Breast Milk Oversupply: What It Is and What to Do About It

woman in white shirt nursing baby who is looking up at mom

Some people may think it’s great to have extra breast milk, but they don’t understand what it’s like to overproduce and have constantly sore boobs (plus a gassy, screaming baby, clogged ducts, mastitis, all that jazz). 

If you’re dealing with an oversupply of breastmilk, you know how frustrating (and painful!) it can be for both your and your baby. 

Don’t worry, we’ve been there, experienced it firsthand, and we’re here to help you get your oversupply under control.

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What You Should Know About Breast Milk Oversupply

  • Breast milk oversupply happens when you produce more milk than your baby needs, leading to discomfort and feeding difficulties for you and your baby.
  • You can make too much breast milk whether you’re exclusively nursing, exclusively pumping, or doing both.
  • Pumping to drain off excess milk tells your body to keep making more milk, which makes your oversupply worse. That’s extra tricky when you just need to relieve your boobs, but also know doing so will tell your body to make more milk.
  • Check with a lactation consultant before working to reduce your supply–after all, you don’t want to reduce it too much, and that can definitely happen!

Why Trust Us

After dealing with multiple bouts of oversupply during their collective decade-long breastfeeding journeys with a combined total of 6 kids, Katy Huie Harrison, PhD and Samantha Radford, PhD, CLC offer their expertise in managing the challenge of breast milk oversupply. We’ve both navigated these waters and Samantha is a Certified Lactation Counselor.

How to Manage Your Milk Supply

While you may think you need to decrease your milk supply, it’s important that you first know whether you’re truly experiencing oversupply.

Check the basics: If your baby’s weight gain is slow or they’re not producing enough wet and dirty diapers for their age, definitely check in with a good lactation consultant before making any changes.

Easy Options for Milk Supply Management

These suggestions will also help with the overactive letdown (spraying milk like a faucet) that often comes hand-in-hand with oversupply:

  • Only offer one breast at a time. This allows the other breast to slow down production while you wait for the next nursing session. Plus, your baby will more completely finish off the first breast, meaning they’ll get more richer, fattier milk (and no upset tummy).
  • Stop taking galactogogues, including from lactation teas, cookies, or supplements.
  • Stop using a Haaka or other suction-based manual pump to catch “extra” milk. The suction and emptying of your breasts is signaling your body to make even more!
  • Pump less frequently and only pump a little for comfort, not to drain the breast.
  • Use the “laid back position” for breastfeeding, where your baby lies tummy-to-tummy with you. Gravity will help calm your let down.
  • Press your fingers just behind your nipple during let down. This will help slow the flow of milk.
  • Use your hand or arm to press a breast pad against the other breast while nursing. 

How to Decrease Your Milk Supply

We prefer starting with the steps outlined above, but if you need stronger interventions, you’ve got options. 

Please only try these with supervision from a lactation consultant to avoid the risk of reducing your supply too much.

  • Block feeding (basically feeding from only one breast for a set amount of time in order to slow down production in the other breast) for no longer than 1 week.
  • Full drainage and then block feeding (which has shown great results in case studies and in Samantha’s personal experience).
  • Use of herbs such as sage or mint. 
  • Use of oral decongestants such as pseudoephedrine. (This is a last resort and should only be considered if working with a qualified lactation consultant, as it can drastically decrease or fully dry your supply.)

Should I Pump Less If I Have an Oversupply?

Probably. If you have an oversupply, the last thing you should do is pump constantly. 

Why? Because empty breasts just signal to your body to make more milk. And then your breasts will be full, so you’ll pump again, just to make more milk… you see where this is going.

If you’re nursing with an oversupply, don’t pump directly after a feed. In fact, only pump in place of a feed (like if you have to be away from your baby for a while).

Pro Tip: Try not to pump between nursing sessions. If you have to, only pump enough for comfort, or manually express into the sink.

Remember, you don’t need a huge freezer stash. Just a few days worth of milk is perfect for you and your baby’s needs (despite what many Instagram-moms would have you believe).

As a reminder, it’s best to avoid sneaky pumping too, like from a Haaka, if you have breast milk oversupply. Since it stays on by suction, it stimulates your breast to produce more milk.

What is Breast Milk Oversupply?

Breast milk oversupply (or maternal hyperlactation syndrome) is simply making too much breast milk after 6 weeks postpartum. 

You can’t diagnose (or treat) “oversupply” before 6 weeks after baby is born because your production levels and associated hormones (such as prolactin) are still regulating themselves.

An “oversupply” of breast milk is often subjective. Here are the signs that you’re doing great (even if you feel like you are producing a lot of milk!):

  • You’re breastfeeding without pain
  • You’re comfortable in between nursing sessions 
  • Baby is generally happy 
  • Baby has regular diaper output (pees and poops)
  • Baby is gaining weight

Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with having a lot of milk as long as you’re both happy and doing well. But if you’re struggling with pain, discomfort, overactive let down, or repeated clogged ducts or mastitis, we totally get why you’d want to decrease your supple. We’ve been right there with you, friend.

What Causes Breast Milk Oversupply?

Oversupply can be caused by: 

  • Hormonal imbalances or inflammation
  • Use of certain supplements or medications
  • Overpumping (including with a Haaka)

But when we say overuse, please know we aren’t blaming you for this. It might well be that the recommendations for one mama to have enough supply contribute to oversupply for another. We’re all doing our best here, friend.

Pro Tip: Did you know oversupply is also worth bringing up with your regular doctor? Even though your PCP usually doesn’t have the knowledge base to help on the lactation side, oversupply can be a sign of systemic inflammation. That’s why some moms find it could be related to their thyroid hormones or immune system issues. (This was partially Katy’s experience. Intense oversupply with Jack, then after being diagnosed and treated for an immunodeficiency, perfectly normal supply with Branham.)

