A common concern for newly breastfeeding mothers is whether or not they’ll have enough milk to satisfy their baby. Most women do and a few have a condition in which they produce too much milk. Oversupply leads to forceful milk ejection, also known as rapid let-down. This overabundance of milk can cause problems for baby similar to reflux. Many cases of forceful milk ejection are actually misdiagnosed as reflux by pediatricians.
Does your baby cry or writhe around in pain while he eats? Maybe he arches his back, coughing and choking on the milk? Other signs are pulling off of the nipple frequently, clamping down on the nipple to stop the milk, and excessively spitting up. These are symptoms of both reflux and forceful milk ejection. If your baby is displaying reflux-like symptoms and you are also experiencing intense and fast let-down, then his problems are probably due to the flow of your milk. The good news is there are things you can do to slow down your milk supply in order to reduce your baby’s discomfort.
Slowing your milk supply is tricky and not to be taken lightly, as you don’t want to deprive your baby of his food. You should only attempt to adjust your supply if baby has established his feeding with you and is at a healthy weight. One simple method is only feeding baby on one breast per feeding. This means that baby will only experience one breast’s let-down and it will signal to your body that baby needs a little less food than previously thought. If this doesn’t work, you can try “block nursing” and only feed from one particular breast for a few feedings before switching to the other side. If the other side is becoming full and uncomfortable, express a little milk to relieve it.
In addition to adjusting your milk supply, you can take measures to make baby as comfortable as possible. As with reflux babies, try to make gravity work on baby’s behalf. Using specific nursing holds can help with the rapid flow. One way to position baby is with him over your breast, so that the flow isn’t being forced down into his mouth as rapidly. Also, you can nurse in a lying down position with you and your baby on your sides. That way, baby can let excess milk dribble out the side of his mouth. Before you begin feeding, try to express the milk into a towel for a few seconds until the flow tapers off a bit.
A mother may not notice any oversupply or leaking until 3-6 weeks post partum. Keep in mind that mild cases of forceful let-down may not need any drastic measures, only time. By approximately 12 weeks post partum, the milk supply will usually balance itself out. If baby is suspected by his pediatrician to have reflux and you are experiencing forceful let-down, tell the doctor. Also, a lactation consultant may be a good resource for information concerning oversupply. Keep in mind that your baby doesn’t have to needlessly suffer, as there are solutions.