What to do with my oversupply
December 2, 2010 4:47 PM   Subscribe

I have a week-old baby - my first. Since my "milk came in" I am producing more than she can possibly drink. Uncomfortable. What do do? Details within.

She is a total night owl and barely interested in feeding during the day - she sleeps all day and wants to feed a lot at night. During the day my breasts get uncomfortably hard because they are so full, and they leak a lot. I know it's only day 7, but I am wondering when my supply with regulate to her demand... and what I can do in the meantime.

During the day - do I wake her to feed when she is happily sleeping? It doesn't seem necessary because she gets plenty at night and is putting on weight. I still feed her a couple of times during the day but not as much as my boobs would like.

So I have been expressing with a breast pump during the day in order to be comfortable and not leaking buckets all over my clothes.

But I know that it works on a supply-demand basis so I don't want my boobs to think that because I'm expressing this equals demand! Do I stop expressing and deal with the discomfort and leaking?

Not sure what to do, any advice appreciated, mums.
posted by saturn~jupiter to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I know one friend used it in her coffee.
posted by sammyo at 4:51 PM on December 2, 2010

My aunt used to pump it and freeze it, then donate it to mothers who did not have milk.
posted by pickypicky at 4:53 PM on December 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

This is a good problem to have. Express what you can and freeze it (lots of instructions/products to help you do this are available online). Soon her belly will get bigger and she'll be able to eat more... and more... and more! In the meantime, let your partner do some of the night feedings with the expressed milk and GET SOME REST! It will all work out.

Ps: Don't wake a sleeping baby unless the pediatrician says she's not gaining weight.
posted by nkknkk at 4:55 PM on December 2, 2010 [9 favorites]

If you don't mind it going to waste, just express it in the shower. May wind up taking showers in the late afternoon...but hey...beats wet clothes.
posted by AltReality at 4:55 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd ring your local breastfeeding association and ask them. Perhaps you can donate, perhaps it's best if you express and freeze it. (I couldn't successfully breastfeed so I have no experience.)

I also wouldn't wake a happily sleeping baby for any reason! You are lucky that she sleeps so well, despite it being topsy-turvy with the whole day/night thing.

Sounds like you're both doing well. Being a new mother is often fraught with worse problems. Congratulations!
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:59 PM on December 2, 2010

There are milk banks, if you find it difficult to store the excess, but as others have suggested she will probably want more later on, so you'll be glad to have the extra. Hooray for you and your new baby!
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:01 PM on December 2, 2010

Congrats on the new kid!

If you want to get her turned around to being a night sleeper, start slowly and wake her just an hour or so before she would normally wake for her first "night" feed. Just keep slowly nudging her "first" feed of her night cycle earlier and earlier and eventually she will be eating during the day and sleeping at night.

With regard to the over supply, just gently express some milk to relieve the pressure. I used to do it into my bathroom sink. Don't pump or express too much at this point or you will just perpetuate your over supply problem. Eventually your supply and her hunger will equalize.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:05 PM on December 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Don't be at all concerned about her sleep habits. It's way too soon for her to distinguish between day and night, although you can encourage this by keeping things dark and quiet at night and less-dark and less-quiet during the day. As for the milk, the advice here looks good. Also, your milk supply and your baby's appetite will tend to converge if you don't express or pump.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:13 PM on December 2, 2010

My lactation consultant always recommended putting cold cabbage leaves on your breasts for oversupply. The cold felt good and something about the cabbage decreased supply, everyone else who had the problem in the support group seemed to think it worked. But you are right, if you go over board pumping because you can (while it's nice to have extra) it will perpetuate your oversupply problem. Also, they make pads for your breasts that will soak up the liquid, if you are just worried about being wet.
posted by katers890 at 5:14 PM on December 2, 2010

It took my oversupply and overactive letdown a good three months to calm down... and my letdown is still a bit nuts 9 months in.

Don't wake her, she'll wake when she's hungry. If she's gaining weight, this is nothing you need to worry about.

Get lots of nursing pads because you'll need them for the next few months- I liked the medela ones best for disposables but there are some nice reusable flannel or bamboo ones that are quite absorbant too. I also suggest some kind of absorbent/waterproof pad underneath you overnight- I used one of those square ones they have in the hospital, but even a few (3-4) layers of flannel receiving blankets will work in a pinch. Sleep with your nursing bra on with nursing pads! I don't know how many nights I woke up completely drenched because I forgot.

