Milk! {A Story of Oversupply}

by Svea Boyda-Vikander on August 7, 2013

This is my third BWF post about breastfeeding. Previously, I wrote about an ad campaign depicting it as sexy and about how my husband supported me through nursing our son; today I’m sharing the things I learned from having an oversupply of milk. I wrote this story in December 2012 and have since birthed our second sweet little one. Once again, I make far too much milk – but this time I’ve found a family who can make use of it. If you have experience with oversupply and donating or receiving milk, please consider sharing it in the comments. I would love to hear other women’s experiences in giving this beautiful (and sticky, and somehow-always-spills-a-little-on-your-bra) gift.

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I gave birth to my first child in a Québecois birthing centre. As soon as that slippery mass of a baby (otherwise known as a ‘bony octopus‘) fell onto the bed before me, I tugged down my bra so that I could hold him against my bare breast. I had watched breastfeeding videos and taken two prenatal classes. I had read books and I had the assistance of my midwives nearby. And I had an unshakable (unreasonable!) confidence that things would go right.

Sweet Baby James latched on within the first fifteen minutes of his life and after 22 months it feels like he hasn’t let go since.

We had some early trouble with “the nursing relationship” as they call it. Only a day after the birth, my milk came in with a vengeance, inflating my breasts to painful proportions and scaring my husband. I asked my mother – who had come to visit to help out in the early weeks – if breasts such engorged would eventually shrink back to a normal size, or if I was destined to look like Pamela Anderson for the foreseeable future. “I don’t think they do, no…” she said.

Fortunately, she was wrong.
I needed the relief of cold cabbage leaves in my bra (a highly effective old wives’ remedy which made me smell like a slavic peasant’s kitchen) for only a few days.

I got a few small blisters on my nipples. In order to nurse without causing pain to the mother, infants must manage to get the nipple into the very backs of their mouths. This is often a problem for newborn and preterm babies, whose suckling is not powerful enough to pull the nipple back. Sweet Baby James was a big baby (almost nine pounds at birth) but I still had trouble getting him to latch on correctly. I tried the tactics I had learned: tickling his cheek and chin to get him to open his mouth wide, squeezing my breast, “like a hamburger” to make it easier for him… But it still hurt.

One day, I just gave up. I let him latch on like he wanted to, without any assistance from me.
To my great surprise, it didn’t hurt. He had latched on perfectly and was sucking contentedly.
I learned an important lesson in parenting: your baby is smarter than you.

I was fortunate to never have to worry that I had enough milk. Because my milk came in so soon and so strong, our baby gained back his birth weight within a few days. He nursed almost constantly and I, despite the admonishments of some older women, was happy to let him. I didn’t mind being a “human pacifier” because it felt right to me. And it gave some relief to my engorged breasts, full of milk.

So much milk. So, so, so much milk.

Milk. Milkity milk-milk… milk!

My ‘let down’ reflex came when I was nursing Sweet Baby James, when I was about to nurse Sweet Baby James, or when I was even just thinking about nursing Sweet Baby James. My milk let down when I heard other babies cry or saw other babies nurse. It let down when I was walking down the street minding my own business, or eating yoghourt in the kitchen. It let down when I cried, when I exercised, when I had sex, when I took a bath, and as soon as my nipple touched the breast pump.

I had never done so much laundry.

milky nighty

I can’t quite put into words the humbling experience of having an oversupply of milk. My body was marching to the beat of its own drummer, leaking as it went. The let-down hurt; spending money on nursing pads was annoying; and the whole thing was slightly embarrassing. There is something obscene about leaning over a sidewalk gutter so that the milk spraying out of you in seven strong jets, arcing three feet into the air, will flow onto the street and not your t-shirt. People look at you funny. There is something strange about having your bath water turn white before your eyes. And while my husband was game about it, the presence of ‘the spray’ during sex was far from a turn-on.

But our baby was healthy and gaining well. In fact, he was huge – he was busting out of his 6-month clothes by four weeks (he hearts NY because that’s where his parents met).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

By three months he was the size of a one year-old: pounds of chub exclusively composed of calories derived from my body. It felt good to know that I could nourish my child in this way. I didn’t take it for granted anymore: most of my new-mama friends wanted to breastfeed but had complications during birth and were having trouble.

Anna had received an emergency C-section and, despite taking Domperidone (which, I learned, is nothing like Dom Perignon) to increase her production, began to formula-feed within a week or two. Jenny, despite having successfully nursed two previous infants, had trouble keeping up her milk supply for an unknown reason. And Tamara was not able to take her baby home from the hospital for weeks after he was born. She was so beautifully committed to nursing him that she “slept” in the hospital, waking up every few hours to nurse and hold him before the nurses would put him back under the heat lamp.

