Most first time mothers are concerned if they will have sufficient milk for their newborns, and naturally so, since we desire to give the best to our offspring. The pressure can be compounded when well meaning but ill informed family members of the older generation make erroneous conclusions regarding a mother’s milk supply. A little patience, hard work and intake of appropriate foods to help boost milk supply will usually enable one’s milk supply to be adequate in a few weeks.
Some mothers are blessed with an abundant supply of milk and breeze through the nursing journey. But what if the mother has too much milk, and it becomes a problem for the baby to nurse? How does one even identify it, and how to go about solving the challenges both mother and baby face? Having had experienced this firsthand twice, I can attest that it can very emotionally taxing while trying to succeed in breastfeeding a child for the long term. I’ll share what I had learnt, from experience, reading and information shared by lactation consultants who helped me along the way.
There are many indicators that a mum has an oversupply of milk. Forceful letdown of milk while nursing, letdown when NOT nursing, soreness/breast tenderness 1-2 hours after nursing, engorged breasts, blocked milk ducts and mastitis are symptoms that a mother may experience. A forceful letdown may cause the baby to choke and gag while nursing due to the inability to cope with the spray of milk going down his/her throat.
A baby may also face the following challenges: fussing, pulling off the breast often while nursing, colicky crying (but not actual colic), gassiness, spitting up and frequent hiccupping. The stools may also be green and watery due to an intake of too much foremilk.
If you find these symptoms familiar and are feeling fearful, it’s okay. I encountered these problems with my first baby, forsook breastfeeding after 2 months (regrettably). Later, I endured months of identifying and coping with my issues with my second baby and have been nursing for the past 20months. We’ll look at how we can overcome the challenges.
Tackling the Challenges
1. Baby is drinking too much foremilk and not enough hindmilk
This can happen if a mother has too much milk-she produces more foremilk than a mum with a ‘normal’ milk supply. After nursing from one breast, the baby takes in more than the usual (needed) amount of foremilk from the other breast. The high lactose content in foremilk can in turn cause gassiness in the baby and lead to fussiness. The desire to nurse again soon is likely to occur as he did not consume sufficient hindmilk that would have kept him satisfied. If your child fusses to nurse again within the hour, offer the same breast and only offer the second breast after 15 minutes of nursing. Frequent burping would also be required while you are sorting through this issue to help relieve the discomfort your baby may be facing. Keep at this for 1-2 weeks and it should sort itself out soon enough.
2. Overactive Milk Ejection Reflex
This is actually more common than one might think, but the problem varies from the minor to the severely inconvenient, depending on the individual. What needs to be addressed is to (A) help your baby to cope with the fast flow of milk and (B) adjust your milk supply to suit your baby’s needs.
(A) Coping with fast milk flow
Usually, a change in nursing position will greatly benefit your child. Leaning back ( at a 45 degree angle) and resting your baby on you to nurse will help the breastmilk to go against the gravitational pull when nursing. Be sure to cushion your back and be as comfortable as possible so that you do not end up with a sore back and shoulders from nursing. This leaning back position works well with the Cradle Hold and Football Hold. Burp your baby frequently if you notice that he unlatches often and as a result, is taking in a lot of air. If baby unlatches and cries from the forceful letdown, burp and calm your baby down before relatching so that he is not feeling anxious about the nursing process.
If your baby allows you to, try to nurse more frequently so that the amount of milk in your breasts in between feedings is lesser and your baby is able to manage the nursing better.
When letdown occurs, simultaneously unlatch baby, clamp your nipple in between your thumb and forefinger (in a horizontal position) to stop the flow temporarily (so that it doesn’t spray your baby in the face) and reach for a tissue/towel/cup and allow the milk to flow into it until it slows down. Relatch your baby when he is calm. If like me, you experience letdown in the other breast at the same time, do your best to press your arm against your nipple to stop the flow or ensure that you have breastpads in your nursing bra to absorb the milk.
If the above fails, hand express or pump your milk till the flow slows down and nurse your baby again. Do this only as a last resort as it can cause your supply to increase. Some mothers find that doing this just before your baby is due to nurse is very helpful. Reduce the amount that is expressed over time until the flow is manageable for your baby during feedings.
(B) Adjusting your milk supply
Offer only one breast per feeding session, and should your baby want to nurse more after a nursing session, offer the same breast again. You may feel uncomfortable on the side that was not nursed from. If you do, apply a cold compress to ease the discomfort and express a small amount of milk if you feel extremely uncomfortable. Reduce the amount that you express over time till you do not need to express any.
Avoid hot showers, wearing breast shells and stimulating your breasts unnecessarily to prevent the production of more milk.
Try not to use the cold cabbage compress on your breasts unless you are facing an extreme situation of overproduction as it can quickly reduce your milk supply.
Some nursing mothers have too much milk (hyperlactation), resulting in many awkward moments. Read more on the 10 Valuable Tips For Mothers Experiencing Hyperlactation and how you can overcome it.
Here wishing you all the best in your breastfeeding journey!
By Ruth Mak
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