An oversupply of breastmilk, created by overstimulating the breast doing both breastfeeding and pumping, can be uncomfortable for both mother and infant. This letdown often crops up when the baby is between two weeks and three months old. It’s more often an issue with the latch, potentially caused by a tongue tie or how frequently the mother is breastfeeding her little one. Gua sha, coupled with proper feeding techniques like block feedings and clamping back on the breast, may help the little one cope with the mama’s overactive letdown.
Many moms experience concerns about the nursing process that may cause anxiety and guilt. Sometimes, they may produce more milk too quickly than their baby can handle.
This may sound like a good problem, but too much of any good thing can cause challenges. Milk from the breast is a neurohormonal reflex known as a letdown at the start of breastfeeding.
Sometimes, the milk flow in this reflex can be too fast for some babies, who may cough, gulp, and gasp. They may also come off the breast as milk spurts everywhere.
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What are the signs of an overactive milk letdown?
According to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, an explosive, green, frothy, or watery stool that may even have mucus or blood could signify an overactive letdown.
With newborns still getting the hang of suckling, swallowing, and stimulating food, an overactive milk letdown can be frustrating.
Some symptoms to look out for include:
- The baby is choking during feeding.
- A frothy explosive green poop or gas because the baby has consumed milk filled with lactose-rich and harder-to-digest foremilk.
- The baby is coughing during or after feeding.
- They are pulling back or tugging at the breast or nipple.
- They’re squealing, squeaking, or gulping excessively while nursing.
- They’re making clicking sounds at the breast, and this clicking can also signify a tongue tie.
- The milk dribbles down the sides of the baby’s mouth.
- They’re crying or resisting the breast.
- Excessive gas, hiccuping, or spitting up.
7 tips for handling an overactive letdown
Most babies learn how to handle letdowns as their ability to coordinate suckling, swallowing, and breathing mature.
Below are a few breastfeeding strategies that can help your baby master nursing and manage the fast volume of milk.
Clamping down on the areola can help slow the milk flow and allow the baby to drink at a more agreeable pace, even if they’re suckling for comfort.
Remember the game “Rock, Paper, Scissors”? Yes, use the scissors hand pose to squeeze on your areola hard.
This will slow the full-force flow coming out of your milk ducts. Beware of developing finger/hand soreness or cramping, so taking breaks now and then will be helpful.
2. Try laid-back nursing
Also known as biological naturing, this is a great breastfeeding position for those mothers with an overactive letdown.
Position the baby on you so you’re facing belly to belly.
You can let the baby root for the breast and latch on by herself.
Nursing this way is pretty comfortable and works against gravity, slowing the milk flow into the baby’s mouth. The side-lying position is also another great option.
3. Pull the baby off at letdown
Many babies struggle during the actual letdown, which usually takes thirty seconds to a few minutes into the nursing session.
Most mothers can feel the tingling feeling of their milk preparing to come down their milk ducts.
A great way to ease the baby’s discomfort with an overactive letdown is to take them off the breast and catch the forceful milk in a burp cloth or breast milk bag.
Once the milk letdown is complete, relatch the baby and let them continue nursing.
4. Use a pacifier
A pacifier can be an excellent tool for mothers with an overactive letdown.
In some feeding situations, babies get to suckle both breasts for about 30 minutes per feeding because they’re born with intense reflux to suck.
With an overactive letdown, these feedings may only last five minutes.
If your baby is content, no worries, but when they want to suckle for comfort during the witching hour and are overwhelmed by the milk flow, you could try a pacifier.
5. Try block feedings
If you’re dealing with overactive letdown issues, offer just one breast per feeding. You can even offer the same breast for the next feeding and the second breast afterward.
This way, the baby will get all the hind milk and make for a more pleasant nursing experience since the milk letdown won’t be as rapid as the breast empties.
The low-fat foremilk is high in lactose, and when overwhelmed, the milk sugar in it begins to ferment, causing gas and frothy green poop, which may also develop diaper rash.
This will also help to regulate your overall milk production since you’re not stimulating both breasts at each feeding.
Be sure to engage a lactation consultant to see if block feeding suits you.
6. Try the gua sha technique
Studies have shown that this ancient massage technique, that’s seeing a resurgence, is more efficient at reducing engorgement and discomfort in the immediate postpartum period than a regular massage.
7. Get help
Find a local lactation consultant.
They are worth the effort and can provide hands-on help with overactive letdown issues or, even more importantly, diagnose problems like a tongue or lip tie that may prevent your little one from latching and drinking your milk well.
Is an overactive letdown the same thing as oversupply?
Sometimes these two come hand in hand.
Many new moms have these in the first few weeks postpartum, which is by design to ensure there’s enough food supply for the baby.
Usually, the baby’s feeding pattern will help regulate your milk supply, and the issue resolves itself.
Does a forceful letdown cause problems?
Most mothers with overactive letdowns have gassy and colicky babies because the babies are consuming too much foremilk and not enough hindmilk.
This foremilk consumption also results in farting, belching, and even hunger because it can digest too quickly, resulting in malabsorption and intestinal distress.
Never give up.
Breastfeeding does get more manageable for the baby and the mama. As they grow, they’ll be able to drink and enjoy your overactive letdown.
In the meantime, try the tips mentioned above with the help of your support system to get you through those uncomfortable first few weeks as you adjust to the breastfeeding journey.