Breastmilk oversupply? Before it happened to me, I really didn’t realize it could be a problem.
How could any mother have an oversupply of breastmilk and how could that possibly be a problem?
I’d heard about mothers who struggled to keep their milk supply abundant enough for their baby, but oversupply? It sounded like a weird non-problem until we actually lived it with my second baby. Our symptoms included: unlatching and struggling at the breast, gagging, coughing when the milk would come too fast, milk all over his mouth and face, large explosive bowel movements (that came out of the diaper and all over everything), baby very unsettled and gassy after feeding, spitting up and projectile vomiting huge amounts of milk all over me and everything around us (my rocking chair was a mess!)
Once he was latched on and started nursing, he would have a hard time staying latched because the milk flow was too strong to handle. A letdown would occur on the opposite breast at the same time and I was leaking milk on both sides. I remember a specific incident in public when he pulled off the breast while nursing and a large amount of milk sprayed into the open air (another sign of oversupply.) I prayed nobody else noticed.
I suffered from regular plugged ducts and mastitis. My son also gained weight very rapidly and by 4 months he was 20 pounds and off the charts. Then I found friends and mothers who had experienced similar things and I heard stories of their struggles. Some had different symptoms including: clicking noises while nursing and nipple pain related to the baby clamping down on the nipple because the flow was too heavy or fast.
So, what can be done to help relieve oversupply issues?
- Nursing in a laid back posture can be helpful (reclining or semi-reclining with baby’s body supported on mom’s body). Baby is able to move his head freely when the flow of milk is too great or too fast to handle and gravity is on your side.
- Burping baby frequently and keeping baby in an upright position after nursing to allow air to pass easily.
- Nursing on one side only per feeding, called block feeding, to allow a small amount of breast compression to bring down the supply a bit. This must be done carefully so as not to allow too much pressure which could result in mastitis. See Block Feeding Dos and Don’ts by Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA.
- Sometimes a woman may even choose to nurse on one breast for two or more feedings in a row to decrease milk production. Raises hand. This is what I had to do to curb the oversupply. It resulted in temporary engorgement in the breast that I did not feed on, but this was manageable as long as I didn’t let it go for too long.
- Hand express to ease fullness just a bit without removing too much milk (which would cause more letdown and a greater milk supply.)
- Again, always watch for plugged ducts, mastitis, redness, swelling, fever, etc.
- Get help from a lactation consultant at any point that you feel you need it. Professional help is available! Don’t struggle alone. We have fantastic CLCs on our team at Buddha Belly and can refer to some wonderful IBCLCs as needed too.
- Donate to a milk bank. There are definitely moms and babies in need and donating extra milk is always a great option.