image of bags full of breast milk

Overproduction of Breast Milk: Can Anything Be Done?

As a neonatologist, I see many moms who struggle with breastfeeding. But, what if you have too much of a good thing? Is that possible? Can you really make too much milk? And is that bad? Yes, yes and yes!

Women with too much milk may have just as many problems as women who don’t have enough and they might feel just as guilty about their supply, but for different reasons. It is hard for a woman to speak up and say, “I need help. This is too much.”  These women shouldn’t have to suffer in silence.

Moms with an over-supply, or too much milk, are at increased risk of mastitis and plugged ducts. These moms may feel like they need a breast pump attached to their hip, because they become so uncomfortable if they are late to pump. This can cause great anxiety and pain if a meeting runs over, they get stuck in traffic, or if baby sleeps a little longer one night.

Moms with an oversupply may make 2-3 times the volume their baby needs. If these moms are breastfeeding, they could have babies with excessive reflux, to the point of considering medication. Their babies may be extra gassy from a high lactose load, or they might bite or clamp down when breastfeeding to stop the overflow of milk.

They also may be very fussy at the breast because they want to suck for comfort and not nutrition, but are not able to do so without getting milk. This can make for a very unpleasant breastfeeding experience for mom and baby.

There are several ways to decrease a milk supply on purpose, but this should only be done with the help of a certified lactation consultant. The goal should be to decrease your supply just enough to be manageable, but still have enough to feed your baby.

I encourage any mom with extra milk to consider donating to a Human Milk Bank associated with Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). I see the direct benefit this milk has for our extremely premature and fragile infants every day, and I am truly grateful for its availability!

For more information on Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Clinical Nutrition and Lactation Services, click here.

Vanessa Shanks, MD, FAAP
Vanessa Shanks, MD is a Neonatologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University. She is also assistant professor of pediatrics for The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Dr. Shanks received her bachelor’s degree from University of Maryland, Baltimore County and her medical degree from University of Maryland College of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. She completed a combined Internal-Medicine and Pediatrics residency at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University Medical Center. She completed her fellowship at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA. She is married with one daughter and has a special interest in parental support.

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