It sounds like a humble brag: “I make too much breast milk!” But, through my own experiences breastfeeding my daughters — most recently, my 11-week-old — I’ve learned that overproduction can be a real problem for a baby. Instead of relaxing during a feeding, my poor baby will gag, choke, and spit-up as she tries to manage the fire hose-like flow of milk. Having constantly engorged breasts is uncomfortable for me, too.
During both of my girls’ newborn phases, it sometimes seemed like more milk was coming back out than going in. My first baby’s frequent and copious spit-ups made me so nervous that I actually had her tested for a serious gastric condition. It turned out that she was perfectly healthy — just struggling with my forceful milk let-down.
In search of solutions, I saw a certified lactation consultant, who helped me make some simple adjustments to our feeding routine that proved to be very effective. I also developed some best practices of my own. Here is what worked for me, but be sure to check with your pediatrician before you change your feeding plan:
1. Changing positions
Any breastfeeding position where your baby is under your nipple is going to make that “drowning in milk” feeling worse. Try sitting your baby upright so that his mouth is level with or higher than your nipple. Another great position is with you lying on your back, with your baby on top, so you’re belly to belly. The baby can actually find the nipple by rooting around and then self-serve at his own pace. Not only does this help baby manage the flow of milk, but it’s very relaxing for a tired mama.
2. Block feeding
When I first started feeding my baby, I was switching breasts frequently to try to keep her awake. Little did I know, this is the opposite of what you should do when you’re making too much milk. Sticking to one side at a time — ideally for a “block” of two to three hours — will allow your baby to enjoy a slower flow of milk as she drains your breast. Also, she’ll get all the nutrient-rich hindmilk and not just the thinner foremilk, which can make her gassy. During each block of time, feed your baby as often as she likes, but only on one side. If your baby has completely emptied the first breast and is clearly still hungry, by all means offer the other side; but, since you’re making so much milk, you may find that one is enough.
3. Burp him
Ironically, babies coping with oversupply can be harder to burp, but it’s so important. To help your baby burp, hold him in different burping holds, such as over the shoulder and seated on your lap; walking around the room with him, or even bouncing on a yoga ball with him, can also help. Once he burps, your baby will feel so much better and spit up less. I usually burp my little a few times during a feeding, not just at the end.
4. Stay dry
Moms with oversupply often leak through their clothes, so it helps to wear breast pads, which are available in both disposable and washable versions. I even slept in a nursing bra stuffed with pads to avoid waking up in a pool of milk. And if you’re ever breastfeeding topless, beware that the breast you’re not currently using might leak all over your baby. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to change my daughter’s outfit because I accidentally soaked her during a feeding. Finally, I got into the habit of always draping a burp cloth over my baby’s body as a precaution.
One more thing: You may be tempted to store up all that excess liquid gold in the freezer, but women with oversupply issues need to be careful about pumping; pump too much and you may signal your body to make even more milk, so check with your doctor or lactation consultant. The good news is, eventually your body will get used to your baby’s rhythms and supply should level out with demand. Now, go try that super relaxing laying on your back position — mama’s orders!