A new mom’s worst fear is not being able to produce enough milk. So, suffering from an overactive letdown is probably the last thing you expected.
As a new mom, an overactive letdown, or forceful letdown, was the bane of my existence. Between the constant messes, my baby’s gas, and public leaking humiliations, it was a nightmare.
If you’re struggling with this, let me reassure you, you’re not alone. So many moms do! Below are just a few of the key techniques I employed to make breastfeeding with an overactive letdown much easier.
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What is Overactive Letdown?
An overactive letdown, or forceful let-down, shoots the milk out of your nipple in a very fast flow. More often than not, it’s caused by hyper-lactation.
Hyper-lactation is the overproduction of breast milk. It’s a pretty common issue in the first 6 weeks of motherhood. Before 6 weeks, 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.
While the most common reason for an overactive letdown is an oversupply, you should know that this isn’t always the case. Your baby’s sucking pattern or the anatomy of your nipple can be the culprit. For example, even after my new mommy engorgement eased, my let-down was still fairly fast-paced. My daughter has simply learned how to keep up.
Signs of an Overactive Letdown
If you’re not 100% sure that you have an overactive letdown, here’s some of the most common signs:
- Baby chokes frequently
- Comes off breast crying
- 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 the signs above are also indicative of a tongue tie. This is a nasty condition that can really disrupt your feeding pattern and wreck havoc for you and your baby. Please see a lactation consultant if you have these symptoms.
Related Post: 5 Hidden Tongue Symptoms You Need to Know About
10 Tips for Breastfeeding with an Overactive LetDown
1: Use Nursing Pads
Unfortunately, nipple pads will probably be a necessity until your milk supply stabilizes in the coming weeks. Nipple pads adhere to the cup of your bra and prevent your leaky breasts from embarrassing you in public
(If your breasts hasn’t leaked in public yet, just get ready for it…)
Nipple pads are also extremely useful to have at night time, when impromptu leaking is most common.
Nuk, Lansinoh, and Philips are the most popular nipple pad brands, but my personal favorite was the Philips Avent, followed very closely by the Lansinoh. I loved that the Philips Avent had night and day pads, allowing you to choose the thickness.
2. Pump Sparingly
Since most cases of overactive letdowns are caused by engorgement, many moms resort to pumping.
Unfortunately, this can make the problem much, much worse!
While pumping does provide short-term relief, you’re just telling your body that you need the milk. In order to produce breastmilk, your alveoli must be emptied. This allows prolactin is able to interact 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 is to pump briefly before you nurse or only as necessary.
Note: If you’re still struggling with pumping or looking for tips on how to pump more efficiciently, the absolute best resource I can recommend is the Back to Work Pumping Class by Milkology. It’s an inexpensive, online class that teaches you everything you need to know about pumping in just an hour. 100% worth it!
3: Use a Nipple Shield
Nipple shields can be an immediate, short-term solution for an overactive letdown. A nipple shield is a thin, silicone cover you place over your nipple and aerola.
If a nipple shield is sized and applied correctly, it will hold back your initial burst of milk, allowing your baby to nurse in peace.
Having said all that, a nipple shield truly is a temporary solution. If you use it long-term, you could run into issues like nipple confusion, a decrease in milk supply, or at worst, a failure to thrive. Eventually your hormones will regulate and you’ll need every second of skin-on-skin contact to produce your milk.
RELATED POST: FINDING THE BEST NIPPLE SHIELD FOR BREASTFEEDING
4: 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!
5. Use Heat Pads Prior to Nursing
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.
6. 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.
7. 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!
8. 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.)
9: 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 🙂
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.