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How to Manage and Reduce an Oversupply when Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is often described as a journey filled with both joy and challenges. While low milk supply is a common concern for many nursing mothers, the opposite end of the spectrum—oversupply—brings its own set of difficulties. As a mother who experienced the overwhelming sensation of having too much milk, I understand the discomfort and frustration it can cause. Constantly leaking through even the thickest breast pads? Waking up in puddles of milk? Oversupply may seem like a luxury problem, but managing it effectively is key for both mother and baby's well-being.


Before delving into solutions, it's crucial to differentiate between a genuine oversupply issue and perceived discomfort. Just as it's vital to confirm low milk supply, the same applies to oversupply. Signs of oversupply include engorgement, excessive leaking between feedings, and a forceful let-down reflex that may cause discomfort for your baby. Consulting with a lactation consultant, breastfeeding peer supporter or breastfeeding counsellor is the best way to get provide clarity and guidance in managing oversupply effectively.


Once confirmed, here's a comprehensive guide to managing and reducing oversupply while ensuring your baby receives the nourishment they need:


Assess and Manage Engorgement:


Engorgement is a common symptom of oversupply, causing discomfort and potential breastfeeding difficulties. To alleviate engorgement, apply cold compresses or green cabbage leaves to your breasts between feedings. Gentle hand expression or pumping for a short duration can provide relief without exacerbating oversupply.


If you find that you are prone to getting clogged ducts or mastitis, consider eating more choline-rich foods like beef, egg yolks, potatoes, cruciferous vegetables and sunflower seeds, or take a choline supplement every day. Choline also plays a key role in your cognitive functioning and memory.


Block Feeding:


Block feeding involves nursing your baby on one breast for consecutive feedings before switching to the other breast. This technique helps regulate milk production and reduces oversupply by allowing your body to adjust to your baby's demand. Gradually extend the duration of each feeding session on the same breast until symptoms of oversupply diminish.


Utilize Laid-Back Breastfeeding Positions:


Laid-back breastfeeding, also known as biological nurturing, encourages a more relaxed and natural feeding posture for both mother and baby. This approach allows gravity to assist in regulating milk flow, reducing the likelihood of forceful let-down and oversupply symptoms.


Express Milk Moderately:


While pumping can provide relief from engorgement, excessive pumping can exacerbate oversupply. If pumping is necessary, express a moderate amount of milk to relieve discomfort without signalling your body to produce more milk than needed. Adjust pumping frequency and duration based on your comfort level and baby's feeding patterns.


Practice Responsive Feeding:


Responding promptly to your baby's hunger cues is essential in managing oversupply. Allow your baby to nurse on demand, but be mindful of feeding duration and frequency to prevent overstimulation of milk production. Trust your baby's innate ability to regulate their intake and adjust your breastfeeding routine accordingly.


Prioritize Self-Care:


Amidst the challenges of oversupply, prioritize self-care to maintain your physical and emotional well-being. Practice relaxation techniques, engage in activities that bring you joy, and ensure adequate rest and hydration. Remember that taking care of yourself enables you to better care for your baby and navigate the breastfeeding journey with confidence and resilience.



Identifying and Managing an Aggressive Let-Down


An aggressive let-down reflex, often associated with oversupply, can pose challenges for both mother and baby during breastfeeding. This phenomenon occurs when milk is released from the breast forcefully, sometimes causing discomfort for the baby and contributing to feeding difficulties. Recognizing the signs of an aggressive let-down and implementing strategies to manage it can improve the breastfeeding experience for both parties.


Signs of an Aggressive Let-Down


- Your baby may cough, choke, or sputter at the beginning of feedings.

- Your baby may pull away from the breast or appear fussy during feedings.

- Your breasts may feel overly full or engorged between feedings.

- Your baby may experience excessive gas or discomfort after feedings.


Strategies to Manage an Aggressive Let-Down


1. Pre-emptive Milk Expression: Before nursing your baby, express a small amount of milk by hand or pump until the initial forceful flow subsides. This can help reduce the intensity of the let-down reflex and make feedings more comfortable for your baby.


2. Adjust Feeding Positions: Experiment with different breastfeeding positions to find one that minimizes the force of the let-down and allows your baby to control the flow of milk more effectively. Laid-back breastfeeding positions or side-lying positions can help your baby manage the flow more easily.


3. Nursing in a Reclined Position: Nursing in a reclined position, with your baby positioned above your breast, can help slow down the flow of milk and reduce the likelihood of choking or gagging. This allows gravity to work in your favour and gives your baby more control over the feeding process.


4. Burp Your Baby Frequently: Pausing to burp your baby during feedings can help alleviate gas and discomfort associated with swallowing air during forceful let-downs. Gently patting or rubbing your baby's back can help release trapped air and make feedings more comfortable.


5. Offer Comfort and Support: If your baby seems overwhelmed or frustrated during feedings, offer comfort and reassurance by cuddling, rocking, or soothing them between feedings. Creating a calm and nurturing environment can help your baby feel more relaxed and secure during breastfeeding sessions.


Managing oversupply and an aggressive let-down can feel overwhelming, whether it is your first or fifth time breastfeeding. Do not hesitate to seek support from experienced breastfeeding peers, lactation consultants, or support groups to navigate challenges and receive personalized guidance. Sharing experiences and learning from others can provide reassurance and practical strategies for managing oversupply effectively.


With love,

Danielle

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