August 29, 2016
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Breastfeeding: Common Breastfeeding Challenges (cont.)

Oversupply of milk

Some mothers are concerned about having an oversupply of milk. Having an overfull breast can make feedings stressful and uncomfortable for both mother and baby.

What you can do

  1. Breastfeed on one side for each feeding. Continue to offer that same side for at least two hours until the next full feeding, gradually increasing the length of time per feeding.
  2. If the other breast feels unbearably full before you are ready to breastfeed on it, hand express for a few moments to relieve some of the pressure. You can also use a cold compress or washcloth to reduce discomfort and swelling.
  3. Feed your baby before he or she becomes overly hungry to prevent aggressive sucking. (Learn about hunger signs in the Tips for making it work section.)
  4. Try positions that don't allow the force of gravity to help as much with milk ejection, such as the side-lying position or the football hold.
  5. Burp your baby frequently if he or she is gassy.

Some women have a strong milk ejection reflex or let-down. This can happen along with an oversupply of milk. If you have a rush of milk, try the following:

  1. Hold your nipple between your forefinger and middle finger or with the side of your hand to lightly compress milk ducts to reduce the force of the milk ejection.
  2. If baby chokes or sputters, unlatch him or her and let the excess milk spray into a towel or cloth.
  3. Allow your baby to come on and off the breast at will.

Ask for help! Ask a lactation consultant for help if you are unable to manage an oversupply of milk on your own.


It is normal for your breasts to become larger, heavier, and a little tender when they begin making more milk. Sometimes this fullness may turn into engorgement, when your breasts feel very hard and painful. You also may have breast swelling, tenderness, warmth, redness, throbbing, and flattening of the nipple. Engorgement sometimes also causes a low-grade fever and can be confused with a breast infection. Engorgement is the result of the milk building up. It usually happens during the third to fifth day after birth, but it can happen at any time.

Engorgement can lead to plugged ducts or a breast infection, so it is important to try to prevent it before this happens. If treated properly, engorgement should resolve.

What you can do

  1. Breastfeed often after birth, allowing the baby to feed as long as he or she likes, as long as he or she is latched on well and sucking effectively. In the early weeks after birth, you should wake your baby to feed if four hours have passed since the beginning of the last feeding.
  2. Work with a lactation consultant to improve the baby's latch.
  3. Breastfeed often on the affected side to remove the milk, keep it moving freely, and prevent the breast from becoming overly full.
  4. Avoid overusing pacifiers and using bottles to supplement feedings.
  5. Hand express or pump a little milk to first soften the breast, areola, and nipple before breastfeeding.
  6. Massage the breast.
  7. Use cold compresses in between feedings to help ease pain.
  8. If you are returning to work, try to pump your milk on the same schedule that the baby breastfed at home. Or, you can pump at least every four hours.
  9. Get enough rest, proper nutrition, and fluids.
  10. Wear a well-fitting, supportive bra that is not too tight.

Ask for help! Ask your lactation consultant or doctor for help if the engorgement lasts for two days or more.


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