'My boobs won't stop producing milk'
I STOPPED breastfeeding my four month old baby when I was 40.
She was my fourth and final baby, and while I had a reasonable supply of breastmilk, I could never be called a super-producer.
My breasts didn't complain a jot when I stopped. They didn't get engorged or sore, they weren't tender or lumpy. I fully expected my breastmilk would dry up in a few days or weeks.
Eleven years later, I'm 51 and peri-menopausal, and my youngest daughter is a few months from starting high school.
Yet I've never stopped producing breastmilk.
I first noticed this a year after my breastfeeding journey was over when a hot shower brought forth some milk, much as it had done when I was feeding a baby.
While I was surprised, the novelty factor was huge, and I spent a few minutes squirting breastmilk around the shower recess, and later for my husband's amusement.
A year later, curiosity got the better of me and I gave my nipple a squeeze. Sure enough, milk squirted out just as if I was cradling a newborn in arms.
Googling "breastmilk won't stop" and "breastmilk won't dry up" didn't bring me any closer to an answer, and all advice reassured the reader that milk would take 7-10 days to dry up, but "could take a couple of weeks".
The websites suggested sage tea and cabbage leaves to ease discomfort over these days.
More than four years went by before I thought to mention anything to a doctor.
"You're stressed", was all she said. And while I was a little stressed that I had boobs behaving badly, I didn't think my stress levels were so high as to change basic bodily functions.
Two or three years later I happened to be in the company of some Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellors.
I felt my milk production success would be a topic of great interest, so I asked a couple of counsellors if they'd seen this sort of thing before.
While they hadn't, they suggested I get my thyroid checked for "hypothyroidism" and Graves' disease.
As a working mother of four, I ticked the box for most of the symptoms including fatigue, loss of energy, lethargy, weight gain, decreased appetite, cold intolerance, dry skin, hair loss, sleepiness, muscle pain, joint pain, weakness in the extremities, depression, emotional lability, mental impairment, forgetfulness, impaired memory and inability to concentrate, but my thyroid levels were absolutely fine.
Last year, 10 years after ceasing breastfeeding, I asked another doctor about my non-stop milk production and was told it was "just one of those things". He suggested menopause might sort my hormones out and it would probably stop then.
A couple of days ago, in the name of research, I squeezed my breast again. Nothing happened and I felt a surge of disappointment. However yesterday I tried again. Sure enough, and strangely to my enormous relief, breastmilk dribbled out.
Tonight, I have to fill in the high school forms to secure a place for my youngest daughter, and plan my eldest's 21st birthday party.
World Breastfeeding Week is from August 1 - 7, 2017. For breastfeeding advice, contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association.