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Too Much Of A Good Thing: Challenges Of Breastmilk Oversupply


mother breastfeeding her baby

In the breastfeeding world we talk a lot about the struggles involving low milk production and finding ways to boost your supply, but did you know it’s possible to have too much milk? While it’s great to have lots of milk, having a breastmilk oversupply can be just as stressful as not having enough. During the first 6 weeks postpartum, your milk supply is going to take time to regulate. Generally, there should be a gradual increase as your baby grows and feeding patterns become more regular and predictable. After 6 weeks, if you are still struggling with constant fullness, engorgement, or excessive leaking, you may be making more than your baby needs.


How can I tell if I have an oversupply? 

Common signs and symptoms of oversupply in your baby are:

·  Coughing, choking, sputtering during the feed

·  Struggling to stay latched, fussy, or restless at the breast

·  Gulping or pulling off the breast multiple times during a feed

·  Frequent loose, green, frothy poops

·  Excessive gas

·  Frequent spit ups

·  Short feeding sessions

·  They constantly seem hungry, despite feeding often

 

If your baby is displaying these symptoms and every feeding session is becoming a battle, you should seek professional support. It is important to note that these symptoms can also have other causes, such as allergies or illness so they must be ruled out as well. In combination with the baby’s discomfort, you will likely notice that you are constantly struggling with the pain and discomfort of recurring engorgement or blocked ducts, excessive leaking from the other breast during a feed, and a forceful milk ejection (let-down) reflex. This is when your milk sprays with too much force and your baby struggles to cope. They respond by pulling off the breast or biting down on your breast to slow the flow of milk, causing more pain and frustration for you.


What causes oversupply? 

Most often, oversupply is caused by asking your body to make more milk than you need, like extra pumping sessions or thinking your baby should take both breasts at every feed. If you are exclusively breastfeeding a healthy, full-term baby there is usually no need to pump as well. It is a good idea to meet with a lactation consultant prenatally or early postpartum to help set you up for success.  


How does it affect me and my baby?

Breastfeeding with an oversupply is not fun for either you or your baby, and it can make you want to stop breastfeeding altogether. It can also affect your baby’s digestion by creating a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance. Foremilk is the milk available at the beginning of a feed; it is low in fat and high in lactose. Hindmilk is the milk at the end of a feed, which is higher in fat. When your baby is gulping to cope with an oversupply, they fill up quickly on air and foremilk. The result from too much of the lactose in the foremilk is a very fussy baby with frequent green, frothy poops. They may even have blood in their poop from irritation in the intestines. Based on these symptoms, oversupply is commonly misdiagnosed as colic or a milk protein allergy.   


How can I manage my oversupply?

A lactation consultant can help you with strategies to effectively reduce your supply while maintaining good volumes for your baby. Some things you can try to reduce your supply include:

·  Jasmine tea- starting with a half cup per day and gradually increasing until results are seen

·  Peppermint tea- 2-4 cups per day until results are seen

·  Stop any extra pumping that you are doing on top of feeding (if you need to pump for comfort to relieve fullness, do not empty the breast)

·  Block feeding

 

For an overactive milk ejection reflex, you can try positioning your baby in a more upright feeding position while you lean back against a comfortable chair or couch, or even lie down on your back and have your baby latch while on top of you. These methods will slow the flow as the milk ejection reflex will have to work against gravity. You can also hand express or pump briefly to trigger the reflex, and then latch your baby to the breast after the spray is done and the flow has slowed.

 

Remember that every breastfeeding experience is unique and what works for some may not be right for you. If you are experiencing any feeding concerns, speak to a lactation consultant so you can be sure your care plan is tailored to your individual needs and goals. Breastfeeding should be a pleasant and relaxing experience for you and your baby!


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