So I wasn’t sure what was normal. Most of my friends didn’t have kids yet and my oversupply problem seemed like little to complain about to those who did. After Anna politely rebuffed my offer to donate milk, I stopped talking about my hot mess of an issue with other mothers. I turned to my own mother for help, but she remembered little from that time of her/my life. And the advice I got from midwives and lactation consultants’ websites was not tailored to me: to nurse from both sides during a feeding, to use a breast-pump for the first half of a let-down so that I could toss that milk and give my baby more of the fat-rich hindmilk he needed, and to nurse throughout the night. All of this is great advice – if you want to increase your milk production.

If you don’t, this advice sucks. Literally.

I decided to go guerrilla and follow my own instinct. Since I had read that the action of suckling (and not the emptying of the breast) is what brings on milk production, I decided to “block feed” intensively. For up to fifteen hours at a time, I would nurse only from one breast. The other would be sore, hot and swollen (I do not recommend this kind of extreme block feeding – I’m lucky I didn’t get mastitis), and when I did switch to it, I would usually have to hold Sweet Baby James at bay for the first three minutes of the let-down. It was so forceful that if I let him nurse immediately he would splutter and gag, regurgitating the milk soon after feeding.

But I always nursed him when he asked for it. We breastfed everywhere: in the bath, in the sling (even when he was dressed up as Winston Churchill for Hallowe’en –  I went as… Winston Churchill’s mother), in the car.

nursing in bath

sir winston churchill

in the car

It took one year for my milk supply to “regulate” and eighteen months before I no longer needed to wear disposable (high-absorbency, high-cost) nursing pads in my bra at all times. I started to menstruate and feel “like a woman” – and of course, I was soon pregnant again. Now five months into this pregnancy, I have watched my milk supply slowly dry up. I am only a little sad about it. My breasts feel a bit useless now, but my son finally seems interested in consuming high-protein solid foods. He still nurses daily, but mostly for comfort.

I learned so many things from becoming a mother; from this experience I learned about the emotions tied to breastfeeding in our culture. The shame that cloaks women’s bodies in all their reproductive functions was present in my shock and horror at the amount of milk my body was forcing out of me, and how unfeminine(!) it felt. The fear of not being a good mother was present in my friends’ upset at not producing enough milk to exclusively nurse their babies, and my eventual decision to stop discussing breastfeeding with them. And I learned about some of the little-discussed technical details of breastfeeding: how to increase milk supply and how to decrease it, some of the cues that can spark the let-down reflex, and the value of infant-initiated nursing.

sleeping baby

It was a radicalizing experience, one that eventually led me to writing overwrought posts for Birth Without Fear. I began to grow concerned about the lack of knowledge about breastfeeding in our culture. Sure, everybody knows “breast is best” but obviously we don’t really know how to do it. I started to wonder why so many of my friends were having trouble nursing their little ones. They were healthy, well-nourished, and deeply committed to breastfeeding. I have since discovered that Insufficient Milk Syndrome is a predominantly Western phenomenon (in middle-class Swedish women, Sjölin, Hofvander, Hillervik, 1977; low-income European-American, African-American and Hispanic women in the United States, McCan, Baydar, & Williams, 2007). The jury is out as to why this is, but probable causes include insufficient (or nonexistent) maternity leave, poverty and its accompanying stress and pour nourishment, lack of education about and exposure to breastfeeding, infant care practices that keep mother and baby separate, scheduled feeding, high rates of birth interventions, the aggressive marketing of infant formula, exposure to pesticides and endocrine disruptors, and cultural beliefs that tell mothers they can’t do it.

My experience with hyper-lactation was annoying and painful, but the experience of not having enough milk can be devastating. We need to think seriously about the practices that have brought widespread lactation failure – and occasional hyper-lactation – upon us.

Breast milk is a fantastic tool. We just need to learn how to use it.

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McCann, M.F., Baydar, N., & Williams, R.L. (2007). Breastfeeding attitudes and reported problems in a national sample of WIC participants. Journal of Human Lactation, 23, 4, 314–324.

Sjölin, S., Hofvander, Y., & Hillervik, C. (1977). Factors related to early termination of breast feeding: A retrospective study in Sweden. Acta Paediatrica Scandinavica, 66, 4, 505-511.

 

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer S August 7, 2013 at 11:21 pm

Omg! You don’t really here about over supply much, I have yet to meet another mom that had the same issue. I nursed on demand, Co slept, and was not shy about nursing in public. God forbid, god forbid I left my house with anything less than 4 extra nursing pads for my bra. I had mine on automatic ship from amazon. My extra milk was partly my own fault, because I started pumping to build up my supply for work at about 2 months. Turns out I never needed it. My daughter disliked bottles, and she would feed just enough to ward off starving and wait until I got home to eat. Even while pumping my supply never decreased, even though my work load got to be so much at work I would only pump once (which means I usually only pumped once in a 10-12 hr period). My Boobs finally stopped shooting arcs of milk at let down after about 12-16 months. I had so much extra milk stored I donated about 300 oz when I ran out of room in my freezer. It made me so grateful. Now pregnant with my 2nd I can only hope breastfeeding comes just as relatively easy.

