It's normal to experience an overabundant supply of breast milk during the first few weeks of breastfeeding. As the weeks go on, most women's milk supply will adjust to their baby's needs, but some women will continue to make too much milk.
You might not think that having too much milk is a problem. After all, many women struggle with a low milk supply. Producing extra milk might actually sound like a blessing. However, an excessive milk supply can cause difficulty breastfeeding and problems for both you and your baby.
How Too Much Milk Affects Your Baby
Each time your baby breastfeeds, he or she begins by getting a low-fat, watery milk called foremilk. As the feeding progresses, the foremilk changes over to a higher-fat, creamier milk called hindmilk. Hindmilk is more filling and helps to satisfy your baby's hunger.
When you have too much milk, your baby may fill up on foremilk and stop breastfeeding before getting very much hindmilk. If your baby doesn't get enough hindmilk, he or she will most likely eat more frequently and begin to gain weight very quickly.
Another problem with an overabundant milk supply is that it is often associated with a very forceful let-down reflex. If the flow of milk from your breast is too powerful and quick, it can be very difficult for your baby to breastfeed. The baby may gag, choke, and have difficulty breathing and nursing at the same time. While trying to keep up with the very fast flow of milk, the baby may swallow a lot of air. This can cause fussiness, gas, spitting up, hiccups and colic. Some babies may become very frustrated and refuse to breastfeed.
What You Can Do:
- Express some breast milk before feeding your baby. Use a breast pump or hand expression to remove some of the milk from your breasts prior to nursing. Once the forceful let-down has occurred, the flow of your milk will slow down and you can begin breastfeeding your baby.
- Breastfeed in a reclined position. Try to breastfeed lying back with your baby above you. Nursing against gravity may help to slow down the flow of milk.
Burp the baby frequently during the feeding to remove any air that has been swallowed. This will help your baby to feel more comfortable and make room in your baby's stomach for more hindmilk.
- Feed your baby from the same breast for a few feedings in a row. This will allow your baby to get more hindmilk and decrease stimulation to the other breast. Decreasing the stimulation will help decrease the milk supply.
How To Much Milk Affects You
A large supply of breast milk can cause some of the common problems of breastfeeding, such as:
- Plugged milk ducts
- Leaking breasts
- Sore nipples
- Excessive weight loss
- Painful let-down reflex
What You Can Do:
- See your doctor to check your thyroid function. Hyperthyroidism and postpartum thyroiditis are linked to an overabundant milk supply.
- Wear a tight, properly fitted nursing bra.
- Express just enough milk to relieve engorgement, but do not completely empty the breast of milk. If you pump too much, you will increase your milk production.
- Place cold compresses or cabbage leaves on your breasts to ease the discomfort and help decrease the supply.
- Talk to your doctor about using birth control pills or other medications that can help diminish your supply. Be very careful not to decrease your supply too much.
- Pump, freeze and store the extra milk for use at a later time. Properly stored breast milk can be frozen for 3 to 6 months or even longer.
- Pump and donate your breast milk to a milk bank.
Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Sixth Edition. Mosby. Philadelphia. 2005.