How is Breast Milk Oversupply Diagnosed?

Breast milk oversupply is diagnosed by a lactation consultant. They’ll check your baby for proper weight gain and assess feeding and general oral function (looking for a tongue tie or enlarged tonsils/adenoids).

Breast Milk Oversupply Symptoms

Breast milk oversupply affects both mama and baby. That’s why it’s so important to check for symptoms in both.

The image is an infographic titled "Oversupply Symptoms" and is divided into two columns, one labeled "Mom" and the other "Baby." It lists and illustrates symptoms associated with an oversupply of breast milk.For "Mom":There's an icon of a breast with a drop, labeled "Achy, leaky, engorged breasts."A spray of dotted lines indicating "Forceful letdown."An illustration of a woman holding her forehead in discomfort with the text "Increased risk of mastitis."For "Baby":An illustration of a crying baby with the text "Fussiness and gassiness."A diaper icon with the text "Green, frothy stools."An illustration of a baby clamping down on a nipple with the text "Clamping down / biting nipple."The colors are soft, with the background in pastel pink, and the infographic uses a mix of illustrations and icons to represent the symptoms. There's also a small icon of a wheat stalk at the bottom of the image, likely a decorative element.

Signs of Oversupply in Mom

Oversupply for you may be really obvious. You’ll likely deal with:

  • Sore, achy, engorged breasts
  • A forceful let-down (where milk sprays everywhere)
  • Frequent breast leaks (although leaking is not always a sign of oversupply)
  • Increased risk of clogged ducts or mastitis
  • If you’re pumping, all your milk may look very thin and translucent (no fatty hindmilk)

Remember, engorged breasts, increased leaking, and some of these other symptoms are normal in the first few weeks when your milk comes in. But if your baby is 6+ weeks old and you’re still dealing with these issues, it’s time to look into oversupply.

Signs of Oversupply in Infants

Breastfed babies also experience symptoms of their mother’s oversupply. Look for:

  • Gagging, coughing, or choking while nursing (like it looks like you’re “drowning” them)
  • Clamping down on the nipple (especially during a let down) to slow the flow of milk
  • Increased fussiness/gassiness
  • Green, frothy stools (poopy diapers may have mucus or blood, too)

If you don’t know what you’re looking for, oversupply may be harder to spot based on your baby’s cues alone. Combining them with your own should give you a good picture of whether or not you’re producing an oversupply.

Is Oversupply a Problem for Me or My Baby?

While it may initially sound like “too much breast milk” would be a dream come true, unmanaged oversupply can actually cause problems for you and your baby and can even end your breastfeeding journey sooner than you want.

Here are some example problems with oversupply: 

  1. Unpleasant nursing sessions – With oversupply, breastfeeding sessions are often a battle. Your baby may jerk their head away as soon as your milk lets down. Then, you’ll add insult to injury by spraying your little one with milk like it’s coming from a fire hydrant. Or, they may stay latched, but end up biting the crap out of your nipple in an effort to slow down your milk flow. Yowch!!
  1. Upset tummy for baby – When you have hyperlactation, the abundant milk you make contains more lactose than usual. When there’s more lactose than your baby’s tummy can process at once, it ferments, leading to gas and frothy green stools.

Your baby will be gassy and in pain. They may be fussing, screaming, and spitting up. In fact, you may think you have a colicky baby! But managing your milk supply will likely help your little one calm down.

  1. Clogged ducts and/or mastitis – Inflammation from full breasts can lead to painful clogged ducts. And if this isn’t treated, you can then develop mastitis, a painful infection that feels like you have the flu and angry, inflamed boobs, all at the same time. 

NOTE: If you develop 

  • chills, 
  • fever, and/or a 
  • painful, warm, red wedge-shaped area on your breast, 

contact your doctor immediately. You will likely need antibiotics for treatment. You can and should still breastfeed while being treated for mastitis.

  1. FUTURE low milk supply – I know, right now you’re worried about too much milk. But hear me out. If you are spraying milk like a fire hydrant, your baby doesn’t have to suckle to get milk. They can just let it fill their mouth and then swallow.

Later, when you get your supply under control, your baby may have developed bad feeding habits. If they don’t know how to suckle properly to stimulate a let-down and further milk production, this can cause your milk supply to down-regulate.

What It’s Really Like Dealing With Breast Milk Oversupply

If you’re dealing with oversupply, I’m so sorry. I know it’s painful–both for your boobs and your heart to hear your little one’s fussiness. 

Hopefully, simple tips such as ditching the Haaka; laid back breastfeeding; and pumping less frequently–along with the other tips we mentioned above–are enough to help your oversupply. If not, be sure to check in with a lactation consultant to get more in-depth help. Oversupply can be VERY frustrating, and you deserve to get the help you need to manage your supply. 

 You can do this, Mama!

Oversupply Q&A

Is oversupply of breast milk bad?

Oversupply can cause challenges for breastfeeding, especially for mom’s comfort. The baby may want to spend time sucking without a flow of milk (which is normal and helps build oral muscles and regulate hormones that impact sleep and digestion) and there is so much milk in the breast, that type of sucking cannot be achieved.

What is considered an oversupply of breast milk?

Releasing more than 3-4 ounces of milk per breast per feeding can constitute oversupply. There are variables, so always have breast milk oversupply diagnosed by a qualified lactation consultant.

What causes an oversupply of breast milk?

Science hasn’t looked at this because it’s not seen as a problem or a widespread health issue. Inflammation, histamine, or atypical immune activity may play a role.

How do you know if you have an oversupply?

While symptoms of oversupply include baby coughing or choking while nursing, or excess milk production on the pump, only a qualified lactation consultant should diagnose breast milk oversupply.

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