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Maria Wiltshire August 8, 2013 at 1:12 am

I loved reading this. I had same issues with my first born Son and like your James he piled on the weight and I had a horrendous amount if washing from leaking! My son also got reflux but I’m sure that in hindsight now it wasn’t and he just used to fill himself up so much he was sick everywhere!! You normally read of people without enough milk so it was nice to see someone with the same issues as no one I knew seemed to understand!
It was however a bonus when you needed to express though I could get 2 feeds off 1 boob in 5 mins :-)
Just had my daughter and I still have a good supply and fast let down but it doesn’t seem as bad this time maybe it’s different hormones.

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cynthia August 8, 2013 at 10:08 am

I had an oversupply. I always wanted to sell or donate it but people would say that’s disgusting. I haven’t breastfed my oldest since she was 9months she is now going to be 4 years old in a few months and my youngest its been about 2yrs. She’s 26 months old. When i breastfed thembi would get fevers from overflow even after they ate and then pump 18oz. I still leak til this day! Some times all it takes is my daughter poking my nipple out of curiosity and bam I leak. I would really like some help as to what to do or how to stop it.

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Melanie August 8, 2013 at 2:38 pm

I was fortunate enough to have plenty of milk to feed my son. I did not have hyper-lactation. I had a lot of trouble pumping milk (I had a manual pump), but my work schedule allowed me to nurse on demand. I nursed until my son was 22 months old. My best friend had trouble with producing enough milk. She did everything she could to get her milk supply up. She used some type of apparatus to nurse and formula feed at the same time. She had 4 different women offer up donated breast milk to help her get started the first 3 months. Her son is now 9 months old and nurses like a champ. I am pregnant with baby number 2 right now. We just recently got an electric pump. I am hoping to be able to pump enough milk to be able to donate it to help others. I think there is a Facebook page called Human Milk for Human Babies which allows moms to ‘advertise’ they have an over supply for donation or to ask for donations. As far as I know, it is a free service.

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Liz F August 8, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Man I thought I had oversupply LOL!! My milk came in on day 3 of my YDS’s life and he didn’t realize how much there was going to be…he barfed up a good chunk of it :/ I started out only nursing on each side because I knew I was prone to oversupply. Thankfully I followed my instincts for the start and tried to avoid pumping, avoiding foods that increased supply, and had burp cloths at the ready for when my son would unlatch and I would spray everywhere :/ I am super grateful for never having to worry about my supply.

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Rowan August 8, 2013 at 3:22 pm

When my son was born I struggled to get into the swing of things. I thought it was going to just be easy and natural. I was very blessed to have my nurses at the birthing center where I ended up having a c-section (yes, you read that right. Birthing Center. C-section). I fought so hard to give birth and in the end my son was face up, big head, small pelvis, and really truthfully this option saved our lives. Anyway, I didn’t have a lot of support. I was one of the first women to breast feed in my family. My Dad was actually my biggest advocate, but he of course had no practical advice. Then suddenly, I had SO much milk. We found our latch, and my son stayed in the highest percentiles of those stupid charts.

I didn’t have a lot of leaking problems thank God, but for a while I looked like I stepped out of an anime. Huge cartoon breasts!

Then I got pregnant without having ever had a period. My son was four months old. I nursed him right up until just before delivery. My supply never declined. It stayed steady. He weaned one week and literally the next week his sister was born. I had a few tandem nursing sessions, but my daughter had some health issues (she was early). She was also a lazy eater. Where as my son was almost constantly attached, my daughter had to be BEGGED to eat. With the boy I would cry, “Honey, if you don’t let Mama eat, you won’t HAVE anything to eat.” I nursed him with my daddy literally feeding me until I figured out how to do it on my own. My daughter I would beg, “Baby please wake up, Mama is going to explode.”

Nursing quiet literally saved my daughter’s life. Inspite of intense reflux, vomiting, and breathing issues, she was thriving. We were seeing a specialist at Children’s Hospital. This Dougie Howser look alike became my herald. When babygirl had an upper GI, with that nasty barium, he made them put the barium in a supplemental feeder, so she could nurse off me. I stood in the awkward position with my breast stretched ridiculously for that test. When she had surgery, he would not allow them to give her a pacifier, but instead insisted she receive comfort at my breast. She grew. Smaller than her brother, but she grew!! When I had so much milk, he arranged for me to contribute to the hospital. He btw was a pediatric gastroenterologist, and the professor of the same thing at the medical school attached to children’s.

