Too Much Breast Milk, What To Do
In the first weeks of baby's life your milk supply is mostly hormonally controlled. Your body knows that there is a baby to feed and makes milk. What it doesn't know yet is how many babies or how big they are or what their appetites are like. So most women have too much milk at this time. Your breasts may feel uncomfortably full and might be leaky. Over the next few weeks, your body switches from hormonally controlled to baby controlled. That is, what your baby removes from the breast is what the breast makes. You will find your milk supply lessens to fit your baby's needs. Your breasts will feel softer and lighter.
However for some women, their bodies never get quit in sync with their babies needs and they are forever over full. For some women this is not problematic at all and they relish in their babies fast growth but for others and their babies, too much milk is a problem.
Problems for Mother
Mothers with oversupply are more susceptible to engorgement, plugged ducts and breast infections. They are more likely to leak as well which can be a source of embarrassment. They may have a particularly forceful milk ejection reflex that actually hurts for a few moments when the milk begins to flow.
Problems for Baby
Your baby may seem to be drowning during feeds. Your forceful milk flow might cause him to gulp, gag, cough and pull off the breast. He may need to burp often during a feed and may even clamp down on your nipple to stop the flow. If this is the case, you need to help your baby deal with the forceful milk flow as you work on down regulating your milk supply.
Babies of mothers with oversupply often have gastric distress from getting too much high lactose milk. Your baby may be very gassy, spit up excessively and be generally discontent. Ironically, many babies with mothers with over supply seem hungry all the time, want to eat often and don't settle easily. You can tell by your baby's excessive weight gain that he is indeed getting enough to eat - but not comfortably.
Adjusting Your Supply to Better Match Baby's Needs
- Feed baby from one breast each feed. If your baby wants to eat again with the same hour or two, return him to the same side. If your other side gets uncomfortable full, pump off just enough milk to be comfortable. This should not stimulate your breast to make more milk.
- If after a week of doing the above, you do not feel a difference, begin to use one breast at a time for several hours in a row. Start with 2 to 3 hours. Anytime in those 2 to 3 hours that your baby wants to nurse, put him back on the same side. If this doesn't make a difference, add another half hour to the time until you find what works for you.
- For severe cases try cabbage leaf compresses a few times a day between feeds. Wash green cabbage leaves and chill them in the refrigerator. Leave them on your breast for 20 minutes at a time. Leaves can be used at room temperature if you have an aversion to cold.
- Also for severe cases, add dried sage to your diet, drink sage tea or take it in a tincture.
It is best to speak with a lactation consultant before decreasing your supply.
Turn Your Problem Into A Gift
Unfortunately there are many premature and ill babies whose mothers are unable or unwilling to supply them with breastmilk. Milk banks would be glad to receive your extra milk for these babies in need. In the US, contact the Human Milk Banking Association of North America