Too much milk sounds like a problem lots of women would like to have, but the reality is that mums with oversupply are often more distressed than mums with undersupply. Every feed, bubs gets squirted in the face, milk leaks through breast-pads, soaks tops, some mums even report milk shooting across the room. Because there is so much milk, breasts can get engorged between feeds, which is when the ductal system inside the breast expands in preparation to release the milk. Often the breasts can feel quite tight, sore and bruised.
Many mums with oversupply also have a fast let-down reflex, which means the milk can spurt out quite quickly, and bubs can pull off and gag and gulp in quite a lot of air, especially at the start of a feed. When this happens, babies get quite windy and can take a long time to settle after feeds. Nappies are often very very full, poo can be frothy and green and babies have big weight gains.
To help calm down an abundant milk supply, lactation consultants often work with mums on a technique called ‘block feeding’. This is when you choose an amount of time, say 3 or 4 hours, and only feed on one breast during that time. After the third or fourth hour is up, you can swap sides. Babies may only feed once in this time, in which case they would only get one side. If they feed multiple times, you just keep feeding them on the same side until the allocated hour. This teaches the breast to slow down the milk production. If the other side gets too full, try not to express, as this only makes more milk. Instead, apply cold compresses or ice packs to reduce the swelling of the ducts. Many women think the breasts are filling up with milk, but it’s actually blood as the ducts expand, which is why the coldness works. Some women use cold cabbage leaves, which can work well.
To combat a fast let-down, posture feeding can work. This is when you attach bubs, then lay back flat on pillows (in bed works well) so that your baby is almost feeding uphill. If not lying back completely flat, you could still just try leaning back on the couch so the flow is still reduced. Another option is to hand express a bit of milk past the first let-down and attach your baby once the spurting subsides.
When let-down is quick, allow bubs to come on and off as he likes, he may need several burps as he’s going. After feeds, give your little one lots of upright time to help all those tummy bubbles settle down. After all, you don’t lie down after a milkshake! Grown-ups have gravity to digest our food, babies need us to help that process happen. An ergonomic carrier (which holds babies as if you were cuddling them to your front and doesn’t support them only by the pelvis) is a great way to settle a baby in the upright position, as well as giving you hands-free time to prepare food, take your toddler to the park, or give you time to go for a walk and take in a much needed breath of fresh air.