My daughter was over 2 when she stopped nursing, and still I had milk. I contributed until was so tired of pumping. When my daughter turned 3 my god children came to live with us, and the youngest who had been nursed began to starve himself when his mom went to work. He refused cups, and bottles and began to lose weight. We talked. I nursed him. I continued to do it until he was almost 2.

To this day? The baby of someone I love can make me leak (and my daughter is 17). Even reading this article I felt that familiar “tingle”. When my niece had her son, and we visited the first time he dove head first into my breasts, and tucked his hand right inside just like his Mama did when she was little. I guess my breasts like babies, and babies like my breasts.

I feel very blessed. Both that I had a great supply, and that I didn’t leak all the time.

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Rowan August 8, 2013 at 3:24 pm

To clarify. I didn’t have a lot of familial support for breast feeding.

With both my children I had the same nurses who knew my determination, and even when I was taking pain medication, would sit and HOLD my children to my breast so we would establish a good nursing relationship.

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Sarah August 8, 2013 at 3:34 pm

I had the same “problem.” My baby was colicky and had green poop and cried a lot as a newborn. I desperately searched google for answers. I didn’t find much, but I did learn that too much fore milk and not enough hind milk can cause these symptoms in my baby. I started block feeding and things got much better, but I still had enough milk for two or three babies at once. I didn’t want to pump because it was extremely painful for me. Thankfully though I learned the art of hand expressing breast milk when I got in a tight situation. My breasts grew three or four cup sizes overnight when my milk came in. I naturally have very small breasts, and the new size was disconcerting because finding clothes that fit my small frame with huge breasts was complicated. In the first year of baby I had only one bout of breast infection, and it was relatively mild. Rather amazing to me considering how engorged I was much of the time. One of my biggest fears before baby was born was that I wouldn’t have enough milk. My nightmare was having to formula feed. Even though latching on was very difficult the first weeks, I cried and tried until baby got it, and even though it was definitely a challenge with my oversupply, I never regretted it!

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brandi williams August 8, 2013 at 3:36 pm

OMG! WHERE WAS THIS STORY A YEAR AGO???!!! With my first son I was 21 and knew nothing compared to now, and even still in trying to prepare for what I went through just in case it happens again. I started leaking at 4 months with the last and this current pregnancy. I actually woke up this morning, my night gown soaked on the side I slept on. /: there are so many tricks for increasing milk supply but hard to find support for what to do in a over lactation situation!!! I can feel it happening all over again even as I type. I had NO support. My mom didn’t breastfeed us kids so she was no help and even now as I’m going down a natural path, she says to me, “I didn’t bf y’all and you’re fine, its not that important!” but it is! Its huge to me. I refuse to give up this time. I tried my very hardest for my first, but I ended up with mastitis following guidelines to help, that actually hindered and it was just too much. Where are good places I can go for tricks on helping with overproduction?? I’ve got about 2 months to be as knowledgeable as possible just in case. Wonderful, wonderful story!!

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Svea Boyda-Vikander August 8, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Thank you Brandi, Rowen, Sarah, and everybody else who has shared their story! I love it!

It sounds like I need to write a post about healthy ways to deal with oversupply.
Brandi, you’ve given me a deadline. I’ll get on it. :)

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Amanda August 8, 2013 at 5:05 pm

I must say, I’m so happy at the way you chose to tell your story, you had me laughing all over the place. Thanks so much for sharing

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Zombiie August 8, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Can you fill me in on what you ate, and the things you did to help your milk supply? I’ve always wanted to breastfeed my darlings but didn’t produce anything with my son. Now I am pregnant again and really want to be able to breastfeed.

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Svea Boyda-Vikander August 8, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Hiya,
I’m not sure how much my diet had to do with my oversupply… I have eaten a big bowl of oatmeal almost every day for the last 15 years (I love it!), so maybe that was part of it, but I am really no expert on foods to increase supply. I think it’s wonderful that you’re going to breastfeed your next! We’ll be doing a feature on breastfeeding soon, but this website (kellymom.com – specifically, http://kellymom.com/bf/got-milk/supply-worries/low-supply/) is a fantastic resource. Lots of love!

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Michelle August 8, 2013 at 5:38 pm

What a great read! Thank you for sharing your story. I have an oversupply, and although its not as extreme, it is nonetheless an oversupply and my freezer is quickly filling up with milk (although I’m happy because I will be getting off maternity leave in a little while). My son is off the growth charts as well, in height and weight (2mo in 9mo clothing). You don’t hear about oversupply and I too will usually block feed because DS is an efficient eater and with a large supply he fills up within 5-10 min and is done. Thanks for sharing it feels great to see other mothers out their experiencing the same thing. And I second writing a post about healthy ways at managing an oversupply, because LC’s don’t talk about it! Love this blog =)

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Cassi August 8, 2013 at 5:44 pm

I have an oversupply of milk, and have thought about donating or selling my milk. However, we have now decided to store my milk for when I am no longer breast feeding and give it to our daughter in a bottle instead of her having cows milk or formula.

