Reduce Breastmilk Oversupply and Stop Pumping
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I struggled with breastfeeding with my first baby– not with being unable to nurse but with breastmilk oversupply. I felt guilty for struggling because I knew so many moms who have struggled on the other side of breastfeeding – those with low supply or who have been unable to breastfeed for some reason. I felt as though it was my duty to breastfeed on demand (tirelessly) in addition to pumping twice, sometimes three times a day in order to keep plugged ducts and mastitis away. It seemed like I was taking care of my breasts more than being able to enjoy feeding my baby.
By the time I had my third baby, I thought that I’d be a pro at breastfeeding and pumping but it was honestly more overwhelming for me as I had two other kids. The job of pumping and trying to prevent mastitis was not something I wanted to concentrate on. I needed to find a way to not only enjoy breastfeeding but to enjoying my kids and being a mom.
Through research, I found some information on how to reduce supply and initially I was afraid that I would completely mess up and reduce too much. However, I had a healthy reserve of pumped milk and that gave me the confidence to give it a try. Armed with my intuition and my plan, I embarked on a journey that I was skeptical about, to say the least.
It was painful and difficult, but after a few plugged ducts I was very successful and have absolutely no regrets – everyone is happier for it.
First of all, What Is Breastmilk Oversupply?
A mother’s milk supply usually adjusts to her baby’s needs after about 6 weeks of breastfeeding. Some mothers continue to make more milk than the baby requires, and this is known as ‘oversupply’.https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/oversupply
How To Tell If You Have An Oversupply Of Breastmilk
If you suspect you have an oversupply but you are not sure, please consult your doctor or lactation consultant. Do not self diagnose – this can lead to the wrong outcome for you.
In my case – all my babies were satisfied and produced sufficient wet nappies yet I was still able to (and needed to) consistently pump more than a few ounces at a pumping session (typically about 5-6 ounces). Baby and I also experienced almost all the signs outlined below:
Signs for mom
- VERY painful, forceful letdown
- VERY painful latching
- May leak a lot and often (I was not a leaker)
- Frequent engorgement
- Frequent plugged ducts
- Higher risk of mastitis
- Uncomfortable or painful to sleep and do daily activities
- Requires more pumping sessions to provide relief
Signs for baby
- Baby chokes due to increased force of let down
- May fuss during feed out of frustration due to high flow
- Poop may be green and frothy (due to getting a high amount of foremilk) – foremilk is less fatty while hindmilk contains more fat and is more satisfying – block feeding can help with this issue
- Spits up often
- Quick weight gain
How I Reduced My Breastmilk Oversupply
My approach to reducing supply and eliminating the need to pump was, therefore, a gradual one. I was mindful that I did not want to wean or “dry up” my milk.
Ensure you have all that you need
- Support from hubby, friend, and/or family
- Lansinoh nipple cream – used only at pumping sessions
- Lansinoh TheraPearl 3 in 1 Breast Therapy Pack
- Good quality breast pump – I used the Medela pump
- Pain medication (consult your doctor)
Oversupply is tricky – you need to relieve your breasts more often to provide relief and comfort. But by doing so, you’re signaling to your body to continue producing the amount of milk that it currently is (which in our case, is too much). Of course, that would suggest that you should simply stop pumping and your oversupply of milk will settle, but then the dangers of plugged ducts and mastitis come into play.
These are the steps I took over the course of a month to reduce my oversupply:
Reduce pumping time gradually
My breasts were so uncomfortable overnight and painful the next morning that I wanted to ensure my breasts were as empty as possible after my nighttime pumping session. But by pumping longer, I actually conditioned my body to keep producing too much milk. To rectify this, every week I reduced the length of my pumping sessions. I started off with 10 mins, reduced to 6 mins then to just long enough to relieve my breasts.
Reduce pumping sessions
Once I successfully reduced the pumping time to just enough to relieve my breasts, I eliminated my morning pump session. I’ll be honest – this was incredibly painful and uncomfortable. Just to raise my arms hurt and to lift my baby hurt. It didn’t last too long, though, and soon my body realized it didn’t need to keep producing so much.
This was probably one of the most valuable things I learned through this process. The way we sleep can cause a duct to become blocked. I LOVE to sleep on my tummy and I missed it so much when I was pregnant that once my breasts were “empty” after my night pump session, I took the opportunity to fall asleep in this less than optimal position. I no longer sleep on my tummy and when I sleep on my side, I support my breast with a blanket.
Use heat and cold compresses
I used heat pads or warm rags and massaged my breasts for a couple of minutes just before I nursed and before my pump session. Heat ensured that the milk flowed. Taking a warm shower is another option to provide much-needed relief.
Applying cold compresses to my breasts between breastfeeding and pumping sessions was extremely helpful in reducing swelling and providing relief from engorgement.
I dislike medications, but when the pain was unbearable I took pain medication (approved by my doctor). This eased my pain and the process tremendously.
Sufficient water intake typically helps with hydration and overall health. Throughout the day, I ensured that I had my water bottle prepped and ready for me. I typically have water when breastfeeding, around meal times and whenever I feel thirsty.
Support system & Rest
During the process, holding my baby proved to be extremely painful and difficult for me so once my husband was home, he held our daughter. During the day, I used my stroller and car seat combo in the house to move around with her.
It’s best if you can enlist help and support from family and friends so that you are able to concentrate almost solely on this process. It wasn’t an option for me so I decided to cut out any chores for the period. This ensured that I rested more, especially when I was in pain and hubby was on standby in case I needed some extra support. Yes, the house was a disaster lol, but it totally paid off in the end.
Wear loose clothing
When my breasts were engorged, I wanted nothing at all to touch them. Braless, loose tops/dresses and even going topless provided relief. During the time, it’s best to avoid tight clothes or bras.
Since reducing my breastmilk oversupply both baby and I benefitted:
- I’ve had no engorgement or painful breasts
- I’ve enjoyed breastfeeding SO much more
- I honestly feel a bigger bond with my baby
- Enjoys breastfeeding more (she used to choke quite a bit)
- Her poop is no longer like diarrhea (and green) – it’s always yellow now
- She still produces sufficient wet diapers
- She’s gaining weight according to her percentile
If this has helped you please share with other moms who may be going through it and with soon to be moms!
I’d also love to hear about your experiences and how you dealt with your oversupply? Leave a comment or any questions you may have below.