A new mom’s worst fear is not being able to produce enough milk. So what happens? You squirt your baby in the eyeball with your jet-propulsion letdown! Even with the infinite resources of the internet, I had trouble finding effective overactive letdown solutions. Between the constant messes, my baby’s gas, and leaking boobs, it was a nightmare. Now that I’m older and wiser, I can happily share the secrets of breastfeeding with an overactive letdown.
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What is Overactive Letdown?
Out of all the breastfeeding issues I expected to have, struggling with an over-supply was definitely the least I expected.
More often than not, an overactive letdown comes hand-in-hand with hyper-lactation. Hyper-lactation is—you guessed it!—the overproduction of breast milk. It’s a pretty common issue in the first 6 months of motherhood. At this point, your production is primarily controlled by hormones, rather than your baby’s actual intake. So, your body may over do it a little. Or a lot.
An overactive letdown, or forceful let-down, shoots the milk out of your nipple in a very fast flow. Sometimes it’s caused by hyper-lactation, but other times it’s caused by your baby’s sucking pattern or just the anatomy of your nipple. For example, now that my hyper-lactation is under control, my let-down is still fairly fast-paced. My daughter has simply learned how to keep up.
If you’re not 100% sure that you have an overactive letdown, here’s some of the signs:
- Baby chokes frequently
- Comes off breast crying
- Large stream of milk
- Shallow or poor latch (many babies cope with an overactive letdown by pulling back or clamping down on the breast)
- Clicking sound
- Foamy green poop
- Continuous breast leakage
- Nursing pain
Many of these signs are also indicative of a tongue tie, which is a nasty condition that can really disrupt your feeding pattern and wreck havoc for you and your baby. See a lactation consultant if you have these symptoms. Speaking from personal experience, a tongue tie is nothing to mess around with.
Related Post: 5 Hidden Tongue Symptoms You Need to Know About
10 Tips for Breastfeeding with an Overactive LetDown
1: Use Nursing Pads
Do yourself a favor and get these express delivered.
Leaky breasts are kind of a rite of motherhood, but with an overactive letdown, expect to have some embarrassing situations. Have you ever walked through Wal-Mart with two wet spots on your shirt?
Unfortunately, you probably will with an overactive letdown. I highly suggest that you wear these whenever you go in public!
I used nursing pads during the day and at night, With the help of a sleep nursing bra.
Nuk, Lansinoh, and Philips seem to be the most popular brands. Personally, I hated the Nuk. My favorite was definitely the Philips, although they are much more expensive. My final pick was the Lansinoh. They had a good price-point and they were much more comfortable than the Nuk.
2. Pump Sparingly
The most obvious way to relieve engorgement is by pumping or feeding your baby. While pumping does provide short-term relief, you’re just telling your body that you need the milk. Getting nerdy for a minute: When you empty out the alveoli, prolactin is able to communicate with your milk producing-receptors. However, if your breast remains full, the prolactin can’t bind to your membranes. In other words, the best way to resolve an oversupply issue is by letting your milk sit, unused. Unfortunately, this also sets you up for mastitis or blocked ducts. The compromise? Only pump enough to provide some relief and try to let your baby drain your breasts.
3: Release the Initial Flow Elsewhere
Most women only have an initial forceful letdown. After your letdown is triggered, take your baby off your breast and release the milk into a towel or milk saver. Your hungry baby will probably fuss, but at least you won’t choke him with your over-enthusiastic flow.
Breast milk is liquid gold. If you’re frugal with your supply, you can try the Milkie’s Milk Saver. It’s super easy to use. Just attach it to your breast after your initial letdown, or use it on the opposite breast to capture any leakage. You’ll save mostly foremilk, but hey, every drop is important!
4. Use Heat Pads
One cool trick I tried to reduce my pumping was to warm my breast with a heating pad right before a nursing session. This released some of the pent up milk and eased the initial flow somewhat. You can use a regular warming pad but I enjoyed the Lansinoh TheraPearl packs. The size was perfect for placing it right in your bra. Alternatively, some moms recommend using an ice pack to slow the flow.
