Breastfeeding - too much milk
breastfeeding; milk; engorged; cabbage; express; expressing; flow; posture;
Sometimes babies struggle a bit at the beginning of a breastfeed if the milk flow is fast. Sometimes mothers seem to have more milk than their baby needs. If the suggestions here do not help you to sort out your concerns, seek help, so you can continue to breastfeed and have a satisfied baby.
The early days
When your milk first 'comes in' your breasts may feel very full, tender and hard (engorged), and sometimes you may have a mild fever. This is not likely to be mastitis – but if you feel unwell always check with your doctor. (For more information have a look at Breastfeeding – sore nipples and breasts.)
This can happen in the early days of breastfeeding, often on the third to fifth day after birth, when your mature milk comes in and your breasts become very full and tight. It is normal for breasts to become quite large when your milk comes in. They usually get less large within a week or so.
Keep feeding and your milk supply will settle down to match your baby's appetite. Young babies may feed 8 to 12 times in 24 hours, including several times during the night. Your baby may learn how to breastfeed more quickly if she is not given dummies or bottle teats until feeding is going well and she is about four to six weeks old.
When the breasts are very full the nipple may not protrude as fully as normal and it may be harder for the baby to attach to the nipple properly. You will need to be careful to get the baby attaching well. Expressing a little milk to soften the areola (brownish area around the nipple) and the nipple before the feed might help. Have a look at Breastfeeding – a new baby and ask for help if you are not able to get your baby well attached.
For your comfort
- Wear a bra that gives good support but does not cause pressure on your breasts.
- A heat pack, hot face-washer or a hot shower before a feed,
- A cold pack or cold face-washer after a feed,
- You could use some paracetamol for pain.
- Express some milk under the shower.
- If your breasts remain full, tender and hard it may be helpful to do a 'once off' emptying of your breasts, where you express as much milk as possible, either by hand expressing or with an electric breast pump.
Sometimes leaking milk is a problem when your breasts are full.
- Use absorbent nipple pads (not plastic lined ones).
- Wear dark patterned rather than light plain clothes as these do not show damp stains as much.
- Change nursing pads and bras often when they become damp with leaking milk.
- Pressing your hand or forearm against the nipple for several seconds can stop the leaking for a short time, but if you do this too often some of the milk ducts might become blocked. Have a look at this information about blocked ducts.
After a feed
If you still have uncomfortably full breasts after your baby has finished feeding, you could express some milk from your breasts until they feel comfortable. Only do this when needed – not always after every feed.
Sometimes you might notice that your milk lets down very fast. This is usually when you have plenty of milk and your breasts may be quite full. You may notice your baby gulping milk and this may make her unsettled. Your flow should settle down after the first six to eight weeks when your milk supply is established.
To help with a fast flow you can try:
- To feed more frequently as this helps the let-down to be less strong.
- As soon as your let-down happens you may notice your baby gulping, swallowing fast, or spilling milk from the corners of his mouth. If this happens you can take your baby off the breast. While you wait for the let-down to slow you can let the fast flowing milk leak into a cloth nappy or towel and massage your breast with one hand and express some milk before reattaching.
- Check the positioning of your baby at the breast and make sure your baby's head is well supported. For example hold your baby underarm in an upright position. Feeding with your baby lying on top of you, sometimes called 'posture feeding', is not a good idea as this can block your milk ducts.
- You can use a breast sling for support if you have large breasts.
- The picture on the right shows the straddle hold and will help your baby to be able to swallow more easily and cope with the flow.
- Parent Helpline- 24 hours per day, every day - 1300 364 100
- Your local Child and Family Health nurse
1300 733 606 for an appointment (9am to 4.30pm)
- Book that can be downloaded
Women's and Children's Health Network (SA): Breastfeeding your baby.
Australian Breastfeeding Association 'Breastfeeding information'
Brodribb W (2004) Breastfeeding Management (3rd Edition) Australian Breastfeeding Association
NHMRC - Infant Feeding Guidelines 2012
Pregnancy, birth and baby Pregnancy, Birth and Baby is a national Australian Government service providing support and information for expecting parents and parents of children, from birth to 5 years of age.
Australian Breastfeeding Association
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.