Breastmilk. Every Ounce Counts.

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Power Through

By recognizing hunger cues and feeding every time their baby is hungry, most moms are able to produce the perfect amount of milk. Sometimes though, moms produce too much milk, which can be uncomfortable and make it harder to breastfeed. How you treat this in order to better match your baby’s needs depends on whether it is caused by temporary breast fullness or oversupply.

Engorgement (Breast Fullness)

Engorgement happens when there is swelling in the breasts as the mature milk comes in, usually about 2 to 5 days after birth. Nursing your baby frequently is the best way to keep your breasts from becoming too full or engorged. Engorgement usually goes away in a few days as your baby breastfeeds.

Engorged breasts feel hard to the touch. They may be warm, tender, or throbbing, and the skin may be stretched tight. The nipple may flatten out, which makes it harder for the baby to latch on.

Here are some tips for relieving engorged breasts:

Before a feeding

  • Place a warm, wet towel over your breasts and nipples for a few minutes.
  • Gently massage your breasts from the chest wall toward your nipples.
  • Hand express or gently pump your breasts to get the milk flowing. This helps to soften your breasts so that baby can latch on.

During a feeding

  • Gently massage the breast to increase milk flow.
  • If the latch is uncomfortable, remove baby from your breast after a few minutes and help him re-latch. This will make it more comfortable for both you and baby.

Between feedings

  • Use cold packs on the breasts—20 minutes on, 20 minutes off—as needed. You can make a cold pack by putting alcohol and water in a zip-lock bag and place it in the freezer. It will remain soft. You can also take a diaper and open one end and place ice cubes in the center and then seal the tapes again.
  • Wear a supportive bra at all times. A tight or ill-fitting bra can press on milk ducts and make it harder for those ducts to empty.
  • Talk to your doctor about taking ibuprofen or another medication to relieve pain and swelling.

Oversupply

Oversupply is a longer-term issue than engorgement. It happens when your body generally makes more milk than your baby needs. Continued engorgement is one sign of oversupply. Here are some other signs:

Mom

  • Rapid flow of milk after let-down, which can sometimes be painful.
  • Constant feeling of fullness—breasts do not feel softer after feeds.
  • Frequent plugged ducts and/or breast infections.

Baby

  • Spitting up, coming off the breast often, fussy
  • Green stools
  • Refusal to nurse or shortened feedings

Here are tips to adjust milk supply when you think you have oversupply:

1

Block feed

Nurse only on one breast for 2 to 4 hours. Allow the baby to nurse as often as he wants during that time, but always on the same breast. Nurse on the other side for the next 2 to 4 hours. If the breast not being nursed begins to feel full, hand express or pump a little milk to be more comfortable. Be careful not to remove too much milk, which might cause you to make even more milk.

2

Change positions

Nurse in a side-lying or upright position. These positions make it easier for babies to handle the flow of milk.

3

Burp baby

Burp your baby often. This lets the baby release the air he swallows while gulping milk.

4

Break suction

During let-down, break the suction and allow some milk to flow into a towel. This gives baby a break, so he can continue nursing.

Moms who produce more milk than their baby needs can pump and store the extra milk for later use or donate it to a milk bank. Your gift can be a real lifesaver!

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