Identifying & Reducing Breastmilk Over-production

Some women’s breasts over-produce milk, creating a let-down volume that is too great for their baby’s needs and capabilities – hence the saying, “I had milk for Africa!” This phenomena commonly occurs at between three and six weeks, but some women’s breasts can remain over-producing for longer (more so after giving birth to second and subsequent babies).

From the baby’s perspective it can be like trying to drink gushing water from a garden hose. Women who over-produce do not necessarily have babies that suffer discomfort; some can cope with high-volume feeds without apparent distress. But often the situation can be misinterpreted as the baby having reflux, or the mother’s breasts not producing enough milk.

One particularly sensible idea is for the woman to sit on a backwards incline when feeding, to use gravity’s help to slow the fast flow. Other ideas are to drink a little sage or jasmine tea; eat some parsley (e.g. tabbouleh); and perhaps the low-dose contraceptive mini-pill could help (due to the progesterone). In some cases a low-dose oestrogen-containing pill for a few days can also reduce the oversupply problem.

Red Flags breasts may be overproducing milk:

  • Baby gets very uncomfortable, cries incessantly, is windy and has frequent green stools (maybe with mucous).
  • When the woman breastfeeds on one side, the other breast leaks a lot of milk (beyond the first few weeks).
  • When the baby pulls off the nipple, milk squirts some distance.
  • During feeding there is an audible ‘milk hitting the bottom of the tummy’ sound.
  • The baby can swallow a lot of air as well as milk with the fast rush of milk which makes the baby think it’s full.
  • The baby can ‘head-bang’ during feeds, arching its back, and pulling off the breast to protect its airway, dragging the nipple with it, then may refuse to feed.
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