A Motherlode of Breastfeeding Information
Although both of these conditions are different, they are related in the sense that too much milk is causing problems for your baby.
The milk ejection response is the process that brings the milk down to the sinuses of your breast to be removed by the baby. This usually occurs shortly after your baby begins to suckle. Many women feel the "letdown" as a tingling sensation in the chest. Just as many women don't feel any sensations. If you don't feel anything, you can tell "letdown" has happened because your baby will begin to vigorously swallow. When the "letdown" happens and your baby seems to choke and sputter, that could be an indicator of an overactive letdown. Other signs include leaking throughout the day, feeling a "letdown" when any baby cries and having milk squirt from the nipple you aren't nursing from. For most babies, this isn't a problem at all, but for some babies it can cause frustration and result in your baby screaming at your breast.
Your baby may be fussy, gassy and generally feeling grumpy. This, along with watery green bowel movements, can indicate a foremilk to hindmilk imbalance. In other words, the baby is getting too much watery milk and not enough of the richer, fattier hindmilk that comes after some time at the breast. If your letdown is so forceful that the baby is quickly filled up with foremilk, this can result in your baby not gaining weight and being fussy. There are several things that can be done to help this process. Latch your baby on and allow her to bring down your milk, then take a short break to express some of the first, most forceful milk that comes. Once she goes back on your breast, the milk will have slowed enough where she can handle the flow. Also allowing him to only nurse from one breast per feeding or even over the course of a couple feedings can give him time to get some of the richer hindmilk and give him a chance to really fill his belly. (This doesn't work if your baby isn't gaining due to insufficient milk. Switching from side to side throughout each feeding will help to stimulate your breasts to produce more milk.)
As much as it seems that you couldn't possibly have too much milk, certain women produce more than their baby would ever need. This can be quite an inconvenience or can end up being a very stressful situation. Having too much milk can make going anywhere embarrassing. If every time you hear a crying baby your shirt ends up soaked, you aren't going to be pleased. It can be difficult to nurse in public when your unused breast is pouring milk. Preparing ahead of time with nursing pads and extra diapers can help to catch the extra milk. Only allowing your baby to nurse on one breast every four hours can cut down a lot of nipple stimulation, which will help to regulate your supply. This means that anytime your baby is hungry in the four-hour period, you should only offer the same breast. Then the next four-hour period is for the other breast.
One very difficult problem with having an overabundant milk supply is the inability of the baby to comfort nurse. Babies learn to gather comfort and safety at your breast and often want to nurse when they aren't very hungry. Your baby can learn to regulate the milk flow to suit her nursing purpose. When there is an oversupply of milk, it becomes very difficult for your baby to nurse without constantly getting lots of milk. This can cause quite a lot of frustration for your baby. Getting your milk supply regulated is important in this situation. You can allow your baby to suck on your fingers for comfort, which may help ease the frustration. Carrying your baby in a sling can also help to comfort a baby without nursing.
There are some herbs that can help to slow down your milk supply, but be careful, as it isn't worth jeopardizing your breastfeeding relationship. In any case, when at home you can catch the milk from the other breast that is leaking while nursing and start a stash of milk in the freezer, just in case.
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