Nothing beats the joy of nursing your baby as breast milk is tagged as the best. You are beyond exhilarated knowing that you can supply him enough nutrients necessary for his health. This is indeed a great scenario, however, nursing is not always golden. This is because some moms don’t find it smooth and easy. Why? Some occurrences may include, finding your baby choking, coughing, and pulling off your breast several times that you would be lost, count. You even suffer from sore breasts. As a result, your baby will be hungry, and you would be both unhappy. So you will be wondering what is this that you are going through? To give you the answer, it is what they call overactive letdown you are experiencing. Find out further information about it by reading this post.
What is an overactive letdown?
An overactive letdown is when your breast milk comes out too fast and hard at letdown.
Is overactive letdown the same as oversupply?
Sometimes an overactive letdown can come hand-in-hand with having an oversupply of milk. Many moms have this in the first 4-6 weeks postpartum, as this is by design to ensure there is enough food for baby. Usually, your baby will help to regulate your supply and the issue resolves itself.
What are the symptoms of overactive letdown?
With a newborn baby who is still getting the hang of sucking, swallowing, and assimilating his food, an overactive letdown can be frustrating, to say the least. Some symptoms may include:
- Baby coughing during or after feeding.
- Baby choking during feeding.
- Squealing, squeaking, or gulping excessively while nursing.
- Pulling back at the breast or tugging at the breast or nipple.
- Milk dribbling down to the side of the baby’s mouth.
- Crying or resisting the breast.
- Excessive gas, hiccuping or spitting up.
- Make clicking sound at the breast (this can also be a sign of tongue or lip tie).
Are there any problems that may arise from overactive letdown?
Many moms with overactive letdown have gassy or even colicky babies because babies are consuming too much foremilk and not enough hindmilk.
A foremilk is the thin, watery, and lactose-rich component of breast milk that is great for hydration and quick energy. On the other hand, a hindmilk is the creamy and fat-rich part of breast milk that provides nourishment, satiety, and contentment. Babies who receive too much foremilk suffer from excess gas (farting, belching, hiccups, etc.), hunger, and even colic because foremilk can digest too quickly, resulting in malabsorption and intestinal distress. Because of this, the baby generally has to feed more frequently, leading to sore breasts. Luckily, most babies learn to adapt to their mom’s letdown as they grow and their digestive system matures.
How to deal with overactive hetdown?
- Try laid-back nursing. Sometimes called “biological nurturing,” this is a great breastfeeding position for those with an overactive letdown. Let the baby rest on you, so you’re facing belly to belly. You can even let the baby root for the breast herself and latch on. Nursing this way works against gravity, therefore slowing the flow of milk into the baby’s mouth. It’s also pretty comfortable! Another option is a side-lying position, as sometimes excess milk can dribble out of the breast and/or side of the baby’s mouth easily this way.
- Clampdown. Clamping down on the areola can help slow down the milk flow and allow the baby to drink at a more agreeable pace (or even suckle for comfort). How do you do it? Remember the game “rock, paper, scissors”? Use the scissors hand pose and squeeze down hard on your areola. This will slow the flow coming out of your milk ducts. Beware that you might develop finger/hand soreness or cramping, so take breaks now and then.
- You may use a pacifier. Though pacifier is not strongly suggested by experts, it can be a powerful tool for an overactive letdown. Babies are born with a strong reflex to suck. In some feeding situations, babies get to suckle both breasts for about 30 minutes in total per feeding. When you have an overactive letdown, feeding sessions may only last about five minutes. If your baby is content, no worries. But during the witching hour when the baby wants to suckle for comfort but is overwhelmed by the milk flow, you could try a pacifier. You can also try using a very clean finger for the baby to suck on as an alternative.
- Pull baby off at letdown. Many babies struggle the most during the actual milk letdown, which usually takes place 30 seconds to a few minutes into nursing. Most moms can feel their milk preparing to come down their milk ducts, many describe this feeling as a tingle. A great way to ease the baby’s discomfort with an overactive letdown is to take him off the breast and catch the forceful milk in a towel, burp cloth, or breast milk bag. Once the letdown is complete, re-latch baby and let him, nurse. If you want to save the milk from the other breast that’s released during letdown as each drop is valuable, you may purchase a product for this one. If you are tandem nursing, you can have your toddler drink for the first minute or two during letdown, then pop baby back onto your breast.
- Try block feedings. If you’re dealing with oversupply issues, offer just one breast per feeding. Moms with severe oversupply issues can even offer that same breast for the next feeding and then offer the second breast. This way you can be sure the baby will get all of the good hindmilk and make for a more pleasant nursing experience since the milk letdown won’t be as rapid as the breast empties. This will also help regulate overall milk production since you’re not stimulating both breasts at each feeding. Be sure to work with a lactation consultant to decide if block feeding is right for you.
- Seek for help. There are so many great resources out there if you continue to struggle with feedings. Consult it with a lactation consultant, they are worth their weight in gold and can provide hands-on help with overactive letdown issues or, even more importantly, diagnose any issues that may be preventing your child from latching and drinking your milk well like a tongue tie or lip tie.
Breastfeeding can get easier and better for both moms and babies. You just have to be patient, don’t give up! Your baby will be able to drink up and enjoy your overactive letdown as he grows. However, in the meantime, try the tips mentioned above to get through those unpleasant and uncomfortable weeks or months as you both adapt. For moms out there who tried anything that works with overactive letdown, share it with us below so we can learn from each other!