Oversupply with first: Ways to avoid it repeating

I started out nuring my first child but it seemed I had too much milk. My breasts dripped constantly and still my son would nurse around the clock if I let him. I am trying to get pregnant and I intend to breatfeed. I am hoping to have a better experience and would like to know if there might be something physiologically wrong. Is it possible that I was making milk that was too weak?

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

It sounds like you had a classic case of oversupply with your firstborn! Some moms seem more prone than others to produce an oversupply of milk. An overabundant supply can cause various problems while breastfeeding. Babies whose moms have a very abundant supply may be very fussy during a feed, pulling off the breast, especially as the milk ejects. Sometimes they gag and choke while nursing. They may seem to always be hungry. These babies often appear to dislike breastfeeding. They may pull away and cry soon after beginning to nurse. These babies may finish nursing quickly and are prone to gassiness and spitting up. They are usually very healthy babies, gaining well over the average of four to eight ounces per week, and may develop green, watery stools.

Moms who have an overabundant milk supply often leak a lot in between feeds, and may be more prone to plugged ducts and breast infections. Moms may feel rejected because their baby does not seem content while nursing. Some moms with overabundant supplies actually think they don't have enough milk!

Since oversupply is a complicated issue, consider working with a Lactation Consultant early on if your next baby exhibits any of these symptoms. Here are some ideas that may help the next time around. One of the first things usually recommended with oversupply is to feed your baby from one breast only -- over a three to four hour period. During that time if he wants to nurse several times, return to the "used" breast. Over the first couple of days, you will need to express just enough from the "unused" breast to remain comfortable. After three or four hours, switch to the other side, and keep following this pattern. This allows your baby to access your rich hindmilk, which will help to keep him satisfied for longer periods of time, and may reduce the amount of gas and irritability he experiences. Babies of moms with oversupply may get large amounts of the more watery foremilk if allowed to go back and forth from breast to breast. This high volume, high lactose feed can make babies quite uncomfortable.

Maintaining proper positioning throughout the feed is crucial. Moms with very abundant supplies often suffer from nipple trauma due to their babies sliding off the breast as the feed progresses. This is one way babies deal with all the milk they are getting. They may slightly break suction and just let the excess milk run out of their mouth. If your baby slides down, gently break suction by inserting your finger between your baby's gums and allow him to latch-on again, this time getting a full mouthful of breast tissue.

If your baby spits and chokes during a feed, try to feed in a more reclined position. You can remove your baby from your breast as the milk ejects, which can be several times per feed. Catch the milk in a diaper or a cup. Calm your baby before putting him back to the breast.

It is important when making breastfeeding changes to monitor your baby's output. He should be having six to eight wet diapers a day if under six weeks of age and two or more good sized bowel movements every day. Weekly weight checks will help to reassure you that your baby is continuing to gain an adequate amount of weight. Best wishes in mothering!

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