breastfeeding, encouragement

Over Supply

For the next couple of posts we will talk about over supply.  A mother with an oversupply of breast milk, is producing more milk than needed at any given time.

Her breasts are often engorged and she may suffer from recurring blocked ducts and mastitis and feels uncomfortable most of the time.

A baby whose mother has an over supply will usually be fussy and pulls off the breast while feeding, can be colicky, gassy, clamp on the nipple and choke or spit up.  They can make a clicking sound whilst feeding and can also refuse to feed completely at some point.  This can make you feel discouraged and possibly also rejected – especially in those first few weeks with an inconsolable baby that does not seem to like breastfeeding.

It is important to understand if what you and your child are experiencing is over supply or just a forceful let down! because whilst it is likely for you to suffer from a forceful letdown when you have an oversupply, it is not so when you have just a forceful letdown, which, when not diagnosed correctly can lead to a low milk supply.

Diagnosing oversupply

Firstly, make sure it is not simply a forceful let-down!

If this is not the case, make sure that it is not you who are unintentionally making an oversupply!  This can happen if you are watching the clock rather than the baby and feeding on demand.  Another way you can be contributing to an oversupply is by pumping/expressing extra to have milk for other care takers or to have a freezer supply just in case.

There can be medical reasons for an overabundant milk supply like PCOS or postpartum thyroid issues.  So, if you are not unintentionally making an oversupply, make sure there is also no medical  cause for such.

If none of the above apply, and you are sure it is oversupply the issue there are a few things one can work with to balance things out.

Dealing with oversupply

  • If your baby is less than 4 months, it might be worth waiting.  Many mothers resolve their oversupply around this age.  On average a mama will have her supply established and settled by 6 weeks, but a mother with oversupply can take up to 4 months for it to settle.
  • Look at your diet! As per Diana Cassar-Uhl (IBCLC)

    Does this even relate to oversupply?  If so, how?  It’s clear that the symptoms in babies are similar.  Some professionals suspect a cause and effect relationship, that something about the mother’s gut health causes both oversupply AND allergic sensitivity in the breastfed baby.  There is no current, specific research linking maternal gut health to oversupply, but it has been my experience that most mothers with oversupply also have babies with allergic reactions to something in their milk. (Tongue tie in the baby is also very often present, but this goes beyond the scope of this post.) To me, this suggests that the mother’s digestive issues (which she may or may not be aware of – she may feel perfectly healthy and well), can result in a host of abnormal outcomes, among them oversupply and forceful let-down.  While not “evidence-based practice,” rather, “practice-based evidence,” I’ve noticed over the last 7 years that the mothers who eliminated one or more allergens from their diets were delighted not only with their happier babies and normalized milk production, but with how terrific they felt without the allergen!  Caring for a newborn and feeling terrific!  Years later, many of these mothers tell me they never went back to the offending ingredient, or introduced it in far reduced amounts once their babies got older and/or weaned.

  • Change to feeding baby in a more upright position
  • Make use of medications and/or herbs that help reduce supply
  • Express only a little milk to make your breasts comfortable

Many recommend block feeding when having an over supply.  This should be made with caution and other the help of a breastfeeding professional as when done incorrectly, one might end up with a low milk supply.

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