Do you suffer from constant engorgement or have a history of recurring plugged ducts or mastitis? Does your baby cough, choke, gasp and pull off the breast at feedings? Is your little one gaining significantly more than 2 pounds (900g) per month? If so, you probably have an overabundant milk supply.
What is milk oversupply?
One of the most common questions lactation consultants get is how to increase milk supply, but there are lots of breastfeeding mothers that actually have the opposite problem and make too much milk. When a woman produces a lot more milk than her baby needs, we refer to this as oversupply or overabundant milk production. It’s common for women with oversupply to experience breast pain during or between feeds, excessive leaking and recurring plugged ducts and/or mastitis.
How is my baby affected?
Oversupply is often associated with forceful letdown, which makes breastfeeding difficult for babies. Keeping up with the fast flow of milk often leads babies to choke, sputter, arch and pull away during letdown. Sometimes babies will bite down on the nipple (ouch!) to slow the flow of milk, which can be extremely painful and lead to sore nipples. Other signs of milk oversupply include excess gas, fussiness, frequent spit up and green stool.
How to deal with oversupply
The good news is that it’s possible to adjust your milk supply so that your body makes just as much as your baby needs. Here are some strategies to help deal with the fast flow and adjust your supply:
- Alternate nursing positions. Try nursing in an "uphill" position so that gravity can work against the flow of milk. You can try a cradle or football hold while leaning back. Just make sure the baby's head is above the level of the nipple.
- Burp frequently if baby is extra gassy. If your baby is uncomfortable and swallowing a lot of air, take a quick break to burp.
- Offer just one breast per feeding. Rather than switch breasts in the middle of a feeding, allow your baby to finish on one side and instead alternate breasts at each feeding. This will allow your baby to get to the fatty milk that often comes at the end of a feeding.
- Avoid extra stimulation like unnecessary pumping. The more the breasts are stimulated, the more they’ll refill.
- Consider block feeding. Block feeding is a method that helps reduce milk supply just enough so that it’s more manageable for your little one. To block feed, offer one breast for a certain amount of time (for example, 4 consecutive hours) and then switch sides to offer the other breast for the next 4 hours. Feeding on one side for a block of time will help slow the production of the opposite breast. Anytime the unused breast begins to feel engorged, simply hand express or pump just enough until you’re comfortable. This method can take about a week to kick in, so be patient. Once you and your baby are both more comfortable at feedings, you can return to alternating breasts at every feeding.