I know I said it, the curse of oversupply. Now my guess is you rolled your eyes if your milk comes in normally or if you are wary you don’t have enough, but little do many women know, over production of breast milk can make the “Fourth Trimester” and specifically breastfeeding extremely difficult. Take it from me, when you’re crying tears over your baby because they have a hard time feeding and you watch them cough and choke and get frustrated at the breast… oversupply can truly feel like a curse. I know many moms would love the opportunity to put away and pump as much milk as an oversupplier can, but it has it’s downfall. It took me three weeks alone to figure out why my baby was so fussy and showed some of the many similar signs of a colicky baby. Thankfully my mom intuition told me there has to be a better answer.
Many women who are fearful of not having enough milk supply, generally have plenty for what their child needs since only a small percentage of women actually have a low supply. On the other hand, there are also a small number of women who have oversupply, yet this problem is generally not talked about. Many times because it isn’t considered a problem and only thought to be a blessing. Trust me, being able to pump nearly 10 ounces from one breast is not what my infant needs, it’s well more which means they are getting an imbalance of fore milk to hind milk and suffer the consequences along with it.
Are you wondering if your supply is too much? Let’s take a look at what La Leche League has to say about signs and behaviors to look out for:
- Baby cries a lot, and is often very irritable and/or restless
- Baby may sometimes gulp, choke, sputter, or cough during feedings at breast
- Baby may seem to bite or clamp down on the nipple while feeding
- Milk sprays when baby comes off, especially at the beginning of a feeding
- Mother may have sore nipples
- Baby may arch and hold himself very stiffly, sometimes screaming
- Feedings often seem like battles, with baby nursing fitfully on and off
- Feedings may be short, lasting only 5 or 10 minutes total
- Baby may seem to have a “love-hate” relationship with the breast
- Baby may burp or pass gas frequently between feedings, tending to spit up a lot
- Baby may have green, watery or foamy, explosive stools
- Mother’s breasts feel very full most of the time
- Mother may have frequent plugged ducts, which can sometimes lead to mastitis (breast infection)
Any of these sound familiar? I was able to check off all but 2 bullet points so I figured I was headed in the right direction of determining the problem. However, now it was time for a solution…
There are two areas to touch base on, one being lessening supply and the other is handling forceful milk ejection. Both are great places to start as you need to lower your supply but also have baby be able to handle feedings.
- Don’t touch that electric pump! The more stimulation, the more your supply will grow. Avoid pumping until after 6 weeks or supply has regulated. If absolutely necessary to relieve pain, hand express or use a manual pump for (at maximum) 20-30 seconds
- Feed from one breast until it is empty. I sometimes go 2-3 feeds until I switch, especially when they are clustered together. Once regulated, you will most likely switch breasts only every other feed (remember to only block feed until breasts are back to soft and manageable)
- Give baby a pacifier to sooth instead of your nipple as this also increases supply
- Certain herbs and oils may reduce supply such as sage tea and peppermint essential oils. Be VERY careful since you do not want to reduce supply too much and have to work the other way.
- Try positions that work against the flow of gravity
- Biological position or laid back feeding
- Side lying position
- Spray milk during let down into a towel or a cup
- Feed baby just as they are waking up or just before they become hungry to avoid aggressive sucking
- Burp them frequently as they generally intake a lot of air and the lactose heavy fore milk will increase gassiness
- Allow them to pull on and off at will – this will lower frustration and allow them to breath and pace themselves
- Use a scissors hold or your hand to compress milk ducts to slow down the flow
Speak with a Lactation Consultant:
- There are many tips you can find on the internet and even from articles that lactation consultants and physicians may write about the subject but each mom is unique in the way her supply will flow to the way her baby will eat. The best way to determine what is best for you and your newborn is getting consulted on your individual needs.
Keep in mind, this issue will pass. As your supply regulates with time, your newborn will also mature into a better feeder and be able to handle the stronger flow. For now, know that you’re not alone. I am with you in those late night, frustrated feeds and the excessive bouncing on my yoga ball to calm my fussy girl down. We can do this!
Have any helpful tips that are working for you and your little? Please share! Since this topic isn’t often covered, there is plenty of room for idea sharing.
-Essentially an “Over-productive” Mom