Breastfeeding: Over-Supply Issues

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As beautiful and natural as breastfeeding is, it can also be wrought with issues and difficulty. When my daughter, Little Girl, was born I was thrilled to see her take well to nursing. Having breastfed my son till he was 19 months old I felt comfortable and confident breastfeeding.

breastfeeding newborn

As second time mom I was much more relaxed and truly enjoyed having a sweet little newborn to snuggle and nurse again. As we headed from from the hospital I thought, this is going to be smooth sailing. Little did I know that a breastfeeding challenge was just on the horizon.

A few days after coming home from the hospital things started to get tricky. It had only been six months since my son weaned, so my milk came in quickly this time around. I breastfeed my babies on command and Little Girl’s hunger cues were clear. She continued to latch well and nursed typically 6-8 minutes on each side every 3 to 4 hours. Sometimes I needed to work to keep her awake and on task while nursing, but overall our feedings went well.

The trouble started after breastfeeding.

After nursing it was difficult to help Little Girl burp, but she was clearly uncomfortable and gassy. She seemed dissatisfied and agitated, yet would not latch to take any more milk. I started to dread nursing Little Girl because I knew it would cause her discomfort… talk about mom guilt! Then I noticed her diapers change. Her stools went from golden and seedy to green and foamy. A baby crabby baby with green foamy poop- that’s when I knew something was up!
After a call to the lactation consultant and some research on, an excellent breastfeeding resource, I figured out that I had an over supply issue. Little Girl never completely emptied my breasts, so she was getting too much foremilk and not enough hindmilk. Foremilk is the protein-rich milk baby ingests at the beginning of a feeding. Towards the end of feeding on one side, as the breast is more emptied the baby ingests fat-rich hindmilk. (Here is a great explanation of foremilk and hindmilk.) Too much protein-rich foremilk without the balance of fat-rich hindmilk can cause a baby to be hungry but too bloated and gassy to continue nursing. An over supply issue can make a breastfed baby seem colicky. (Here is a helpful article about colic in breastfed babies.)
Once my lactation consultant and I identified the over supply issue addressing it was fairly easy. To help Little Girl get more hindmilk than foremilk, my lactation consultant suggested I hand express or pump a little before nursing to eliminate some foremilk without impacting my supply.
Each feeding I focused on Little Girl completely emptying one side, instead getting her to nurse on both sides. I was amazed to find that most of the time Little Girl was satisfied with nursing on one side per feeding. At first nursing on just one side left my other breast engorged and uncomfortable but my body adjusted quickly. At the time that I’m writing this, Little Girl’s now four months old and she just started nursing on both sides. We’re in a great nursing rhythm that works well for her and me. Little Girl is healthy, gaining weight as she should be, and we’re both enjoying our nursing relationship.

Breastfeeding can be one of the most emotionally loaded aspects of mothering an infant so proper support is key. Throughout my over supply issues, my lactation consultant was not just an excellent resource, she was my cheerleader. If you are having difficulty breastfeeding I encourage you to seek help. Look here to find a lactation consultant in your area or here to find a Le Leche League group in your area. You got this mama!

Have you faced a breastfeeding challenge? How did you overcome it?

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Wife, work at home mom, and bassoonist, Laura Ankrum lives in Iowa City, Iowa. Prior to the arrival of her two children Laura taught elementary music and band in the Boston area. Now her home is her classroom and music studio. Laura is passionate about education, encouraging other moms, and eco-friendly living. She is the social media coordinator at Thirsties Inc.


Amber Ludwig · December 22, 2015 at 9:08 am

Yay!! I love to hear good nursing stories!! So many horror stories out there lol… mine was pretty smooth and I always felt guilty to share!! Happy nursing!!

    Bert @ First Time Mom MN · December 22, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Thank you! I think it’s still important to share it because women need to know that it can be done.

Sandra Caballero · September 28, 2017 at 12:53 am

Great read. I’m a nursing mom. I nursed both my daughters. My eldest for 2 years and my youngest still nursing. I’m planning to nurse my third baby.

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