As for the pumping... I would suggest storing a bit in the freezer for now, but in the interest of letting your supply regulate (unless you plan on pumping every day forever on top of nursing), just stimulate your let down and let it leak naturally until it stops. This will relieve the pressure but not have a significant effect on your supply/demand. Hot showers are good for this, but you will likely notice that it starts happening on its own when the baby cries, or you think of the baby, or you touch your breasts and think of feeding the baby (go brain!).

The discomfort should settle down sooner than three months, I didn't mean to scare you! I think the pain was gone after two or three weeks for me, but it really did take 3 months to get to a point where I was making only *just* the right amount. It's constantly being tweaked, mind you, so there are some nights where I get that full, hard pain in my breast if she hasn't eaten at her 'regular' (I use that term loosely) interval.

Other than that, kick back and enjoy the ride. I found the first couple weeks were easier on my mind than the following couple months, but it gets better as you, your body and the baby find your groove.

Congratulations! Welcome, Baby Saturn!
posted by sunshinesky at 5:17 PM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Contra most people, I actually do "wake" perfectly healthy babies if they're not nursing during the day, in order to try to nudge their hunger toward the daylight hours and away from the night hours. If she's really only nursing a "couple of times" all day, that doesn't seem like much at all. If your supply adjusts itself to lots of feeding at night and only a little during the day, that could become a bit of an unfortunate cycle. I'd try to see if you can get her eating every 3 hours during the day, and then maybe she'll give you longer stretches at night.

I put "wake" in quotes because I sort of nurse them while they're still sleeping, in a way -- I just take them out of swing/seat/crib and put them on the breast, and they usually suck enough to get at least one good letdown.

I have oversupply and overactive letdown, too, and it's actually been hugely beneficial for me when they're a little older, because they become such fast nursers -- by 3 months, they're finishing both sides in 10 minutes! It's great!
posted by palliser at 5:25 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

La Leche League?
posted by CodeMonkey at 5:25 PM on December 2, 2010

Thank you so much all of you! As I was reading this both of my breasts started leaking. Lots of good advice here for me to process... (and despite my discomfort I am loving every minute!) Thanks.
posted by saturn~jupiter at 5:43 PM on December 2, 2010

I have oversupply and overactive letdown, too, and it's actually been hugely beneficial for me when they're a little older, because they become such fast nursers -- by 3 months, they're finishing both sides in 10 minutes! It's great!

Absolutely! I love it... so many of my breastfeeding friends are stuck on a latch for 30+ minutes. I feel quite fortunate, although it was pretty maddening in the beginning when my daughter would cough and sputter before she adjusted to my crazy letdown.
posted by sunshinesky at 5:45 PM on December 2, 2010

With respect to those who say don't wake a sleeping baby - I get you, I really do. But.... If you have 12 weeks of mat leave and you have any hope of getting even a little sleep once you're back to work, you HAVE to turn them around if you're not co-sleeping/sleep nursing. And sometimes even if you don't have to go back to work it becomes necessary for a variety of reasons to get baby on a day/night schedule. It's not like flipping the schedule is committing to months of waking a baby - it's a week or two at most.

OP, do what works for you. You'll find lots of suggestions on the internets on how to flip a baby's schedule. If it works for you to have her sleep most of the day then that's A-OK too. New mommyhood is hard enough, just do what works for you and your new little family.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:50 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing hand expressing in the shower. You get some comfort with out the boobs thinking they need to make more milk. And, it's a good excuse for a nice, loooooong shower!!

Congrats!! Go Mom!!!
posted by pearlybob at 5:57 PM on December 2, 2010

Don't pump. Just deal with the pain. You'll regulate soon enough.
posted by k8t at 6:08 PM on December 2, 2010

Uh, do express even a little. You don't want to risk mastitis. That hurts like a sonufagun.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:26 PM on December 2, 2010

Uh, do express even a little. You don't want to risk mastitis. That hurts like a sonufagun.

Apart from hurting, it can also be incredibly dangerous.
posted by sunshinesky at 6:32 PM on December 2, 2010

Firstly, this is totally, totally normal. It is totally uncomfortable, but it passes quickly.

