What Is Breast Milk Oversupply?

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What Is Breast Milk Oversupply?

Breast milk oversupply is also known as hyperlactation or hypergalactia. Breast milk oversupply occurs when the breasts produce more milk than is required for the normal growth of the breastfeeding infant.

During the first few weeks of breastfeeding, it’s normal to experience an overabundant supply of breast milk. If you have oversupply, that abundance continues beyond those initial weeks.

People with oversupply usually notice that their baby coughs and chokes during feedings. Babies also tend to bob on and off the breast as they struggle to nurse and breathe. They may clamp down or bite while breastfeeding to try to stop the forceful flow.

How Much Is Too Much?

While it is natural to want to measure your supply to determine whether the milk you are producing is too much, it’s not that simple. If you are breastfeeding, your milk is going directly into your baby, not into a container. The best way to determine if you have oversupply is to look at symptoms in your baby and yourself.

Symptoms

Symptoms of oversupply present in both a lactating parent and in an infant. A parent with overabundant milk often has tender, overfull breasts. An infant may struggle when they are trying to feed. 

Symptoms in lactating parent:

Symptoms in an infant:

  • Fussy during feeding
  • Difficulty maintaining a latch
  • Poor latch
  • Crying when offered a feeding
  • Refusal to breastfeed
  • Frequent gulping and air intake that results in gassiness
  • Stools that are large, frothy, and green

Impact

Breast milk oversupply can impact both you and your baby, and can be a frustrating experience for both of you. 

Impact on Infants

Each time your little one breastfeeds, they begin by getting low-fat, high-sugar, watery milk called foremilk. As the feeding progresses, the foremilk transitions to a higher-fat, creamier milk called hindmilk. Hindmilk is more filling and helps to satisfy your baby's hunger.

When you have significantly more breast milk than your baby needs, your baby may fill up on foremilk and stop feeding before getting very much hindmilk. Babies who don’t get enough hindmilk may want to feed more frequently because they do not feel satiated. Alternatively, lack of adequate higher-calorie hindmilk can result in inadequate weight gain, as well.

Oversupply of breast milk is often associated with a very forceful let-down reflex. If the flow of milk from your breast is too powerful and quick, it can be challenging for your baby to breastfeed. Babies trying to breastfeed through a forceful letdown often choke and gasp for air. 

Choking and gasping can cause your baby to spit up, have hiccups, gas, and have the appearance of colic. These things may cause your doctor to misdiagnose gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), colic, or milk protein allergy. Misdiagnosis and lack of proper breastfeeding support may also lead to earlier than desired weaning.

Impact on Parents

When you have oversupply, you may be unable to drain your breasts fully, which makes it more likely that you will have recurrent breast infections. Mastitis can sometimes become chronic. Candida, a yeast overgrowth in the breast, can also occur. 

Parents with oversupply struggle with frustration and loneliness. Work and social interactions can be difficult because your breasts are often painful and full. They may leak frequently and forcefully, making it difficult to feel prepared.

Since most people are more familiar with a perceived or actual undersupply as a breastfeeding problem, oversupply can sometimes be difficult for people to understand. You may be fielding comments that imply oversupply is not a problem or that it’s a "problem" others wish they had (in contrast to not making enough milk). This lack of support can feel very isolating.

Causes

The cause of breast milk oversupply is often spontaneous and unknown. Sometimes, though, it can result from breastfeeding mismanagement or a medical condition. If you suspect you have oversupply, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor to evaluate whether there could be a health condition that might contribute to it. 

Potential medical causes of oversupply:

Potential non-medical causes of oversupply:

  • Excessive pumping
  • A baby who overstimulates the breasts
  • Overuse of galactagogues

Tips

If you are struggling with breast milk oversupply, there are some things you can do to cope. Sometimes adjusting your position, frequency of feeding, and expressing a little bit of milk for comfort between feedings can help you and your baby breastfeed more comfortably.

Some strategies:

  • Burp often: Getting rid of excess air will help your baby feel more comfortable, and it will make room in their stomach for more hindmilk.
  • Block feed: Feed your baby from the same breast for a few feedings in a row so that they get more hindmilk. 
  • Breastfeed "uphill": Also known as “laid back” breastfeeding, this technique uses gravity to slow down the flow of your breast milk and make it more manageable.
  • Express a little before feeding: Use a breast pump or a hand expression technique to remove just enough of the breast milk from your breasts before you start to breastfeed your baby, so the let-down is more manageable.
  • Feed when your baby is sleepy: A sleepy baby may suck more gently, and the milk may flow more slowly as a result.

If you are experiencing oversupply, talk to an experienced lactation consultant for support. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you wean from pumping when you have an oversupply of breast milk?

Breast milk is produced by supply-and-demand. Stimulation at the breast results in more milk production so reducing unnecessary pumping is a good idea. Try to avoid pumping as much as you can while you are managing oversupply. 

Some ideas to wean from pumping:

  • Drop a pumping session
  • Reduce pumping time
  • Pump less frequently
  • Hand express to comfort

When does breast milk oversupply resolve itself?

Most breastfeeding difficulties occur within the first four to six weeks, which is often how long it can take for a parent and baby to get the hang of breastfeeding. It is also around the time that your body will start to respond with an adequate supply of milk to your baby’s demand. Getting professional support early can help you manage and resolve oversupply more quickly.

How often do you switch breasts while breastfeeding if you have an oversupply of breast milk?

Block feeding is a management technique used for breast milk oversupply. Rather than offering both breasts at each feeding, just one breast is offered. At the next feeding, rather than offering the other breast, the same breast is offered again. This is typically done on three hour cycles.

Block feeding works to reduce milk supply and to allow your baby a less full breast, which may help them cope with feeding more easily. It also offers them access to more of the rich hindmilk. 

A Word From Verywell

Breast milk oversupply is a common but frustrating experience that can snowball into other problems quickly. If you or your baby are exhibiting symptoms of oversupply, be sure to talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant for support. The sooner you receive help, the easier it will be to manage.

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Trimeloni L, Spencer J. Diagnosis and management of breast milk oversupply. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 2016;29(1):139-142. doi:10.3122/jabfm.2016.01.150164

  2. Martin CR, Ling PR, Blackburn GL. Review of infant feeding: Key features of breast milk and infant formula. Nutrients. 2016;8(5) doi:10.3390/nu8050279

  3. van Veldhuizen-Staas CG. Overabundant milk supply: An alternative way to intervene by full drainage and block feedingInt Breastfeed J. 2007;2:11. doi:10.1186/1746-4358-2-11

Additional Reading
  • Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession, Seventh Edition. Mosby. 2011.