As mums, we approach the topic of breastfeeding from all angles, from reading about it in books, to long chats with friends who have had babies, articles, and maybe even courses at hospitals – we’ve done it all. However, the truth is that as much as you can prepare (and it is a wise decision to be equipped), in the end, it’s a personal experience altogether when you are on the job.
Oversupply of breastmilk, or hyperlactation as it is called, occurs when the breasts produce more milk than what is required for the normal development of the breastfed baby. If oversupply is a problem you are facing, don’t stress yet! Instead, read on to know how much is too much and what you can do about it.
Hang on, how is a plentiful milk supply a bad thing?
Even though it’s exhausting AF, being able to produce a lot of breast milk seems like a good problem to have, right? Well, that’s not the case all the time. Women experiencing an oversupply of breastmilk usually notice that their infant chokes and coughs during feeds. Let’s have a look at some of the common symptoms of oversupply:
- Frequent leaking between feedings
- Recurrent plugged ducts
- Persistent painful breast fullness
- Reflux or baby frequently spitting up
- Baby gaining weight rapidly
- Baby refuses to latch on
It’s completely normal for some mums to make more milk than what their babies can cope with in the early stages of breastfeeding. It takes about six weeks for the supply to settle down to match your baby’s needs so try to go with the flow (pun intended) as much as you can during this period (which we know can be easier said than done).
Causes of oversupply of breastmilk
At times it so happens that the production of breast milk does not settle down within the first few weeks of breastfeeding, and there is an oversupply. These first few weeks can feel like a baptism by fire especially when you are super high on a cocktail of hormones already.
So, what really causes an oversupply of breast milk? Some of the possible triggers include:
- Breastfeeding mismanagement, like feeding your baby following a schedule rather than need
- Pumping too much before feeding your baby
- Feeding your baby mainly from one breast
- Body making too much of the milk producing hormone prolactin (hyperprolactinemia)
- A congenital predisposition
Managing oversupply of breastmilk
Deciphering the cause of your oversupply, along with considering the age of your baby, will help manage and regulate milk production. All said and done, it is preferable to cope with oversupply during the first couple of months postpartum rather than actively trying to reduce production.
During this time, your body will hopefully regulate your milk supply effectively on its own, but if you do experience breast milk oversupply, there are a few tried and tested tips to help you manage the condition effectively.
Tip Number 1:
Try the laid-back breastfeeding technique. Feeding in a position where the milk has to flow up the breast rather than downward will take help from gravity to pull down the flow of your breast milk and make it more manageable. This reclining position is helpful for the baby as well because it will get more control in setting the pace of the flow.
Tip Number 2:
Express a little before breastfeeding. To manage the let-down, express a little with your hand or with the help of a breast pump before you start breastfeeding your baby. Expressing the smallest amount possible is vital here, as each time you express milk, you send your breasts a message to produce more (and we don’t really want to be caught in that vicious cycle, right?!).
Tip Number 3:
Nursing pads to the rescue! Popping disposable or reusable nursing pads inside your bra can help you stay dry if you are leaking milk. In this way, you will feel confident in a discreet manner.
Tip Number 4:
Avoid foods and teas that oversupply breast milk production. Certain herbal teas, lactation cookies or supplements can promote breast milk supply so make sure to read the labels of the products you are consuming and try to dig out that ingredient which could be the culprit.
Tip Number 5:
The block feeding technique. With this method, you breastfeed your baby for a period of four hours but from one breast only. By doing this, your other breast will become exceptionally full which will send signals to your body to slow down the production of milk. Doing this for 24 hours while alternating between breasts every four hours will bring down the milk production considerably.
Tip Number 6:
Another option you may not be aware of, is that you can also donate your excess breast milk to other mums and bubs who need it.
Organisations such as The Australian Red Cross and Mothers Milk Bank accept donations of breast milk in order to help parents with premature babies or mothers who want to breastfeed but can’t for any number of reasons.
While it may sound a little strange, rest assured the process is safe and highly regulated (you’ll need to be tested for Hep B, Hep C, HIV, VDRL, HTLV 1 & 2, and CMV before you can donate), not to mention a wonderful way to put all of that liquid gold to great use.
Reaching out for assistance
Breastfeeding is known to create an emotional bond between your little one and you, but that doesn’t mean it always comes easily. If you feel any form of discomfort during breastfeeding, do not hesitate to reach out to a lactation consultant, breastfeeding counsellor, child healthcare nurse or your obstetrician for a consultation.
Identifying the issue earlier on and talking to an expert will make it easier for you to get suggestions and support. At Kiindred, our knowledgeable panel of writers are all mums first, and we know exactly what you are going through – that’s why we are here to support you on your feeding journey and beyond.
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