffi and I even went out on a date! After Marie was in bed, with her grandparents, aunt and even great-grandmother home to take over should she wake up, we went out to a Cuban restaurant, followed by meeting some friends in a pub. I felt hoarse on the way home, but I figured it was from practically shouting for 2 hours (it was reeeeally loud in that pub!).

When I woke up the next morning (yesterday), I felt like CRAP. I mean total CRAP-OLA. Sore throat, headache, unimaginable pain in my back and ribcage. I got up with Marie, had breakfast, we played, went for a walk with the dog, and around 11 am I just couldn’t take it anymore. I then spent the rest of the day in bed. I came downstairs in the evening and had some cream of wheat. It was then that I noticed that my right breast was sore. I had a plugged duct. As if everything else wasn’t already enough! I locked myself in the warm bathroom to try and see if I could express any milk. I could. And it was effing bloody. Bloody! I freaked out, dabbed at it with a tissue and showed the “evidence” to Toffi. We talked about how it could be that my milk was bloody and what should be done.

Luckily, my sister-in-law still has a gynecologist in her home town (I’ve been at my in-laws for the holidays), so we decided to call the doctor first thing in the morning and make an appointment. I woke up (today) feeling even worse. I needed help getting dressed, for pete’s sake. Toffi helped me into the car, and off we went. Even though I didn’t have to wait long at the doctor’s, it was too long for me to sit upright in a chair – I had to be shown into an exam room so I could lie down while waiting. The doctor was great. Very friendly and warm. Very reassuring. I described all my symptoms, including the sore throat, which would have been unmistakable anyway since you can pretty much see my swollen glands at this point. I had been assuming that after seeing the gynecologist, I would have to see a GP or ear, nose and throat specialist, but the doctor immediately nodded and said, “yep, sounds like mastitis.” Apparently, back pain, headaches, chills and hot flashes – and yes, even swollen glands and sore throat – can all be the result of a breast infection! Who would have thunk it?!

She said I had two options. I could either take antibiotics and continue breastfeeding. Or I could wean Marie with the help of lactation suppressants. Either route would treat the mastitis since it isn’t advanced yet. She asked me whether I wanted to continue breastfeeding. In theory, yes, I said. She suggested the possibility that breastfeeding has become too much for my body, and that my weakened immune system is now more vulnerable to infections. Toffi and I have been suspecting as much for a couple weeks now, but up until this doctor’s visit, I hadn’t given any serious thought to weaning. I have to admit that I was very torn. On the one hand, I believe in child-led weaning. On the other hand, I am feeling so physically drained from breastfeeding, even without the mastitis. I thought about it briefly and said I would wean. She prescribed the lactation suppressants and said she had office hours tomorrow, in case I needed to see her again (did she foresee my having second thoughts?).

I took the first lactation suppressant and slept a couple hours, and I felt worlds better when I woke up. But then I nursed Marie, and my heart almost broke. I realized that while my body might be screaming for weaning, my heart is nowhere near ready. Never mind the fact that Marie is unlikely to take a sudden weaning particularly well. For the past five hours or so, I’ve been thinking about alternatives. Ways to make breastfeeding work for both of us. Ways to get more sleep and rest without weaning. Ways to be healthier and finally gain some weight (I’ve lost at least ten pounds over the past couple months, and you could now definitely call me underweight).

I’m not sure, but I’m leaning toward going back to the doctor tomorrow and asking her to prescribe the antibiotics after all. Fortunately, any reduction in milk supply resulting from one or two lactation suppressants is easily reversable. I think I’ll use this experience as an opportunity to reevaluate nursing, initiate a long-term weaning process (I’ll definitely start with night weaning) and take more responsibility for my own well-being.

Today, I’m participating in the Carnival of Breastfeeding, in which various bloggers are sharing their experiences with breastfeeding challenges and how they overcame them. My piece is on plugged milk ducts and blebs, which my faithful readers may remember me mentioning in my post on contortionist nursing. I hope you enjoy reading it, and don’t forget to check out the links to the other Carnival of Breastfeeding posts (see below), which I’ll be updating throughout the day.

My husband and I live in Germany, and it is common practice here for a midwife to deliver the baby – even in hospitals – and to pay house visits for the first few weeks postpartum. As per my midwife’s instructions, my husband had made sure to buy a head of cabbage before our daughter was born. He washed the leaves and stacked them in our freezer. This, Frederike assured us, would come in handy when engorgement inevitably followed my milk coming in, and although the thought of icing my breasts with cabbage leaves seemed pretty strange to me, we decided to follow her advice. But I never experienced engorgement, and eventually, we thawed the cabbage and used it in a casserole. My baby and I were nursing champs, or so I thought.

The German word for a plugged duct is “Milchstau,” and it literally means “backed-up milk.” I think it really captures the way plugged ducts feel. You can’t really feel the plugged duct; what you feel is the immense and ever-growing pressure behind the blockage as your milk collects and your breast swells. When our daughter was about eight or nine weeks old, I woke up on a rainy Friday morning and noticed that my left breast felt really heavy. I figured it was just fuller than the other one, and so we nursed on that side. But afterwards, it felt worse instead of better, which didn’t make any sense to me. By midday I was sure that something was wrong, and I spent every spare minute searching the Internet for answers.

