Since I didn’t have any oversupply issues with my firstborn, I never sought out any information on the topic after I brought my second baby into the world. Then, all of a sudden, I was producing a significantly higher volume of breast milk. It would pour out of me at an alarming speed any time my son latched on. I was completely surprised, totally overwhelmed, and left wishing I had known more about oversupply before I was, well, swimming in it.
While other new moms I have met had no issue discussing bodily fluids as it pertains to their newborns, I came to realize that none of them mentioned what was coming out of their own bodies postpartum. I could expect to get an earful about the contents of my friend’s baby’s diaper, but I felt like the topic of oversupply was off the table. I never heard any new mom discuss having oversupply or undersupply or any issue with breast milk. So when I experienced an excess of breast milk, I felt like I couldn’t turn to anyone I knew for advice or support. I hunted around the internet, trolling the message boards of strangers to glean any information I could find. The experience was incredibly isolating.
So the main thing I wish I knew about oversupply was that I wasn’t alone. Here are some more things I wish I knew about it, too, especially before I had it:
It was a relief knowing I was producing a sufficient supply of food for my infant. With so much milk coming out of my body, I never had to worry about my kid getting enough to eat.
Except I did need to worry about my baby getting enough breast milk. While I was producing what seemed like a lot of breast milk, so much of it was squirting all over the place as I shielded my son’s face from the forceful spray. It killed me a little to see the milk that misses his mouth drop down the side of the nursing pillow, as I was unable to find a way to contain it and bank it in the freezer in those hectic moments of my powerful letdown.
Streams of breast milk spraying across my living room, while a powerful image of nursing moms as the warriors we are, are still messes we need to deal with. Armed with diaper cloths, tissues, and towels, I'd try to barricade my chest to protest the rest of the apartment from the milk storm during my breastfeeding sessions. It was a lot of work, often to no avail.
My breast milk would shoot out of me with the force of a jet stream, and my poor son would start to gag on the overabundance of liquid firing into his face. It was the most violent act of love I’ve ever, unwillingly, committed. I’d have to break his latch and get him out of harm’s way, until my stream slowed to a more manageable flow.
Because there was so much calculated choreography required to pull of a simple nursing session in the first few weeks of my son’s life, I was reluctant to breastfeed outside the comfort of my home. If I sprayed milk on my couch, I could deal with it. But having to worry about getting milk over other people’s furniture, or figuring out how to cover myself up while pulling him off me to avoid choking, would just take too much mental energy. The only place I remember feeding him outside our apartment when I was experiencing oversupply was the family room at Ikea, which had a door I could lock, a rocking chair, and no shortage of other stains dotting the upholstery. Gross, but at least I could blast milk from my body in private.
To help deal with the oversupply issue, I called in the services of a lactation consultant. She advised the use of a nipple shield to help lessen the amount of milk shooting my son in the face when he nursed, but it never seemed to stay on right. In the end, it was just another thing to clean. After a few failed attempts at using it, I shoved it in a drawer, never to see the light of day again.
The lactation consultant also told me that I could probably expect my body and my baby to get in synch in a few weeks, which would most likely result in a more manageable output of milk for my son to take in. Sure enough, at the six-week mark my oversupply subsided and my son could nurse without my breasts exploding over his head like milk geysers. I won’t deny it was rough until that point, so I was grateful when we both hit that milestone.
I honestly thought I was off the hook for any breastfeeding obstacles since I had nursed my first child without issue. Oversupply with my second baby proved me totally wrong.
On top of being exhausted, which exacerbated any negative thoughts I was having about my competencies as a parent, I was experiencing oversupply, which added to the stress of having a toddler and a newborn.
I survived the inconvenience and frustration of having oversupply. My baby has no memory of those weeks he got rained down upon with milk. In hindsight, the experience makes me realize that I don’t fall apart when life goes less than perfectly. And more poignantly, it illuminates how fleeting these moments of feeling like a failure can be, if we don’t allow them to be the headlines. Yes, six weeks of oversupply was a drag, but it paled in comparison to the four years I spent (in total) breastfeeding my kids. Not everyone will come out the other side of breastfeeding with a positive perspective, but for me, I look back on that time fondly. Sitting in puddles of milk was a small price to pay for the time I got to spend with my children over those years of nursing them. I have no regrets (nor do I have any surefire milk stain removal tips).