When my tiny baby was born, thank the baby gods, we had great success breastfeeding. He immediately took to it, and thanks to the amazing support I had from my doula and nurses, I felt incredibly confident feeding my child.
Then, a few days later when I came home, my milk came in, and I realized I had a problem.
Many mother’s bodies make the proper amount of milk for their babies. Some have difficulty, and only produce a small amount. My problem was different. My tiny baby only needed a tiny size of milk, but my body got the order messed up, and was serving it up – supersized.
Some people would pump and store excess milk, thinking they hit the milk jackpot! I, however, knew something was off, and decided to not pump – for fear that it would continue to make my body think that I needed the supersized amount of milk.
Because I wasn’t pumping, and was exclusively breastfeeding, being the only person who could feed my Itty Bitty was extraordinarily challenging. I could never leave him, because we didn’t have a milk supply from which he could feed if he became hungry. I felt like I was failing at feeding my tiny baby, and also felt like a prisoner in my own house. I became incredibly cranky, was jealous of mothers who chose to formula feed, and was sick and tired of hearing people say “they wished they had my problem.”
Trust me, no one would want my problem.
I had what is called Hyperlactation. My breasts, and myself in general were incredibly uncomfortable. Even worse, so was my Itty Bitty. Instead of having an all you can eat buffet of an endless supply of milk, my child was often gagging and choking on his meal. He would pull off from my breast, crying, and milk would be spraying him on his face. Crazy, right? It was like my body was a high powered milk Supersoaker 3000. In addition to this wretched routine at feedings (every two or three hours) he was also extremely colicky, gassy, and had green frothy poops.
Hyperlaction sucks (no pun intended.) My breasts always felt full, I leaked a great deal throughout the day, and went through a couple hundred nursing pads. Going out in public was extremely difficult for me, so I often asked friends to meet me at home. I was worried that I would be leaking through my breast pads before I returned home, or that I would try to feed Itty Bitty while I was out and he would start screaming which would cause my milk might to sail straight across the room into someone else’s lap.
So, I did what any other mother dealing with breastfeeding problems would do.
Then I went to see lactation consultant Kathy Moren at Healthy Babies, Happy Moms, in East Greenwich, RI. I followed her advice:
- I often sat in a reclined position, or laid sideways and fed in bed. This way, I did not have gravity pouring even more milk.
- After my baby would latch, he would soon push his head away due to my forceful letdown. As soon as this would happen, I would take a towel to my breast, and would wait to finish feeding my tiny baby until I was no longer having this forceful let down.
- I did not pump, but would instead “catch” the excess milk from the other breast while I nursed. I used a product called Milk Savers. In some feedings, I would catch 1-3 oz, which we would later put into a bottle. We would try to bottle feed my Itty Bitty with this milk, to try to introduce a bottle into his routine.
- I block fed for a few days – four hours on one side, four on another. This was uncomfortable, and I had to make sure that I didn’t get any clogged ducts, but it worked. After that, I would feed from only one breast, and the next time on the other. By not feeding from each side every two hours, my body quickly learned that I needed less milk.
After 10 weeks of having an oversupply, my body and my baby finally found a rhythm. I now actually enjoy feeding my tiny baby, and no longer worry that I am drowning him or causing him gas pain with my milk.
It was hard, but I am glad that we worked on it together. He was patient with me, and I learned to be patient with myself.
Excellent post. Excellent information. Thank you for your honest, loving words…
Us mothers sure do work hard for our babies. I have the complete opposite problem and felt exhausted too, because I would nurse for 30 minutes or so, only to have my son still be hungry because I wasn't producing enough milk. I then had to supplement with formula after that, making my feeding time an hour or more. I remember wanting to quit because I was so tired of feeding both ways. But I knew, whatever breast milk I gave him was benefiting him greatly. Mary, you are doing awesome, and am so glad to hear you got help with oversupply of milk. It must have been incredibly uncomfortable. Cheers to you for powering through!
Thanks so much Courtney – you aren't kidding! We do work hard. I'm happy that you were able to feed your little baby 🙂
As a mother who worked for 4 months, with two lactation consultants, tried every trick in the book, pumping every hour for 48 hours straight, and even took medication to increase supply only to be diagnosed with "primary lactation failure" not being able to do what i was told was best and natural and being judged for using formula and hearing how I must not have tried hard enough and just gave up— I truly would have given anything to have your problem. One thing is true, the grass isn't always greener on the other side. We are all just looking for that happy medium. In the end too much milk or not enough. Breast or formula. Our babies are fed and thriving and that's what matters most.
So sorry to hear that you went through so much Sarah – I agree – the grass isn't always greener. One things for certain – being a mom is a tough job! You're right though, having healthy & happy babies is all that matters!
I was an over producer, as well… and Addie needed the shield to latch. We worked it all out(I ended up pumping exclusively after 8 months til she was 14 months, now we use frozen). Kathy helped us too and I love her for it. Great post!
Glad to hear I'm not alone in terms of overproduction. You must have quite the stash! Kathy is the best 🙂
Stories like yours are so valuable! Despite there being a lot of media spotlighting on breastfeeding, there aren't enough positive stories from moms with specific issues. And love the very specific tips you offer. It's amazing what our bodies are capable of, right? Glad it all worked out!
Thanks Carla! I agree – new mothers are often just told that breastfeeding should be painfree and easy. From what I've heard, it is nothing but easy in the beginning, no matter the milk flow! Thats why I wanted to write this post – to let others know that it was a struggle for me, but in the end, we are a happy and healthy family!
Wow, thank you for your honest bf story! I'm so glad in the end it worked out for you and your family. I think BF'g is one of the hardest things I've ever done. Its work. A lot of work and commitment. I just recently found out why my first never could latch. She has a lip tie. Four and a half years ago, no one ever mentioned lip tie or ever checked for it. I mention this here just incase another mom reads this and possibly is going through her own difficulty with bf'g.
Thanks Millicent – and thank you for sharing your information on lip ties
This is so much like my experience. I would put the pump up to the other breast to catch it while he nursed. I usually caught about 3 oz. Thankfully it has evened out now enough now that a pad will not (always) leak through. These are great tips for someone with an overabundance of milk. You always hear people say they didn't make enough and how lucky we are, but it's a problem too. Poor Owen was always practically choking from my forceful letdown and I had to stop it with a blanket and wait before he could actually latch correctly.
Glad to hear that I wasn't alone, but sorry that you went through it! Not an easy thing for us mommas at all!
That is a crazy story! I was the norm didn't produce enough milk…even with pumping. We supplemented which worked well. My kids are adults now. Not a huge deal in retrospect but it was a super big deal then.
Everything seems like such a big deal with a newborn, right? It all works out in the end 🙂
I had a baby 8 weeks ago and I'm definitely ready for my body to regulate, which I hope will happen in another week or two. This is baby #3 for me and I also seem to have more than they need during these early weeks. My problem comes later (about 6 months or so) when my supply seems to lessen and they get uninterested. I can relate about envying other moms who use formula. Breastfeeding can just be really stressful at times.