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Dawn LGM August 9, 2013 at 11:08 am

Thank you for this article. I always get the people saying, oh you are SO LUCKY to have so much milk. My oversupply is painful, I’ve gotten mastitis once, my freezer is super full, and I’m personally buying so many disposable breast pads I should have gotten stock in the company. When my daughter was a newborn (she’s 6 months now), she would latch on, but then CLAMP DOWN to stop my super strong let down. She would sputter and choke on my milk cause it was so much. A nipple shield helped me, a pain in the butt for sure, but helped regulate my milk let down, didn’t effect my supply and didn’t put me in pain. She decided spontaneously right at 6 months that she didn’t need the shield anymore, and now we are shield free. I pump every night before bed just so I don’t wake up with a soaked bed or in so much pain from engorgement. Since I know that frozen milk has a shelf life, I have already donated 147 oz. of it to a woman in need on Human Milk for Human Babies. Thank you so much again for a story on oversupply… it’s a blessing to be sure, but it’s not all roses and candy.

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Karena August 9, 2013 at 2:20 am

Thank you for this article and talking about oversupply! Beautiful writing, beautiful mom, beautiful baby. :)

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Allison August 9, 2013 at 5:52 am

As a MW I met a mum who literally had to have a bath towel down her top to absorb all the milk she produced. And she rung it out in front of me to show the extent of her over production. It was a situation I had never been aware of could be so extreme. I talked to the specialist BF MW and got some valuable advice who was always a font of knowledge experience and expertise.

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Jordan August 10, 2013 at 11:18 am

I went to the hospital at 38 weeks with a plugged duct. That was the beginning of my lactating journey. My milk came in right after my son was born(at 41+3). He regained his birth weight in just a few days as well. I don’t think my leaking problems were quite as bad as yours, but I spent the first 4-5 months wearing nursing pads constantly. Cloth ones didn’t absorb fast enough. Finally around a year, I was able to stop wearing them at night. LO is now 13 months old and I am 7 weeks pregnant and haven’t noticed a decrease in supply at all! Thanks for the great article!

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Sara August 10, 2013 at 11:42 am

It is nice to see a story like this on the website. I almost felt guilty from my over supply.
My milk came in on day 2 and my daughter had gone from 7#13oz at birth to 7#10 oz when we left the hospital at her 3 day check up shew as 8#2oz!
I was so full it was so painful I had to pump to relieve myself in between my daughters feedings. If she stopped eating for a second after she had started milk would go everywhere! I had to tuck a burp rag under my breast for if she got distracted mid-meal. Most of the time I was taking hot showers just to leak out and feel some relief of pressure. No one seems to talk about having “too much”
My mom kept telling me I would “balance” out and it didn’t happen until my daughter was 4 months that I started to feel more “normal” and not constantly engorged. I got mastitis twice because I was too full. I went back to work at 6 weeks and was constantly worried I wouldn’t pump in time and leak in my work clothes. I was extremely thankful for the oversupply because it has made it easy to go back to work so early and my daughter has only had breast milk and I am a full time working mom. I ended up being able to donate 100 oz in my first month or so back at work because my freezer was way too full. My baby girl is/was extremely healthy and the doctors first comments always are “she looks like she hasn’t missed any meals!” Although it was painful and seemed like I was constantly having to pump just to get relief if she didn’t feel like eating at that time, I wouldn’t change it for anything else.

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Sarah August 10, 2013 at 11:43 am

I haven’t yet had the opportunity to experience breastfeeding (My first little one was due 5 days ago! Any day now!), but a close friend of mine developed breast cancer while pregnant and was devastated about no longer being able to breastfeed. She utilized word-of-mouth and some social media sites to collect donated milk from moms who have an oversupply. Her daughter is now two months old and has been exclusively fed breastmilk thanks to donors. So please know that this is an option and one that is highly appreciated to moms with all sorts of reasons they are unable to breastfeed! (FYI – she just had a double mastectomy and found out she is officially cancer free!)

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Kathy August 10, 2013 at 11:44 am

Thank you for posting this! I, too, struggle with hyper lactation – and everyone likes to tell me how lucky I am to have this problem. While I agree that I’m very blessed not to struggle with a lack of supply, so many don’t seem to understand the challenges of having the opposite issue. I could go on and on about our journey, but I can’t…because a little one begs to be attached to mama now. :)

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Rachel August 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm

With my daughter I had an oversupply of epic proportions… I would feed from one side and hold a bottle over the other side and catch! I donated to a local NICU from 2 months until 8 months, when it is no longer NICU suited.

I was donating around a litre a week, had a freezer supply of my own and a nurseling who at 6m had almost tripled her (admittedly small) birthweight.

