Why Does Oversupply Happen?

New moms often worry whether they will be able to produce enough milk for their babies. Having too much milk doesn't seem like it could be a problem, yet many moms struggle with a rarely-discussed issue known as oversupply. But oversupply is different than producing more milk than your baby can drink. It is the forceful letdown of the milk that can cause discomfort to both the mother and the baby, and even prevent the infant from being able to eat enough. But why does oversupply happen?

According to La Leche League International (LLLI) some moms naturally produce an abundant supply of breast milk right off the bat which can create a bit of a struggle for a baby who is just learning to suckle. Breastfeeding USA noted that this early abundance can happen because sometimes postpartum hormones continue to affect milk production even after the body has switched from endocrine control (completely hormone-based) to autocrine control (based on the adequate removal of milk.) Some moms with forceful letdown have been advised to pump prior to nursing in order to slow down the milk flow, but this can cause their body to interpret a higher demand, therefore creating even more milk.

LLLI warned that if you are only nursing for a certain amount of time on each breast, or are often switching sides trying to try and make your baby less fussy, you will not fully drain your breasts, and this can contribute to oversupply.

This can also lead to a foremilk-hindmilk imbalance, according to Breastfeeding Basics. With foremilk-hindmilk imbalance, your baby is getting filled up with the low-fat sweet milk that comes at the beginning of the feeding, and not reaching the hindmilk, which is the fatty, filling milk. Babies can get gassy, fussy, and are often hungry right away when they only drink the foremilk. They will want to nurse more often and will get filled up quickly with the foremilk again, which creates an uncomfortable cycle for everyone involved.

Another thing that can cause oversupply, according to Breastfeeding USA, is the unnecessary use of galactagogues. Moms who fear that they are not producing enough breast milk may take supplements or eat foods that are known to help increase milk supply. Although this can be helpful to moms with true low supply issues, those who are already making enough milk for their babies and take galactagogues can find themselves dealing with oversupply. Talk to your doctor is you are worried about your milk supply, and remember never to take any supplements when you're pregnant or breastfeeding without talking to a healthcare professional first.