How bad could too much breast milk production be? As like most things...too
much of a good thing can be bad. Oversupply can be physically and
Today we will review lactation oversupply and its
What is lactation oversupply? Basically, it’s when you
are making more milk than your baby needs for healthy growth. It is also
called hyperlactation, hypergalactia or milk oversupply.
Producing too much milk is a common experience early after delivery as
breastfeeding is getting established due to engorgement. But if it lasts
longer this can be challenging as it makes breastfeeding difficult and at
It can also affect your baby’s behavior and weight, sometimes resulting in
misdiagnosis like colic or food sensitivity. Moms can become nervous and
feel like a failure.
It is important to know the difference between forceful letdown and
With both, your baby may experience choking, coughing and gasping at the
Forceful letdown: Making the right amount of milk with
fast flow. With forceful letdown, your baby gets
sprayed, but you may not become engorged or leak as much as someone with
too much milk.
Milk oversupply: Making too much milk with fast
flow. You feel engorged the majority of the time and
your milk supply always seems to exceed your baby’s needs.
All of the above!
Here are some signs of milk oversupply:
Constantly full breast
Frequent leakage of milk
Unsettle, fussy and gassy baby
Baby gaining too much weight
Baby struggling to keep latch and at times choking or coughing
Green frothy stool in diaper
Recurrent mastitis ( breast infection) or symptoms of clogged ducts
What causes lactation oversupply?
Breast milk oversupply can have many causes:
Your body naturally produces large volumes of milk from the
beginning (called idiopathic- basically no known cause)
Breast-feeding mismanagement- i.e., too much pumping
Taking medications that increase milk production
Medical issues like too much thyroid hormone or too much milk
production-stimulating hormone, prolactin, in your blood.
Let’s look at the effects of oversupply on baby’s
Your baby will be taking more of low-fat foremilk which is high in lactose
than high fat hindmilk, (high in fat).
An enzyme called lactase digests lactose…When lactase is overwhelmed, the
milk sugar in lactose begins to ferment, causing gas and frothy green
stools…This can result in diaper rash and, if the intestines are irritated,
Experts advised that it is important to avoid wearing a bra, particularly
to sleep. A bra can press on the mammary tissue and cause sluggishness in
the milk ducts, creating plugs that can then turn into mastitis (breast
infection). You can sleep with a towel on your breasts to soak the excess
milk. Most times, going ‘braless’ greatly reduces leaking as nothing is
applying pressure on the breasts.
“Block feeding” is using only one breast for two or more nursing
sessions in a row.
About 1 hour prior to nursing, start by pumping both
breasts for a short time just to relieve some pressure
and allow for proper latching.
When your baby is ready to nurse, nurse from one breast
only for as long as your baby is interested.
Any time your nurse within a six-hour period, offer the
same breast again…If the other breast feels uncomfortable, express
just to relieve pressure then stop.
In the event that both breasts become uncomfortably full at any
point, fully pump and start the process again.
What benefits are there in block feeding?
Staying at the same breast for two or more feedings will allow milk
volume to slow because there is less overall stimulation.
Feeding at the same breast helps to ensure that the baby is getting
the hindmilk which has higher calories.
“Feedback Inhibitor of Lactation” (FIL) is triggered by the body.
A whey protein builds up in the milk and becomes more concentrated
if milk is not removed…This will send the message to slow down milk
Other tips to help with lactation oversupply:
Nursing position: Try leaning back, or side-lying, during
breast-feeding and position your baby upright so that gravity slows the
flow of milk and the baby will latch on easily.
Reduction of flow: Apply pressure behind areola to
restrict force by using a “scissor” position, using the first and second
fingers of your free hand. Ease the pressure as the baby settles into the
feeding. Vary the position of the fingers to avoid creating a blockage or
Feeding strategies: Allow your baby to interrupt feeding
as needed. Remember your baby will need frequent burping. Also try to use
the block feeding strategy.
Prevention of mastitis: If your breasts feel lumpy,
massage them gently to work out the lumps and prevent plugged ducts.
Ensure good latch: Hand express 1-2 minutes before
bringing baby to breast to release that first strong rush of milk and
soften the areola to ensure a good latch.
Pumping: Avoid pumping to prevent continued stimulation
of milk overproduction.
Discomfort: Cold compresses can be helpful. Many mothers find chilled cabbage leaf compresses helpful in alleviating discomfort from engorgement, and reduce milk production. Let the cabbage leaves chill, apply to your breasts for short periods of time between feeds, a few times per day.
Are there any medications you can use to treat milk
The use of medication to treat milk oversupply is not well studied.
Low-dose oral contraceptives or pseudoephedrine may be helpful and are safe
in lactating mothers. However, use with caution and under guidance from a
Is there natural/home remedy for oversupply?
A few herbs have been clinically useful to reduce milk supply. Not all have
a great deal of research.
Sage tea (steep 1-3grams of dried sage leaves in hot water). Start
with one cup and see how it affects your supply and your baby. High
doses may not be safe if you have asthma, diabetes or seizures.
Topical jasmine flower
Topical peppermint oil (toxic to baby in high doses)
An alternative way of managing your oversupply is to donate your breastmilk. You can choose to maintain your higher level of milk production for this purpose. Donated breast milk saves lives, improves the health of newborns who are admitted to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and also allows parents who cannot nurse to choose to provide human milk for their baby.
When you have tried everything and your oversupply is
continuing, you may benefit from having your thyroid levels
checked as overactive thyroids can contribute to oversupply or
may be due to other medical conditions. You may need support from a
So, too much of a good thing can be bad. Not only causing mental distress
but also causing GI issues for your baby and pain and increased chances of
breast infection for you!
Take the steps to manage this and if you need further support always reach
out to your healthcare provider.
MaternalWell text support is here for you for any general questions or
reach out to our lactation counselors for consultations! Remember, you
don’t have to go through this all alone, we care about you and your baby!