Breastfeeding: Common Breastfeeding Challenges (cont.)
Oversupply of milk
Some mothers are concerned about having an oversupply of milk. Having an
overfull breast can make feedings stressful and uncomfortable for both mother
What you can do
- Breastfeed on one side for each feeding. Continue to offer that same side for
at least two hours until the next full feeding, gradually increasing the length
of time per feeding.
- If the other breast feels unbearably full before you are
ready to breastfeed on it, hand express for a few moments to relieve some of the
pressure. You can also use a cold compress or washcloth to reduce discomfort and
- Feed your baby before he or she becomes overly hungry to prevent
aggressive sucking. (Learn about hunger signs in the Tips for making it work
- Try positions that don't allow the force of gravity to help as much with
milk ejection, such as the side-lying position or the football hold.
- Burp your
baby frequently if he or she is gassy.
Some women have a strong milk ejection reflex or let-down. This can happen
along with an oversupply of milk. If you have a rush of milk, try the following:
- Hold your nipple between your forefinger and middle finger or with the side
of your hand to lightly compress milk ducts to reduce the force of the milk
- If baby chokes or sputters, unlatch him or her and let the excess milk
spray into a towel or cloth.
- Allow your baby to come on and off the breast at
Ask for help! Ask a lactation consultant for help if you are unable to manage an oversupply of milk on your own.
It is normal for your breasts to become larger, heavier, and a little tender
when they begin making more milk. Sometimes this fullness may turn into
engorgement, when your breasts feel very hard and painful. You also may have
breast swelling, tenderness, warmth, redness, throbbing, and flattening of the
nipple. Engorgement sometimes also causes a low-grade fever and can be confused
with a breast infection. Engorgement is the result of the milk building up. It
usually happens during the third to fifth day after birth, but it can happen at
Engorgement can lead to plugged ducts or a breast infection, so it is
important to try to prevent it before this happens. If treated properly,
engorgement should resolve.
What you can do
- Breastfeed often after birth, allowing the baby to feed as long as he or she
likes, as long as he or she is latched on well and sucking effectively. In the
early weeks after birth, you should wake your baby to feed if four hours have
passed since the beginning of the last feeding.
- Work with a lactation consultant
to improve the baby's latch.
- Breastfeed often on the affected side to remove the
milk, keep it moving freely, and prevent the breast from becoming overly full.
- Avoid overusing pacifiers and using bottles to supplement feedings.
- Hand express
or pump a little milk to first soften the breast, areola, and nipple before
- Massage the breast.
- Use cold compresses in between feedings to
help ease pain.
- If you are returning to work, try to pump your milk on the same
schedule that the baby breastfed at home. Or, you can pump at least every four
- Get enough rest, proper nutrition, and fluids.
- Wear a well-fitting,
supportive bra that is not too tight.
Ask for help! Ask your lactation consultant or doctor for help if the engorgement lasts for two days or more.