Milk Oversupply: Causes And Ways To Reduce It
What is milk oversupply? Believe it or not, you can have too much of a good thing. Some women, especially first-time moms, actually make too much milk. This means that the rush of your milk is so strong your baby chokes and coughs, which makes it harder for her to feed. It can also lead to painful nipples because the baby may actually bite down to clamp the nipple to stop the overflow. Your baby may also fuss and seem hungry, even if she’s constantly eating. This is because she can’t get the last milk in the breast, which has the most calories.
Breastmilk oversupply that continues after the first 4 weeks or so can have many causes. Feeding patterns may cause the oversupply, such as:
- feeding the baby on a set schedule rather than according to the need
- pumping too much before a feed to make the breast soft and easier for the baby to latch onto
- the baby preferring to feed mainly from 1 breast
Leaking doesn’t always mean too much breast milk: During the first four to six weeks after your baby is born, your levels of the milk-making hormone prolactin will be increasing each time milk is removed from your breasts. In these early weeks, your breasts are learning how much breast milk your baby needs and how much to make every hour. As a result, excessive leaking and breasts that fill quickly – and even spray milk during let down – are common and normal.
At the same time, your newborn is also learning to coordinate the way he sucks and swallows, so some coughing and spluttering at the breast are also to be expected.
After around four to six weeks, surges in your prolactin will gradually decrease, and your milk production should start to follow a more straightforward ‘supply and demand’ process based on your baby’s needs. But with so many hormonal changes happening in your body as a new mum, it’s not surprising that it can take time to adjust. Some mums find that their milk supply settles down quickly, while for others it may take a little longer.
How to treat oversupply: If you think you have oversupply, let your medical provider know. They can check for a hormonal condition like an over- or under-active thyroid and your meds for potential effects on your hormone levels. In the meantime, make it easier for your baby to nurse by holding her in an upright position, and use your fingers to reduce the flow of your milk. Let your baby interrupt feedings, and burp her often. Try not to pump because it can stimulate even more milk production. Oversupply milk pumping is often the cause. You can apply cold water or ice to your nipples to decrease leaking.