Oversupply is when your breasts produce more milk than your baby needs. This can be stressful for both you and your baby.
Generally, the more often your baby feeds, the more milk you make.
Milk supply usually evens out to meet your baby’s exact needs when they are 4 to 6 weeks of age. But it can take up to 3 months.
Problems with oversupply for baby
If you have an oversupply of breast milk, your baby may experience:
- gulping and sputtering when feeding
- milk leaking from their mouth or nose as they feed
- pulling away from the breast, arching their back, fussing and crying when they try to feed
- refusing to attach to the breast
- quick feedings, but hungry very soon after
- colic, fussiness or gas
- uncomfortable tummy most of the time
- spitting up often
- refusal to comfort feed
- refusal to fall asleep at the breast
- green, frothy, explosive bowel movements (some may even have a streak of blood)
Non-urgent advice: Get advice as soon as possible if:
- you notice blood in your baby's stools
- your baby has any other symptoms that worry you
Your public health nurse (PHN), GP or lactation consultant can help.
How to help oversupply
Follow the advice below to help reduce oversupply.
Rule out any health issues
Make sure your baby does not have a health issue that affects how they handle the milk flow.
Health issues that cause problems with feeding include:
Before you do anything that might decrease the amount of milk you’re making, have your baby fully checked.
Talk to your GP, PHN or infant feeding specialist.
Nurse your baby often
Nursing your baby often may solve the problem of green, frothy bowel movements. Closely spaced feedings are higher in fat. So even if it’s only been 1 hour, feed your baby again. Feeding often keeps your milk flowing so that you can avoid blocked or plugged ducts.
Positioning and attachment
Pay close attention to positioning and attaching your baby to your breast.
When positioning your baby, be sure to get a deep attachment. This will make it easier for your baby to empty the breast and will stop them from taking in more wind.
Let baby decide how long to feed
Give your baby enough time to completely finish one breast before swapping to the second breast. With oversupply, babies tend to take only one side per feeding.
It is best not to express at all unless you are very engorged. Pump just enough to relieve the discomfort.
When you have been breastfeeding for 6 weeks, think about trying a block feeding routine. This is when you feed with only 1 of your breasts for a certain amount of time.
Applying a cold compress to your breast before and during the feed will slow milk flow. You can use a fresh nappy with cold water on it that has been stored in the fridge. Apply the cold compress to your breast for 15 to 20 minutes.
Many women have found that consistent use of cabbage leaves reduces supply. Wash some whole cabbage leaves and remove the hard spine, then place them inside your bra until they wilt.
Try using cabbage leaves for 20 minutes, 3 times a day. Stop as soon as you notice a slight decrease.
Coping with leaking breasts
Short-term tips for leaking breasts:
- Invest in a well-fitting nursing bra and some large breast pads to absorb any leaks when you're not at home.
- Wear clothes with patterns on them so that if you do leak, it’s not noticeable.
- Have small towels to hand when you breastfeed, as the other breast may leak while you feed.
Look out for a blocked duct if you are suffering from oversupply - especially if you’re block feeding. A blocked duct is more likely if your breasts are not being fully softened by your baby feeding.
Producing less milk
You may feel worried when your milk supply changes and you start producing less milk. Your breasts will no longer feel engorged all the time, and will not leak as they did before.
The best way to know you’ve still got enough milk is by your baby’s behaviour and their nappy output. If they're meeting developmental milestones and growing well, then your supply is enough.
If you're having a problem with oversupply, get help as soon as possible. Talk to a lactation consultant, or your GP or PHN.
Ask our breastfeeding experts
Find a breastfeeding support group near you. These are a relaxed place to discuss breastfeeding issues with other mothers.