5. One Breast Nursing Sessions
I don’t think I could have have gotten through my experience without block feeding. Block feeding is basically nursing with one breast within a 3 hour period. I was first introduced to this idea by the book, The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems. Kind of silly name, but seriously the most helpful baby book I’ve read. The Baby Whisperer suggests feeding from one side to ensure that your baby is getting an equal distribution of both foremilk and hindmilk. Foremilk usually flows for the first 5-10 minutes while hindmilk usually flows in the last 15 (depending on your nursing length). When we use both breasts in a sitting, there’s a chance we aren’t giving our baby enough hindmilk. This is especially the case when breastfeeding with an overactive letdown.
Block feeding is one-sided nursing to the extreme. No matter how many nursing sessions you have, you only feed from one breast for a 3 hour period. Then switch. This ensures that your baby gets both types of milk and eases the pressure behind your release.
6. Stick to a Flexible Feeding Schedule
Don’t misunderstand my definition of a schedule. When I told my pediatrician that I was on a feeding schedule, she went into a frenzy. “Babies younger than 4 months shouldn’t be on a feeding schedule,” she said. “Nurse your baby really frequently,” she said. So, let me clarify. I believe you should always feed your baby when he’s hungry. However, you should always work towards creating a feeding schedule by ensuring that you never feed to sleep and your baby always gets a full feeding.
The flexible feeding schedule I use from On Becoming Babywise allowed me to plan when I needed to pump and made it easier for my breast to produce more efficiently. I still struggled with milk leakage, but it only became severe if I was overdue for a feeding.
Related Post: How to Have Amazing Sleep With a Breastfed Baby
Running short on time? Pin it for later!
7. Nurse While Reclined
Sorry, Mama. Breastfeeding with an overactive letdown requires a little extra effort with positioning. The main idea is to keep your baby’s head above your breast, allowing gravity to diminish some of your flow. I found the Australian hold (reclining football hold, basically), reclining cross-cradle, and side-lying positions to be the most helpful.
(If you’re still struggling with figuring out nursing positions and a nursing the best breastfeeding book I’ve been able to find is the Breastfeeding Handbook. The book is super easy to read (only 28 pages) and filled with tutorials, diagrams, and trackers. My absolute favorite part of this ebook is the information that you might be missing or may have easily overlooked, like how to latch properly, how to use different breastfeeding positions, reading your baby’s hunger cues, etc. etc.)
8: Burp Your Baby Often
This won’t help breastfeeding with an overactive letdown directly, but it will relieve a lot of pain for your baby. Infant gas is an endless cycle where your baby screams from gas pain, which creates more gas. Be sure to burp your baby every couple of minutes and definitely every time you switch to a different side. If your baby has a particularly difficult gas bubble, check out these gas relief exercises. This is probably my favorite video. I love Mr. Messy Pants 🙂
9: Use a Nipple Shield
I can’t stress enough how nipple shields should be a short-term solution only. Having said that, a nipple shield can really help breastfeeding with an overactive letdown by holding back the worst of the release. It can also help relieve some of your pain if your baby has a shallow latch. Once again, this is a short-term solution. Eventually your hormones will regulate and you’ll need every second of skin-on-skin contact to produce your milk.
10: Use Nipple Cream
Make your life easier and stock pile MotherLove Nipple Cream. There’s a good chance your nipples are going to hurt for a while. Breastfeeding with an overactive letdown isn’t easy for your baby either. He may try to cope by slipping off your breast to avoid the gushing geyser or clamping down with his gums. Youch! Unfortunately, this often translates into broken or raw nipples.
I truly love this cream. I slummed it with Lanolin and Medela’s cream for a while. These products were okay, but they were a little tacky and they didn’t work nearly as fast as MotherLove. Plus, MotherLove is organic! Win-win!
Additional Resources for Overactive Letdown
1. My Pinterest Board. I have a ton of pins dedicated to helping you and your baby get through this baby blunder. Positions, testimonials, relief ideas. Everything! Follow me on Pinterest and check out all of these resources in one spot!
An overactive letdown is not a fun baby blunder to manage. If you struggle from this, you know it’s more than a mere inconvenience. I remember hating my stupid breast for what it was doing to my baby! Try to remember that this situation is temporary and your body will adjust soon. In the meantime, I hope these techniques will improve breastfeeding with an overactive letdown.
Do you have a sneaky technique you’d like to share? Well, come on! Don’t keep it to yourself! Let us know below.