I met the recipient mother – I fed her triplets whilst she spent 8 weeks in ICU, and they went home earlier than expected having bulked up well. If I have oversupply this time (37 weeks pregnant now), then I won’t hesitate to donate again!

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Liana W. August 10, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I, too, had an oversupply, with my milk coming in while still in the hospital and discovering at his first post-birth weigh-in that he never lost any weight, only gained. I would put a manual pump to the side that my son wasn’t nursing on and just hold it there, not actually using the pump, and collect 2-4 oz every time. (Hubby would always chuckle and shake his head every time I got the arcing milk spray happening.) I ended up donating over 1,000 oz of milk; mostly to a local mama who was desperately trying to continue giving her daughter breastmilk, but could only manage to pump about 5 oz a day at work. When my supply started leveling out at about 8mos (!!), I started to actively pump while DS was nursing so that I could continue donating. I was amazingly blessed to be able to bring him to work with me, so I never had to rely on any of that pumped milk except for the occasional date night. By the time he would have been too mobile to be at work, we moved and I became a SAHM.

I remember awkwardly mentioning my oversupply “issues” with my dad when he casually asked how nursing was going (at lunch, no less). Bless him, he never hesitated, just responded with, “Yeah, your mother was the same way.” So it apparently came with my genetics!

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Alicia August 10, 2013 at 1:35 pm

I had an good supply with my daughter, but for several reasons we stopped breast feeding and did formula. It was the right choice for that time and for both of us. However when we had our son I wanted so bad to have breast feeding, formula didn’t feel right to me and I’m a go with your gutt kind of momma. However, no milk, I was devastated beyond anything I knew. I did so much to build the supply I have, which thankfully just meets his demands now. But along the way I have gleefully benefitted from a mom with an oversupply. There is nothing so devastating that not being able to feed your baby (no matter how you feed)…the milk that was given to us at those times was the greatest gift I have ever been given by another woman. I cherish that woman so much.

Thank you for promoting milk sharing, its a beautiful blessing. And from a mom who has needed it, (gosh tearing up lol) it means more than I can put into words.

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Kate August 10, 2013 at 2:13 pm

I wholeheartedly empathize with your experience! There is a shocking lack of information on oversupply in the breastfeeding community! I spent four months researching (often in tears as I suffered through another painful nursing session) trying to figure out what was “wrong” with our breastfeeding relationship – and this was after seeing four different LCs! Finally, after reading brief snippets in hundreds of breastfeeding articles, I was able to diagnose myself and finally regulated my supply. But, the leaking never stopped until my first weaned and I was pregnant with baby #2. Thank you so much for bringing this subject out and putting into words the tough spot we oversupply moms find ourselves in!

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Dani Floyd August 10, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Wow this was an educational read for me. I read all the time about moms who have trouble (I am one of them) but it never occured to me that some moms produce entirely to much milk. I’ve never made it past 3 months breastfeeding with my first 3 kids. I’m currently pregnant with my 4th and I’ve already swore come hell or high water I’m going to breastfeed this baby. With my first I was just so defeated because I didn’t think I was producing enough milk. I tried confiding in the women in my family who had had children and they all kept telling me I was starving my baby so I gave up and started feeding formula. I breastfeed my second child but was soon deployed to Iraq when she was 4 months old so that a bust, and my third child had medical issues at birth, I wasn’t allowed to breastfeed or bottlefeed her in her NICU room. By the time she was released from the hospital I was suffering with postpartum depression so I didn’t even try. With this child I have so many resources, and mommies for support I know I can do it this time so I’m really excited to see how it goes!

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Kris August 10, 2013 at 5:25 pm

I had an oversupply a lot like what you wrote about. We ended up donating milk to some adopted twin boys who lived in the town neighboring ours. :)

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Tanya August 10, 2013 at 6:18 pm

I almost never hear stories about oversupply! I had a big oversupply and very strong let-down for the first 4-5 months of my son’s life. I pumped and froze so much milk because I couldn’t stand to throw it away! In some ways I could see the big supply as a blessing–I never had to worry about my son gaining weight, and I knew I had more than enough to feed him.
I found a great lactation consultant who helped me work through getting a good latch, block feeding, getting the supply-and-demand to a good place. She also introduced me to the idea of milk-sharing, and I was able to donate to several other mamas in need in our community. What a special feeling!
Your bit about spraying milk into the street made me laugh–I never did that, but I did manage to thoroughly sprinkle an unknown (and sleeping) man on the plane next to me one time while trying to feed my son. :)

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Jennifer Boyd August 10, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Hello Just wanted to say thank you for sharing your wonderful story. I had my little girl 5 years ago and she was born 10lbs 7oz. I was determined on breastfeeding her and did fine the first few days until she got Jaundice. The doctors immediately told me a bunch of CRAP saying that I had to supplement her with formula to get the Jaundice to go away which I have learned since that it was not true.. I could have just kept breastfeeding her and my milk probably would have came in sooner. I nursed and Bottle fed her as they asked me until my milk came in 5 days after she was born. I took her home and the doctors wanted me to continue to breast and bottle feed so that her billy rubin levels would not go back up again. So I did which ended up in my milk drying up. I was devastated !! Breastfeeding came so natural to me and my daughter latched with no issues and I had no pain. I am hoping that when I have my next child I will have better luck!!

