There were times when I was breastfeeding that I felt like I should change my name to Bessie and start eating hay. I had no idea before I started breastfeeding that I would be producing enough milk to power a cheese factory, but there I was. Eventually, I was diagnosed with oversupply, and I'm not going to lie, it was a pain in the boobs. I know I can't be the only one to experience this particular hell that is drowning in one's own milk, but is oversupply common, or was I just lucky?
The symptoms of oversupply can be really obvious, or somewhat obscure, noted lactation consultant Evelina Fisher for Breastfeeding USA. For instance, your milk might be spraying from your breasts like a turbo fire hose, and you can see that you're producing buckets of the stuff. Or it might be more subtle; as in, your baby could be gagging during feedings or letting milk run out of their mouth. Clues like that are harder to self-diagnose than the geyser nipples erupting at regular intervals like Old Faithful. Fisher noted that milk supply quandaries are some of the most common issues brought to lactation consultants, and that they can help you with this frustrating overabundance.
At first, I had no idea how much milk I was making because my son was a huge cluster feeder. He went through a period of months where he would feed every hour or two all day long. It wasn't until I started waking up in the middle of the night with a drenched tee shirt, soaked nursing pads, and a distinct pulsing discomfort in my breasts that I realized something was amiss. I would have to pump in the middle of the night just to get some relief. On more than one night, I will admit that I seriously considered waking my sleeping baby because I did not want to deal with the pump. I refrained, but it was close.
As per the experts at Breastfeeding Basics, the problem is usually caused by one of a few things. You could be experiencing an overactive or too-forceful letdown reflex. You could possibly have a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance, or, like me, you just have overly proficient boobs. The kind of boobs that, if they had a personality, would be the kids in class raising their hands to answer all the questions and volunteering to clean the chalk from the erasers. You have the nerdy hall monitors of boobs.
I contacted Rachael Sablotsky Kish, a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), and chief operating officer of Imlac, a company that makes breast pumps which mimic hand expression.
"One of the most common reasons a nursing mother seeks help from a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) is due to milk production," she tells Romper, echoing the sentiments of many lactation consultants. She notes that many of these problems are actually due to undersupply, but oversupply can also be an uncomfortable occurrence for moms that's just as stressful as low production. It's a common problem, in other words, just nowhere near as common as low supply.
"Decreasing stimulation and milk removal is a popular strategy for oversupply, so pumping is discouraged during these times," says Kish. "Women with oversupply should hand express or massage only enough to make themselves comfortable, and your body should get the message to produce less milk."
And as always, if you can, get in contact with a lactation consultant before you get to the point where you're at the end of your rope, frustrated, and leaking through three layers of protection in the middle of the night. Because that's no way to live.
After experiencing a traumatic c-section, this mother sought out a doula to support her through her second child’s delivery. Watch as that doula helps this mom reclaim the birth she felt robbed of with her first child, in Episode Three of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below. Visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes, launching Mondays in December.