One of the most common concerns mothers have is about their milk production. You’ve probably been searching online and found breastfeeding support forums that talk exclusively about these issues. Take note, you are not the only one in this situation, and there are certain things that you can do to remedy it.
Often, you worry about low milk production, but many women actually have questions about oversupply. Most parents don’t feel comfortable talking about this problem because many moms consider oversupply to be a good thing, especially if they aren’t producing enough milk themselves. However, this might not always be the best outcome.
How can it be a bad thing to have plenty of milk for your little one? Others talk about oversupply symptoms that are negatively impacting their nursing and relationship with their baby. They don’t know why it’s happening or if the methods out there for reducing oversupply are the best options to take.
Oversupply is a real situation, and it’s common, especially during the first few months after you give birth. You aren’t alone, as many women experience it. Here, we will talk about the causes, symptoms, and appropriate and safe ways in which to handle it. Once you learn how to do all of this, the problem of oversupply is one that will soon be in the past.
The Symptoms of Oversupply
Most women who experience oversupply with breast milk knew immediately what was happening. You might have had milk spraying all over everything, your clothes may be soaked all the time, or you might end up soaking completely through your nursing pads. Sometimes, you can tell because your baby is sputtering, choking, or gulping trying to get the milk down as quickly as it comes out. Obviously, in any of these cases, you want to find a solution.
On the other hand, sometimes the symptoms of oversupply aren’t very obvious. You might have struggled to determine why your little one arched away from your breast or squirmed during feedings. Maybe your breasts were sore, or your infant had stomach discomfort all the time. Perhaps, you worried that your baby was sensitive to something you put in or on your body. These and many more are symptoms of oversupply, and you’ll find that some are more obvious than others. If you experience this issue, you may have noticed all or some of these symptoms. It also might be something that you have to figure out based on the behavior of your child.
Oversupply Symptoms List
- Your baby tends to struggle to get a deep latch during your feedings, and he or she might come off the breast completely when too much milk is produced.
- Your breasts feel hard or full a lot of the time.
- The baby will often choke, sputter, or gulp during their feedings.
- Milk might spray out when your baby lets go of the breast, especially in the beginning.
- Sometimes, the baby might clamp down on your nipple while feeding.
- Your baby arches away from your breast and may cry or fuss, as well.
- You have very sore nipples.
- The feedings are very short because your baby fills up too fast.
- Feedings tend to feel like a battle because your baby can’t seem to relax while at the breast.
- Air can get trapped in your baby’s stomach, causing them to pass gas and burp frequently.
- There is a lot of spitting up at mealtimes.
- Your baby may develop watery, foaming, green, or explosive bowel movements.
- You may have plugged ducts and breast engorgement frequently, which could lead to mastitis.
- Your baby might gain too much weight because they take in too much milk. In other cases, they might have a slower-than-normal weight gain because they can’t nurse effectively.
Please note that many of these symptoms can be caused by other issues. For example, a baby that spits up frequently might have colic. So, it's best to talk to your doctor to work together to figure this out, especially if it's not obvious.
What Can Cause Oversupply?
Breastfeeding is considered the norm for newborns; it is what they are designed to do and what you are equipped to offer. Your body prepares itself automatically to produce the milk your baby will need while you’re pregnant. The ducts that transport it and the cells that produce it will multiply, which is why the breasts grow so much while you’re pregnant. During the second trimester, the body starts making colostrum. Once the baby’s born and the placenta is removed, your hormone levels change, telling your body to start milk production. At first, production is primarily controlled by the hormones, which is called endocrine control. Then, it becomes more dependent on the frequent removal of milk, called autocrine control. Still, postpartum hormones will continue affecting your milk supply for a while.
Every woman’s body reacts to hormones different, so some women’s bodies might be on overdrive in the beginning. This means their bodies respond to the hormones and readily produce milk, which can lead to oversupply. Often, when your postpartum hormones regulate, the body can adjust better to how much milk it creates based on how frequently the milk is removed. The issue is that the timing isn’t exact and varies between people and pregnancies. Usually, though, this takes until your baby is three months old.
Oversupply can also happen by how you manage breastfeeding. You live in a society where formula is ever-present and makes you doubt your body’s ability to sustain and give life. If you worry that your baby isn’t getting enough milk when they are, you may start pumping while nursing. This can also create an oversupply. Some people believe that they should pump before every feeding to make the breast softer for latching.
In some cases, oversupply occurs unintentionally and could only affect a single breast. This happens when your baby prefers one breast over another and feeds on that side more often, longer, or better.
How to Manage Oversupply
If you do have oversupply, there are things you can do about it. The ways to appropriately and safely regulate your milk production vary depending on the cause and age of your infant. As talked about earlier, most mothers experience oversupply because their bodies haven’t had a chance to start regulating milk production. However, oversupply that’s been created by how breastfeeding is done or that persists many months after you give birth might be caused by different things. It’s helpful to try to find out the cause of oversupply.
Coping During the Postpartum Period
It’s best to think about those first few months after you give birth as the time to cope with oversupply instead of trying to decrease milk production. That way, your body has the time it needs to regulate things on its own. This can also reduce your risk of having a low milk supply. Here are some suggestions to help you cope with postpartum-increase milk supply:
- Uphill nursing. Make sure to feed your baby in positions where milk has to come up the breast rather than down. Lay on your back and play around with the incline amount so that you both feel comfortable.
- Unlatch for any letdowns: When a letdown happens, unlatch your baby carefully and let any milk spray out so that pressure subsides. Be ready to collect and save your milk if you want. If it happens again, you can try unlatching again, but many babies can adjust to any changes in milk flow.
If you’ve tried the methods above without success, there are other things you can try. However, they will actively reduce milk production, so it’s best to do it with the supervision of a lactation consultant:
- Block feeding: Choose a breast and only offer that one for a set time frame. For example, start with a two-hour block. You may need a longer block time. Then, for the same amount of time, switch to the other breast. Consider hand-expressing the non-used breast if necessary.
- Full drainage with block feeding: Mechanically, drain your breasts completely using a pump and the right pumping technique. Then, you can let the baby nurse the empty breasts until they are content. This can reset your milk production by removing any accumulated milk in the breast. Then, continue with block feeding for a few days.
- Cabbage leaf compress: Some parents find that using a compress with cabbage leaves can reduce discomfort from engorgement while reducing milk production. Chill the cabbage leaves and wash them thoroughly. Between feedings, apply them to the breasts a few times each day.
- Herbs: Sage is an excellent herb to inhibit milk production, but it should be used with caution.
- Medicines: Some medications, such as decongestants, have reduced milk production as a side effect. They can also have other side effects and may not be good for the baby. Use this method with extreme caution.
Donating Your Milk
If you have an oversupply of milk and don’t need to save it, you can become a breast milk donor. Talk to your local hospitals to find out if they need breast milk and what the process involves.
Things to Avoid
You’ve probably heard of many ways to reduce milk flow, but it’s best to focus on those that are evidence-based. These are some of the common strategies that aren’t often helpful:
- Scheduled feedings
- Binding the breasts
- Limiting your baby’s time at the breast
It is common for mothers to make too much milk, especially in the few months after delivery. While it can make feedings impossible or unpleasant, it will also cause stress and anxiety. In turn, it can affect your infant’s weight and behavior, which can result in an incorrect diagnosis, such as food sensitivity or colic. You may also suffer from engorgement, plugged ducts, and breast trauma. Therefore, it’s important to learn about oversupply and how to manage it effectively. Talk to your lactation consultant and find options that will help you and your baby. Please fill out our contact form with any questions or concerns so that we can assist you.