Having too much breast milk – an oversupply – can be uncomfortable and can mean your baby struggles with feeding. Here are the signs and what to do…
What is an oversupply and what are the symptoms?
An oversupply of breast milk is when you have too much milk. You might also hear people call it hyperlactation or hypergalactia.
Around three to five days after you give birth, you may notice that your breasts are uncomfortable and your milk supply is more than your baby needs. This is known as engorgement and it can be a very a common experience.
For more information on how your breasts might change after birth and what to expect, see here.
When might I experience breast engorgement?
- It can happen around day three to five after birth when your milk ‘comes in’.
- During the first 14 days following your baby’s birth you may have times when you experience engorgement, followed by times when your breasts feel soft.
- Whenever you have gone longer between feeds than what’s normal for you and your baby.
(Hill and Humenick, 1994; Berens and Brodribb, 2016)
What is the difference between oversupply and engorgement?
While engorgement can be normal, it’s unusual for this to last beyond the first six to eight weeks. That is, unless there’s been a longer gap between feeds.
Mums who experience oversupply can feel engorged the majority of the time and find that their milk supply always seems to exceed their baby’s needs.
What are the signs of having too much breast milk?
You might notice the following if you have an oversupply of breast milk:
- Your baby might struggle to maintain their latch – they might keep slipping off, letting go or slip to the end of the nipple (sometimes called ‘disordered’ feeding). If your baby comes off like this you may notice your milk spurting or flowing out of your nipples.
- Your baby might be unsettled, fussy, have gas and bring up a feed.
- You might hear your baby struggling with a strong flow of milk.
- There may be problems with your baby’s weight gain (either too much or too little).
- Frothy and plentiful poos.
- Your breasts always feel full and you’re troubled by frequent leaking.
(Trimeloni and Spencer, 2016)
Would it help to get some breastfeeding support?
The signs mentioned above can also be symptoms of other breastfeeding issues. So asking for support from your midwife, health visitor, NCT Breastfeeding Counsellor or other breastfeeding supporters can be a good idea if you’re worried about any of these issues.
Having an oversupply of breast milk can feel isolating and frustrating, and some mums say it makes social interactions more difficult (Trimeloni and Spencer, 2016). So getting breastfeeding support could help with this too.
It’s also worth checking out our information about how to protect yourself against mastitis.
An oversupply normally settles down in time as your supply regulates. But if it persists beyond six to eight weeks, the following might be helpful:
- Check your baby is latching well at the breast.
- Leaning back when feeding can help to slow the flow down if your baby finds it hard to latch (Trimeloni and Spencer, 2016).
- Consider asking for support from a trained breastfeeding supporter, such as an NCT Breastfeeding Counsellor or peer supporter.
- Cut down on or stop expressing your milk – the more milk you take, the more you make.
You could try block feeding
It can be helpful to get breastfeeding support first before trying block feeding. But some mums find block feeding helpful in reducing their supply (Caroline and van Veldhuizen-Staas, 2007).
Block feeding is when you only offer your baby one breast at a feed or the same breast for a certain amount of time if your baby feeds very frequently. Although block feeding is an effective way to reduce supply, the changes can happen quickly.
When you’ve tried everything…
For a very small number of women, the oversupply is due to medical conditions. If you think this could be the case, or your oversupply is continuing despite trying the above, you may need support from a healthcare professional (Trimeloni and Spencer, 2016).
If you would like to explore any of these options, you can call an NCT Breastfeeding Counsellor on 0300 330 0700 and they can help you to find out more.
This page was last reviewed in December 2021.
NCT supports all parents, however they feed their baby. If you have questions, concerns or need support, you can speak to a breastfeeding counsellor by calling our helpline on 0300 330 0700, whether you are exclusively breastfeeding or using formula milk. Breastfeeding counsellors have had extensive training, will listen without judging or criticising and will offer relevant information and suggestions. You can also find more useful articles here.
National Breastfeeding Line (government funded): 0300 100 0212.
Berens P, Brodribb W. (2016) ABM Clinical Protocol #20: Engorgement, revised 2016. Breastfeed Med. 11:159-63. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4860650/ (accessed 3rd December 2021).
Caroline GA, van Veldhuizen-Staas CG. (2007) Overabundant milk supply: an alternative way to intervene by full drainage and block feeding. Int Breastfeeding J. 2:11. Available at: http://www.nancymohrbacher.com/articles/2013/10/9/block-feeding-dos-donts.html (accessed 3rd December 2021).
Hill PD, Humenick SS. (1994) The occurrence of breast engorgement. J Hum Lact. 10(2):79-86. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/15580406_The_Occurrence_of_Breast_Engorgement (accessed 3rd December 2021).
Trimeloni L, Spencer J. (2016) Diagnosis and management of breast milk oversupply. J Am Board Fam Med. 29(1):139-42. Available at: https://www.jabfm.org/content/jabfp/29/1/139.full.pdf (accessed 3rd December 2021).