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Ashley August 10, 2013 at 8:16 pm

My mom had an oversupply with both my brother and I. In fact, I thought all women did until I got married 2 years ago and started researching for myself. I was shocked at what I found and I have so much respect for mothers (in general) You don’t hear much of women who have an excess supply. it seems like our society as a whole likes the idea of women trying to breastfeed at first and then (for whatever reason) switch to formula. That seems to be more accepted. And kinda pushed.
To all the mamas, do what you have to do. What works for one woman may not work for another.
We are all different and thats ok.
I believe in supporting mothers in feeding their children. And supporting whatever way they choose to feed them.
As long as the babies get fed!
<3

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Chelle August 11, 2013 at 1:26 am

Oh my! Brings me back. I am still finding leftover bags of frozen milk in my chest freezer. My son is 5! I had so much milk it was insane. Hundreds and hundreds of extra ounces in shoe boxes filed away in the freezer. I was so proud at first of how many ounces I could pump (my little guy wouldn’t latch on for two whole months). I thought I was a rock star. Turns out I was so very wrong. I had such a bad oversupply that I couldn’t do anything to reverse it. Everything I read on LLLI was directing me to proceed with caution when really all I wanted to do was stop the insanity and the let down. I tried cabbage. I tried insane periods of block feeding until I thought for sure my breast was going to explode. Or start on fire. I even used Sudafed. Nothing worked. Finally around a year it slowed down, but never the let down. My son took it like a champ from day one. I could feed him in 5 minutes tops. There were a few people who thought I must be starving my baby with only a 5 minute feed. I slept on a doubled up beach towel while wearing washcloths stuffed in my nursing bra. The pads just were not absorbent enough. Someone joked I should use diapers. What a brilliant idea! If they were cheaper maybe. When I didn’t have wash cloths stuffed in my bra I would hang out over the bathroom sink and let all that liquid gold just run down the drain. I know there are mommies out there shaking their heads thinking that they would give anything to have some of that wasted milk. I felt so bad. I didn’t realize then that I could donate or I would have in a heartbeat. No one talks about OALD and OS. It’s always how to up your supply this way and that. Never how to rid yourself of milk. So I kept my trap shut for fear of getting a breast pump thrown at my head. Amazingly I didn’t develop mastitis. Now with my second baby I had no such symptoms (don’t tell her that sometimes my mind wandered to the days of 5 minute feeds). I believe that the nurses at the hospital who instructed me to pump to my heart’s content is what got the ball rolling with my OS the first time around. My first born had jaundice so they said feed him more. So I pumped more. I think they need to educate better. Put out there that it’s possible to have too much milk. Or none at all. And that’s my story.

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Svea Boyda-Vikander August 11, 2013 at 11:50 am

Chelle! I did (and do) the diapers thing. But with cloth diapers it’s cheaper… It’s a great idea but they still leak. Heh.

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Jessica August 11, 2013 at 8:46 am

I deeply thank all of the over-supplying moms who donate their breast milk! I had breast reduction surgery in 2006, and I knew that there was always a possibility that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed. In 2011, I had triplets born at 27 weeks, and I was able to get a very tiny bit of my own breast milk (and when I say tiny- I mean maybe 4-6 ounces a day). My babies were lucky enough that at the very early stages they were able to split that amount, but when they were about 4 weeks, it was no longer enough, and I stopped producing. It is with the generosity of over-supplied mothers that my children were able to continue getting breast milk until they were 9 weeks old and switched to specialty formula. I am a firm believer that they would not have faired as well as they did or remained as healthy as they have been if it hadn’t been for those donations and all of the benefits of breast milk. Thank you to those who donate from a grateful mom and 3 miracle babies!

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Chantel Marie McNeill August 12, 2013 at 10:55 am

I’m not alone!!! I asked for help every where and any where and got nothing to help me! I was the same way! by the time my little girl was 1 month I was feeding her on the left and pumping 20+ oz out of the right in just an hour. I went from a average c cup to barely fighting a DD. I would have to wear two night time menstrual pads on the sides a heavy flow pad down the middle and two nursing pads on each nipple all held down my TWO bars and yet I would still wake up in a puddle of milk! although I’m more than thankful for my milk supply I was so frustrated by the shear quantity of it. I’m 10weeks with #2 and I can’t explain how terrified I am. please please help me! chantelmsierra@gmail.com

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Svea Boyda-Vikander August 12, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Hi Chantel,

You have some time before baby comes! I’m working on a supply-reduction post, so check back for that (you can follow Birth Without Fear on Facebook to know when new posts go up). Thanks for sharing your story. I too tried the menstrual pads but found they actually ended up dispersing the milk and making it leak out, whereas the disposable nursing pads kind of kept it all in their little sack. Yeesh!

