For mothers trying to increase their breastmilk supply, or those struggling with a low supply, having an overabundant supply would seem like a blessing.
However, having an ‘oversupply’ of breastmilk can also be stressful and frustrating.
Breastmilk being removed early (ideally within the first hour after birth), often and well are important factors which help establish a robust breastmilk supply.
Soon after a mother’s breastmilk comes in, her supply is regulated by how much breastmilk is removed. The more breastmilk removed, the more breastmilk her breasts will make and vice versa.
Too Much Milk? Managing Oversupply of Breastmilk
A mother’s supply will typically even out to precisely meet her baby’s needs within the first month or so. However, mothers with an oversupply make too much breastmilk regardless of how much their baby drinks or needs.
Signs Of An Oversupply
A mother with an oversupply of breastmilk has an abundance that continues beyond the early weeks. She will normally produce more breastmilk than her baby drinks.
There are various signs of an oversupply such as:
- Rapidly filling breasts
- Recurrent blocked ducts or mastitis
- Fast Let-Down Reflex
- Your baby seems to be very ‘gassy’ or ‘windy’
- Your baby often has large weight gains
- Your baby has copious amounts of poo and wee
- Your baby spits up often.
For more detailed information about how to tell if you may have an oversupply, see BellyBelly’s article Oversupply Of Breast Milk – 7 Signs Of An Oversupply
If you have an oversupply, how can it be managed? Here are 5 tips to help.
#1: Optimise Positioning And Attachment
You may need to experiment to see what breastfeeding position works best for you and your baby.
Many mothers with an oversupply find it helpful to breastfeed with their babies in more upright positions. For example, you may consider the ‘koala hold’. This is where you sit your baby facing you with his legs straddling your thigh. In addition, ‘laid back’ breastfeeding or a reclined position can help.
These positions often help your baby to cope better with a fast let down reflex which often accompanies an oversupply.
#2: Consider Block Feeding
Block feeding aims to slow your milk production. When block feeding, your baby is fed from one breast only each block of time. The block of time depends on the degree of your oversupply. For some mothers a three hour block of time may be enough. For others a six hour (or longer) block may be needed.
It’s very important to understand that block feeding should only be used as a temporary strategy until your oversupply has settled – otherwise the oversupply could turn into a low supply!
You’ll know when block feeding is working because you will notice your symptoms are settling (your breasts feel more comfortable), and your baby’s bowel motions are not quite as frequent, are less explosive/frothy and are changing to a yellow/mustardy colour rather than green.
When block feeding, every time your baby wants a feed during this block of time, the same breast is offered. Then the other breast is used for the next block, and so on.
This means that each time your baby comes back to the breast within the block of time, she comes to the breast that is more drained and hence receives a lower-volume, higher-fat feed.
#3: Avoid Unnecessary Breast Simulation
Any unnecessary breast stimulation will only have the possible effect of increasing your supply further.
So, for example avoid an unnecessary pumping or massaging of your breasts.
#4: Herbs And Medications May Be Used If Necessary
When the oversupply is severe or ongoing it’s worth consulting a medical adviser who might be able to discuss the use of a medication which has the side effect of lowering supply.
Anecdotally, some mothers find that certain herbs might help to lower supply such as sage, oregano or peppermint. If you’d like to give this a try, work with a herbalist who is knowledgeable about the dosing and side effects of the herbs.
#5: A Tincture Of Time May Be All That’s Needed
As time goes on and your baby grows, you may notice that oversupply becomes less of an issue. Babies tend to get more efficient at breastfeeding and better at handling the flow and supply.
But until this time, you want to do what you can so that you and your baby can enjoy breastfeeding.
Oversupply can certainly be challenging, but not something that can’t be tamed. Hopefully the above tips will help you be able to manage the oversupply.
Once your oversupply settles and your breasts no longer often feel engorged and they don’t leak copiously as they did before, you may actually worry that your supply has disappeared! Hence, it’s important to be aware of what the reliable signs of your supply and your baby getting enough milk are.