When a breastfeeding mom produces too much milk — whether intentionally or unintentionally — it can cause complications including your baby choking or gasping as they attempt to nurse and too much milk rushes into their mouth. Luckily, there are ways to fix baby choking on oversupply that can be done relatively easily.
"A mom with an oversupply has a milk supply that is very abundant and is much above what her baby needs. An oversupply can be natural with no known cause, or at times, it can be caused by excessive milk removal, such as pumping on top of nursing routinely in the early weeks," nurse and lactation consultant Angie Natero tells Romper. "Many think that an oversupply wouldn’t be a problem at all, and some actually hope for it, but so often when a mom has a oversupply it can cause adverse effects for mom and/or her baby."
In addition to the engorgement and clogged ducts that can occur within your breasts with oversupply, your baby can experience discomfort in addition to choking. This can lead to trouble with weight gain and upset stomach, but there are several techniques to try that should remedy these issues before too long.
1. Change Positions
Adjusting how you position your baby while they are nursing can help reduce the amount of choking your baby experiences from oversupply. "Some moms have luck with things like laid nursing with baby above the breast versus below to help with fast flow during letdown," Natero tells Romper.
Basically, you want gravity to be working against the milk flow. The side-lying nursing position helps the excess milk dribble out of your baby's mouth to decrease the choking reflex, according to Kelly Mom. Other positions such as a football hold with mom leaning back or any laid back position with baby upright instead of cradled can also be helpful with oversupply.
2. Skip Pumping
Obviously there will be times when you are away from your baby and pumping is necessary — like at work, for example — but if you are dealing with an oversupply, try to avoid pumping unless you have to. "Extra pumping generally wouldn’t help and actually could make the problem worse," Natero tells Romper.
You can also try incrementally decreasing the time you spend pumping to manage oversupply that is leading to your baby choking, according to La Leche League International (LLLI), although this process can be very involved and take some time to adjust to. "But if a mom is experiencing or suspects a supply issue, (whether it be a potential oversupply or deficit) I would recommend she seek out a local IBCLC for assessment and a plan that’s individualized to her and her baby."
3. Let Your Baby Take The Lead
When dealing with an oversupply, you may notice that your breast milk flows out in an extremely forceful way, which could lead to your baby choking. If you notice your baby is having trouble maintaining their latch because the flow is too strong or too much milk is coming out at once, La Leche League UK advises to allow your baby to disengage from the breast as needed.
Giving your baby the freedom to unlatch will help your baby avoid having their mouth filled with breastmilk faster than they can swallow, which can be a cause of sputtering or choking. Just be sure to keep a towel handy to catch the milk spray that occurs when your baby detaches.
4. Try Block Nursing
In order to regulate the amount of milk flow forcefully coming out of one breast or the other women with an oversupply can try to set up a block nursing schedule, according to LLLI. To do this, allow your baby to nurse only from either the left or right breast for two (or more) nursing sessions in a row over a period of 3 to 4 hours. For the next few hours, switch to the other breast to allow your body to regulate your supply to better meet your baby's needs.
If the breast you are not using during block feeding feels uncomfortable, you can try expressing a small amount of milk to relieve the pressure or apply a cool compress, according to Kelly Mom.
5. Express Some Milk Before Feeding
Taking 1 to 2 minutes to hand express your breastmilk before allowing your baby to latch onto your breast can release the first strong rush of milk from your breast before they begin nursing, according to LLLI. That large rush of your letdown is likely the cause of your baby's choking, so getting ahead of it by hand expressing for several minutes can help prevent your baby choking on oversupply.
6. Apply Pressure To The Breast
There are several different ways to apply pressure to the breast that will reduce the force of your milk coming out of the breast if you have an oversupply of breastmilk, according to LLLI. One option is to use your pointer and middle finger to create a "scissor" shape and press down on either side of your areola and gently reduce the pressure as your baby settles into feeding.
Another way to achieve a similar result is to use the heel of your hand or the side of your arm to press against your breast in an area where your baby is not feeding. Either of these methods will add pressure to help reduce milk flow.