It took my crazy oversupply about 12 weeks to completely normalize and for baby and I to get it all together and feel comfortable with the whole BF thing. That said, by week 6 it was much more manageable. My baby is now 10 months old, and I just recently stopped using breast pads for little leaks here and there at let down (I like the reusable flannel ones), and I can say definitively that breastfeeding is totally awesome, despite how incredibly difficult/emotional/frustrating/painful/etc it can be in the beginning.

I would not recommend pumping at all, unless you are going back to work and need to maintain a huge supply for pumping. Pumping now will only make your oversupply worse (It is hard to believe, but true!). If you are going to be with baby most of the time, you can pump on one side while the baby eats on the other to keep a little emergency stash, but you really don't need to pump that much for that. I pump maybe once a month, and find that it is plenty.

That said, if you want to make really awesome use of your oversupply, check out EatsOnFeets.org. Very cool!
posted by LyndsayMW at 8:08 PM on December 2, 2010

Uh, do express even a little. You don't want to risk mastitis. That hurts like a sonufagun.
Apart from hurting, it can also be incredibly dangerous.

Yes! Be careful about mastitis. Mrs. Wekzeuger has had several bouts and it is terrifying how quickly she spikes a fever. It can go systemic very quickly because lactating breasts are so well vascularized.

Look for patches of redness radiating outwards from your aureola, coincident with tender spots and lumps that indicate blocked ducts. If you feel even slightly feverish or shivery check your temp immeadiately.

(Standard treatment for us has been is Augmentin at 875mg twice/day for two weeks.)
posted by werkzeuger at 8:09 PM on December 2, 2010

Congratulations on your new daughter and your abundant milk supply!

A few offbeat breast-milk uses:
1. Donations through local hospitals, charities, or Facebook(?!)
2. Cross-nursing with mom friends.
3. DIY popsicles, cheese, lotion, soap, or apple muffins.
4. Low-impact weight loss program. Hey, producing milk burns calories.
posted by nicebookrack at 8:24 PM on December 2, 2010

p.s. IANAD but at 7 days (you survived the first week!) you may still be producing colostrum, which is good to squirt down the baby-gullet as much as possible/practical.
posted by nicebookrack at 8:30 PM on December 2, 2010

My answer would be different depending whether you are going to be a stay at home mom, or going back to work and planning to pump.

If you're going to stay at home, then just do whatever works for you - although I agree with Palliser and PorcineWithMe that I would be starting to gently transition your daughter to a day feeding/awake schedule. No need to pump if you are going to be a SAHM who doesn't plan to bottlefeed, so transition away from that too, in order to try and regulate your supply down to what your daughter is demanding. Note that babies do not actually demand much more milk as they age (there is some increase in the beginning), but instead the composition of the breastmilk changes to match the baby's needs. This is different to formula, which is the same the whole time, so formula fed babies get ever-increasing amounts of milk as they age.

If you are going back to work and plan to pump at work, then I strongly, strongly recommend that you start transitioning your daughter to a regular day/night schedule, mainly so that she does not view night time as playtime and start demanding that you entertain her when you are trying to sleep. Its also good to try and pump a little each day (only maybe once a day) to build up a freezer stash. Pumping is less efficient than breastfeeding, so it can be more difficult to pump enough to meet your baby's demands if you are pumping the majority of her milk. Having said that, you can separate out the schedules of wakefulness/sleeping and eating by co-sleeping with your baby, so she nurses from you during the night, while sleeping. That takes the pressure off you to pump all her milk.

Having said all that, I strongly echo PorcineWithMe to find what works for you, and do it regardless of what others think you should be doing. I am a working mom, and my 1st son guzzled down insane amounts of milk during the day (I could barely keep up pumping) because he was a comfort eater, but he slept through the night. My 2nd son had his day/night schedules the same as mine, but refused to drink almost anything while we were separated, and instead nursed a lot while we co-slept at night - reverse cycling.
posted by Joh at 9:36 PM on December 2, 2010

This is a great problem to have. Express/pump as much as you can right now and don't take it for granted. Right now your body is calibrating to what your baby's need is - it becomes less flexible later. I know more than one mother who worked to reduce their production only to find they weren't able to produce as much a few months later when their baby needed it. So keep the volumes up, freeze the extra breastmilk (this will enable you to get out a few months from now) and enjoy the baby. Mazel tov on the new addition to your family!
posted by zia at 11:43 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

One more thing, I wouldn't start to regulate the supply down until the first 6 weeks are through. Its the first 6 weeks that your body produces milk receptors (or so the LLL folks and lactation consultants say), after than you can start to regulate your volume.
posted by zia at 11:48 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you have crazy let down, try feeding while laying on your back (tip from my mum - I have next to no letdown). After our initial undersupply/latch issues were sorted, my supply went through the roof and we started block feeding. So for a few hours she'd feed off left breastydumpling then switch. At the start I'd express a bit on the right in order to get comfy and avoid blocked ducts but it settled down after a while and it was really good because she stopped the green poop and windiness.