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Harley August 12, 2013 at 11:29 pm

Thank you for writing this! I didn’t nurse my son, now 3, because of jaundice, latch issues and PPD. My daughter is now 7 weeks and I stuff burp cloths in my bra to catch all the milk. My letdown is so painful and forceful! My daughter, like a previous poster said, often eats for 5 minutes and pops off. She often spits up multiple times after feeds from the amount of milk she is getting. Us overproducing moms need support too!

And a funny story-just today I was nursing baby girl. My three year old walked over and started talking to me. Baby unlatched and turned to look when my milk was letting down, leaving my sons face dripping with what he calls “mama milk.”

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Carol August 16, 2013 at 11:40 am

Thank you for writing this! All the super milky mamas are coming out of the wood-work :) I wish I had read this when my son was born. My mom was able to help me with my hyper-lactation as she was also blessed to be able to feed all her 4 children plus 2 other infants during her baby days. I do think over supply tends to be glanced over but it can also be hard for mothers going through this. I tried the block feedings and ended up with mastitis…oh so painful! Now that my son is 9 months he likes to play and see how far he can make the milk shoot out during let down! hahaha He has definitely learned how to handle the milk :)

…@Harley- that is so funny and can so relate.

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maria October 21, 2013 at 12:20 am

I ended up having over-supply also – but it was funny though, because at first I struggled to get milk at all!

I had an unplanned, emergency cesarean, and for over a week we were in NICU trying to get my milk going and my son out of jaundice. Finally after all the hours/days of pumping and vitamins and special foods and whatever else we tried, our lactation consultant prescribed us medicine called Domperidon and said that this, really, was THE last option. After Domperidon there was nothing else she could think of trying, because everything else had been tried already.

And weirdly enough… day 11 into my motherhood milk finally came.

At first it grew slowly. For several days my son was getting (decreasing amounts of) formula and (increasing amounts of) breastmilk – and then one day, I made enough that we could put aside formula and I was officially considered “fully breastfeeding”. (Yuss!) And whilst I cheered and laughed and felt proud of myself, and my son – my milk kept increasing.

And then within a few weeks I was at a point very similar to you: getting such let-downs my son was choking, soaked breastpads, wet t-shirts… the works. My son would feed on one breast and from the other, a line of milk was squirting like from a tap – half a metre in front of me. Same in the shower.

Once in the bathroom, under a shower, my husband dared me to see how far I could squirt if I pressed on my breast, and the answer was: two metres. I could squirt my milk two metres ahead of me.

But in never occurred to me to give this milk away; instead I started putting a cup/mug in my bra and gathering the milk for freezing, for later for when I returned to work. (Every time I was getting around 100 ml in the cup, with some spilt around my bra.) And within months, we had litres of breastmilk frozen in the freezer so when I returned to work at 7 months and my husband became the primary caretaker, my son was still getting breastfed when I was at home and fed breastmilk from a bottle when I was at work.

And it was great! The freezer looked weird with all those pots in there, but the opportunity was awesome =). I mean, not the leaking itself because it was unsightly and inconvenient, but the end result was good =)

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Amanda December 3, 2013 at 1:21 pm

OMG I am so glad to hear that I am not alone. With my DS I did not breastfeed because I was young and didnt know any better. I do remember though leaking so bad that I had washcloths in my bra, and when he cried I would soak my shirt from collar to hem in seconds. I had a major over supply with my DD as well, and now I am expecting number 3. I am hoping this time to donate to HM4HB, or one of my sisters who are expecting just a few months ahead of me.

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Maggie January 13, 2014 at 5:47 pm

I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who has had to deal with this! My DD was born by planned c-section, and I was told it would be 3 or 4 days before my milk came in. My breasts started feeling hot and itchy before the spinal even wore off. The nurses kept saying it was the anesthesia wearing off, but less than 24 hours later I was fully engorged and leaking milk all over the place. I soaked several hospital gowns, the nightgowns I brought with me, the sheets on the bed…it was a mess! My poor frustrated baby had a tiny little mouth and had a ton of trouble latching on to my gigantic rock hard breasts. She would frequently pull off choking because the let-down was so forceful, and milk would spray all over the place. I was going through tons of nursing pads and often saturated them so quickly that they would leak out the sides. She also gained weight quickly and went from 8 lbs 7 oz at birth to 24 lbs 3 oz at 6 months, and was wearing 18 month sizes by that time! I am due with my second child in 3 weeks and will be bringing several bras and a large box of nursing pads with me this time :)

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