After reading this description on kellymom, I was certain that I had plugged ducts. I followed the suggestions listed on the site and used heat before nursing, nursed frequently on the left side, and cooled the area after nursing. None of it helped. By the time my husband came home from work that day, I was a wreck. I was in tremendous pain, but worse still, I was completely frustrated by my inability to solve the problem. We were the breastfeeding pros! What had happened? Why had I thrown away that cabbage?!
That evening, as Marie slept on my lap, I searched the Internet high and low for other solutions. The information on plugged ducts was more or less the same everywhere, so I started searching parenting forums for threads on the subject. The forums at babycenter finally offered some new insights. In a thread on plugged ducts (which is no longer on the site now that they’ve changed their design), various mothers kept mentioning the “white dot,” something that was like a pimple and could be popped. I looked at my breast but couldn’t see any white dot, so I scrolled through the entire thread, searching hundreds of posts for a more detailed description of the famous dot.

The “white dot,” it turned out, was a bleb – a blocked nipple pore. By pressing on the painful part of the breast, the bleb would bulge out, making it more easily seen on the nipple. I tried it, and suddenly I saw what looked like a tiny whitehead on my nipple. After having found their white dots, many of the women on the forum had simply popped them like a pimple. So, after washing my hands thoroughly, I gave it a whirl. I squeezed out a white plug of milk, no bigger than a grain of sand, and as soon as I pressed on the painful part of my breast, a thin line of milk shot out in an arc. Relief!

Despite my success, however, I faced further discouragement. I started getting plugged ducts frequently – at least once a week – and there wasn’t always a bleb. In these cases, it often took more than 48 hours to resolve the clog, and those two days were always miserable. Also, I quickly learned that “popping” the blebs wasn’t such a great idea, as it took a while for the skin to heal. Still, when there was a bleb, it was much easier to clear the blockage, and the tips at the kellymom and Medela websites were very helpful. In particular, using a sterilized needle to “lift” the bleb off as described on kellymom worked really well, and the skin hardly needed any time to heal afterwards.

At some point, it seemed ridiculous how frequently I was getting plugged ducts and blebs, and I started to look for information on recurrent clogs. Several sources, including kellymom, advised taking a Lecithin supplement. I looked into it, but the cost seemed prohibitive, at least in Germany, where supplements are often sold only by pharmacies and thus include quite a mark-up. I also called my midwife for advice. She asked me if I had been under a lot of stress lately. I didn’t think I had been. The only trend I had noticed was that it always seemed to be raining when I had them. I joked that my left boob always knew when rain was coming. Based on what I told her over the phone, Frederike said she thought I was treating them correctly, and as long as they were resolving within about 48 hours and I wasn’t running a fever, they weren’t anything to worry about, no matter how annoying they were. She suggested I try positioning Marie so that her chin was pointing toward the painful area and that I keep my chin up and try not to get too discouraged.

I was discouraged, though, and I couldn’t imagine doing this over and over again for months on end. I tried Frederike’s suggestion of having Marie’s chin pointed toward the clog, and since this meant somehow getting her chin to point up toward my shoulder, I needed to get creative. With a nursing pillow and my husband’s help, I managed to practice what I call “contortionist nursing,” and it did seem like it took fewer nursing sessions for the clogs to clear up this way. And I realized that there was a common factor besides the rain: almost every time I had a plugged duct, it was the weekend.

When I first noticed this, I considered myself lucky. With my husband home, I had more time to take a bath, apply heat to my breast and try to open up blebs. And he was there to help with our contortionist nursing. But it was a little strange that I almost always woke up on Friday morning with plugged ducts. It reminded me of times when I only got migraines at the end of the week, just in time for the weekend. It also reminded me of getting the flu on the second day of winter break during college – and then again right at the beginning of summer vacation. Maybe I was experiencing the same phenomenon. Maybe I really was under stress but wasn’t allowing myself to feel it. Instead, I was concentrating so hard on making it through the week that I didn’t realize I was saving up all my stress and frustration for the weekend, when my husband was home. I talked to my husband about my new theory, and it seemed plausible to him.

Shortly before I had my first plugged duct, my husband had started a very demanding project. He had to work very late, and even if he did get home early enough for us to eat dinner together, he often spent the evening working on his laptop. He couldn’t do anything about his working hours until the project was over, but after I shared my theory about stress and the plugged ducts with him, he started to make some small changes. We began eating breakfast together every morning before he left. Rather than continue working after he got home, he made an effort to spend more time with our daughter and me. And he made sure that there was always some cash in a drawer so that when he couldn’t make it in time for dinner, I could order takeout food and save myself the trouble of cooking after a long day. I didn’t magically stop getting plugged ducts, but they became less frequent, and that gave me hope.

When my husband’s big project was done, he went back to working normal hours and could be with us much more. The plugged ducts became a rare occurrence, once a month, perhaps. Now our daughter is ten months old, my husband is on paternity leave, and I’m working from home. The flexibility we have in structuring our day has made my daily life far more manageable, and I haven’t had a bleb or plugged duct in over two months. I am a little worried about what will happen when he goes back to work in a month and a half, when Marie will be a year old, but I’m pretty sure that if we do our best to keep in mind what we learned a few months ago, it’ll be OK. Making time for each other made all the difference.

The Carnival of Breastfeeding: “Thrush and mastitis and blebs, oh my!”

Mama’s Magic
Half Pint Pixie
Mom on the Go
Nurturing Notes
Breastfeeding Mums
The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog
Blessed Nest Perch
Hobo Mama
Breastfeeding 1-2-3
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