I ended up donating most of my freezer stash - even after I went back to work. But don't start hardcore pumping unless you want a big stash and to continue pumping regularly because your body will adpt to that output.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:43 AM on December 3, 2010

Please DO NOT start pumping away as per some of the advice here. An oversupply is a problem in itself and "Make LOTS more!" is really not the message you want to be sending your breasts here. With all respect, "she will probably want more later on, so you'll be glad to have the extra" is terrible advice; it makes no sense. She will want more later on, sure, and you'll make more later on, no problem; the whole thing is entirely demand-driven. Do not go filling your freezer for no reason other than that you can; there is no point, and, well, "uninformed use of a breast pump can lead to premature weaning. There are very few circumstances under which it is necessary to express your milk." "I know more than one mother who worked to reduce their production only to find they weren't able to produce as much a few months later when their baby needed it" is just one of many reasons why one should stay away from pumps if at all possible. If control of production is left to the baby one just does not have those issues.

Express only as much as you need to to make yourself comfortable; squirt off a few blasts in the bathtub (in the early postpartum days I discovered that reading any newspaper article about any gentle tragedy involving any small child = prodigious spraying, which was surreal, but, you know, it did ease the pressure), know that this hassle is normal and that it passes.

For many weeks I slept topless on the sort of pads sold for young bedwetting children (the Snoozy brand was soft enough to sleep on and non-crinkly and they are pretty much bombproof); after much sampling I decided I preferred the "Lansinoh" brand nursing pads. The reusable are pretty much worthless with hardcore leaking, also lumpy and awful-looking, but the Lansinoh are pretty much invisible and soak up quite a bit.

Finally, do not freak out a few months down the road when you are sitting around with limp breasts that don't drench everything and what seems to be a fussy kid. That does not equal a problem with the mechanics here; it is what is supposed to happen -- greet it with relief and gratitude. Great page on the metrics for "enough milk." My kid is older and engorgement and leaking are, I promise, distant memories. Thankfully.
posted by kmennie at 6:44 AM on December 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

When I was a new mom I was in exactly your current position re milk production and night / day feeding. I found that my breasts were often so engorged during the day that my son couldn't latch on until I expressed just enough milk to soften my breasts. Doing that, and also waking him every four or five hours during the day to nurse (as advised by my midwife), really reduced my discomfort.

It seemed to me at the time that I was leaking literally buckets of milk all day long. My milk ducts would have laughed heartily at any mere nursing pad. I don't think I wore a bra at all for the first two weeks. I wore a stretchy tank top with a folded cloth diaper or two tucked inside, which I would soak through in an hour or three. It was a very damp, messy, time. I remarked often that I felt like a walking rainforest. I always expected my husband's glasses to fog up from sitting near me. I wish I had heard of Milk Savers. I never tried them, but I wanted to.

I would say the painful engorgement only lasted maybe two or three weeks. However, the crazy, spraying-in-six-directions, all-support-personnel-maintain-blast-radius oversupply lasted considerably longer. The abundance was useful at times; he had terrible sinus congestion those first few weeks, and one of his tear ducts was blocked. Liberal applications of breastmilk to the eyes and sinuses worked a charm to clear gunk and prevent infection. In fact, my son is 20 months (asleep at the breast as I type), and it's only been the last few weeks that I can go without wearing nursing pads for any length of time, and only at home because it's unreliable.

If I were you, I would cut the pumping entirely for now, and only express when I reach whatever level of discomfort that is my personal "screw this bullshit" level. I'm not suggesting you be a breastfeeding martyr at all. You don't need to suffer. Just, you know, skip the pump, and try not to express, but do it if you gotta, and stop as soon as you're back under your threshold. Let baby be the boss of your boobs. They know how to work together to the greatest benefit of you both.
posted by pajamazon at 11:37 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

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