Courtesy of Olivia Hinebaugh

I Had Overactive Letdown & This Is What It Was Like

By
Share
Ad failed to load

I love breastfeeding my children. But I can remember, so vividly, how tricky it was at first. With my oldest child, I had oversupply. I made more milk than my son could ever eat. And one part that came with having oversupply of milk was that I had overactive letdown as well. My breasts were always so full of milk that I imagined that as soon as my body detected there was a baby breastfeeding, my breasts were like "oh, good! Let's get rid of all this milk right now!" In fact, having a baby at the breast and suckling was hardly a prerequisite, because my milk would letdown all. the. time. And it was never a dainty little leak that soaked through onto my shirt a bit. On the rare instance that I was without nursing pads, I would soak half my shirt within a minute.

The most difficult part of having overactive letdown (on top of having an oversupply of milk), was that it was hard for my tiny baby to cope. My son would start breastfeeding with these cute little short sucks to get the milk to letdown and then when the milk started flowing he'd gag and cough and pull of the breast, getting sprayed in the face in the process. This happened every single time we tried to feed. I learned to just pop him off, let the milk flow into a towel and put him back on when it had calmed down a bit.

Courtesy of Olivia Hinebaugh
Ad failed to load

Even when he got sort of used to the torrent of milk, he'd still break his latch often. He made this clicking sound as he nursed, breaking the seal between his mouth and my breast with every swallow. As a result of the gagging and the clicking, my son ended up swallowing a lot of air. Because of that, my child needed huge burp breaks. And he was forever gassy. He still got sprayed in the face with regularity for his first six months.

I'd heard people describe the feeling of having their milk letdown as a sort of tingle, but I felt sharp stabbing pains from the nipple all the way to the deep part of my breast whenever I went to feed him.

Once, when he was sleeping, he started whimpering in a dream. I asked my partner what a little baby could possibly be having a nightmare about. My partner joked, "probably he's dreaming about trying to nurse a shower head." My partner was probably right. And indeed, my milk sprayed out of me with such force that it probably could rinse the shampoo right out of someone's hair.

Ad failed to load
GIPHY

To top it all off, having an overactive letdown hurt. A lot. I'd heard people describe the feeling of having their milk letdown as a sort of tingle, but I felt sharp stabbing pains from the nipple all the way to the deep part of my breast whenever I went to feed him. Even after the sore nipples healed, I'd have to bite my lip and curl my toes to cope with the pain of my letdown.

Whenever my son fed one breast, the other one would letdown just as enthusiastically as the one he was on.
Ad failed to load

The plus side of always being able to feel when my milk started flowing was that I learned pretty quickly how to prevent leaking. I'd push on my nipple as if it were a button to hold up my flow. And, yes, I would often be seen with my arms over my chest to hide the fact that I was pressing on my nipples with all my might, but I didn't care. Whenever my son fed one breast, the other one would letdown just as enthusiastically as the one he was on. This button trick came in handy then too.

Courtesy of Olivia Hinebaugh

I discovered a couple of other tricks that helped my son cope with the powerful flow of my overfilled breasts. I also learned that side-lying breastfeeding worked for us, and he could let extra milk just dribble out of the corner of his mouth if there was too much. Of course, this meant that my bed sheets always got a bit wet during a feed, but since I was leaking on them every time I slept, I was used to doing a lot of laundry. The other position that helped us both was for me to lean back and let him nurse from on top of me. Gravity worked in his favor in this position. This position is called "the Australian hold" because I was nursing him from down under. (It's a terrible joke, but it's actually what it is called.)

Ad failed to load

Just like with any complications or unanticipated issues with breastfeeding, the solution to my overactive letdown was just to try different things. I tried different positions, block feeding to reduce my supply, and different types of nursing pads. Much as I sort of loathe the plethora of "Keep Calm" posters out there, I do think a "Keep Calm, and Keep Breastfeeding" one would be sage advice. My son and I figured it out how to work through my overactive letdown together. He was a fat cherub of a baby who was clearly getting enough, and I eventually got very skilled at not getting my milk everywhere. And I'm happy to say that when my second baby came along, my breasts were not nearly as overeager or overachieving. Which, I think, was a really good thing.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

15 Baby Names With Unique Nicknames, So Your Family Has Options

I love a good diminutive name, also known as a nickname. I believe I’m partial to them because of my own name, Abigale, but I go by Abi. And since they’re both uniquely spelled, everyone thinks my name is pronounced Ah-bee for some reason — but even …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}