Oversupply & Overactive Letdown

Many mothers jump to the conclusion that they don’t have enough milk, their milk is not “good enough,” or that their baby may be allergic to something they’re eating. Often, quite the opposite is true. A common and oft overlooked problem is oversupply or overactive letdown. This is when you simply have too much milk! Don’t worry, we can fix it.



Signs of oversupply

  • baby pulls off of the breast repeatedly
  • baby seems fussy at the breast, arching his back, twisting, stopping and whining
  • baby spits up frequently and needs lots of burping
  • baby gulps or “chokes” at letdown
  • stools are green, frothy, or mucousy

Why is oversupply a problem?

Oversupply for some babies is simply the dynamic of milk shooting into their mouth at full force at every meal. As a child, did you ever put your mouth over the end of a garden hose pouring water? Same concept.

The rest of the issue has to do with the composition of the milk he is drinking. Many mothers are told that they have “too much” foremilk and that they need to eat more fats or get more calories into their diets. In fact, your body only makes one kind of milk. This is the illustration I use:

When a farmer milks a cow, all the milk goes into one container. If that container is allowed to sit for a while, all the cream rises to the top. The cream is full of the milkfat. The milkfat separates from the less fatty milk. If a spigot were attached to the bottom of the container, a glass of milk would contain only skim milk unless the jar was mixed up.

Basically, your cream is rising to the top. What we want to do is keep the fattier milk mixed with the skim.


What do I do?

  • Laid-back nursing. Try leaning back with baby on your chest when nursing to reduce the force with which your milk pours forth.
  • Let down into a cloth or bottle, then reattach baby when the flow has slowed.
  • Try a different position, preferably one where baby has control of the amount of milk entering his mouth, such as side-lying or straddling.
  • Nurse on only one side each time. This allows baby to finish the breast and get to “dessert”… the fatty milk that has risen in the milk ducts.
  • Discuss block feeding with your IBCLC. Block feeding is nursing on one side for more than one nursing session. Experiment to find how long works for you. This could mean anything from twice in a row to 4-5 hours. Remember to let baby have a sip from the unused side, or pump enough to relieve pressure, so that you don’t end up with a plugged duct.

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