Breastfeeding is such a beautiful experience between a mother and her child. It is so special to be able to nourish your child from your own body. What an amazing feeling it is when your little baby looks up at you with that milk drunk smile and a nice full belly. But what do you do when that experience isn’t happening for you? What do you do when your breastfeeding journey isn’t what you want it to be? For me it was leaking milk everywhere and my poor baby gasping after choking on my super overactive letdown. I needed something to change. I needed to fix my overactive letdown to make my breastfeeding journey everything I wanted it to be for both me and my baby.
Don’t worry though, an overactive letdown doesn’t mean the end of your breastfeeding journey. There are many different things you can do to slow your milk release and deal with the overactive letdown. I have been there and dealt with it, I understand how you feel and I am here to help you through this!
Still pregnant and not sure if you want to breastfeed or not? Check out my post on REASONS TO BREASTFEED FOR MOM THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE BENEFITS FOR BABY.
How do i know if i have an overactive letdown?
There are a few different signs that may point to an overactive letdown. Some are more obvious than others, but it is likely that you are seeing one or more of these if you do have an overactive letdown.
Some things you may notice if you have an overactive letdown are:
- Uncomfortable sensation when your milk moves down
- Excess milk leaking from babies mouth
- Baby seems to be gulping during breastfeeding
- Baby choking or gagging on milk
- Baby unlatching to catch his or her breath
- Baby unlatches shortly after you feel your milk move down
- When baby unlatches your milk is spraying
- Large amounts of leaking milk if a letdown occurs when baby isn’t breastfeeding
- Baby is quite uncomfortable and gassy between feedings
- Baby is losing interest in breastfeeding
What can I do if I have an overactive letdown?
Mama, I know it is so stressful. You are likely exhausted and just want to feed your baby without making a huge mess or having them struggle through the feed. I am here to tell you that not only are you doing an amazing job, but you can do this.
There are some simple changes you can implement to make breastfeeding a better experience for both you and your little one. Don’t let an overactive letdown stop your breastfeeding journey!
Express breastmilk before you start feeding your baby
This one worked wonders for me. I would hand express breastmilk and wait for the letdown to finish before starting the feed. Initially I would hold a towel up to my nipple because I would spray evereywhere. It was literally like someone was spraying a firehose. After seeing it happen I was totally alarmed by what my poor baby was dealing with. No wonder she was unlatching and choking on my milk.
Then I got the best thing ever called a haakaa, a sort of hands free manual silicone milk collector that uses suction to draw out milk from your breast. I started putting that bad boy onto my breast and then start hand expressing into it, let my overactive letdown fill it up with milk, take it off and then save the milk for my freezer stash. Seriously what a handy contraption. Plus I loved that I wasn’t wasting that liquid gold.
Read more on how to easily make a Freezer stash of Breast Milk HERE.
Regardless of where you chose to empty the overactive letdown milk, by expressing it first, your baby won’t have to fight through that initial surge of milk. This should make the breastfeeding experience much more comfortable for both of you.
Change up your breastfeeding position
This one my husband actually came up with and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it myself. There I was trying to feed my daughter and now balling my eyes out because I had once again sprayed her in the face with my milk after she unlatched choking from the forceful letdown. I felt awful.
My husband simply said “why don’t you lean back?” I remember looking at him puzzled as to why this would help and he carried on by saying “right now gravity is helping move your milk down, lean back and it has to fight gravity. “ OMG. I remember thinking he was a total genius – not that I would tell him that, he would get an overinflated man ego! But seriously this was some of the best advice I received and it came from a man who knew nothing about breastfeeding.
Anyway, I immediately reclined the chair and had my daughter lay on top of me and then latch on. Problem solved. No more spraying or choking. It was like a miracle. Plus I was laying back and relaxing so that is a double win in my books!
Another position you can try is side lying. I would frequently use this in the middle of the night for feeds. You simply lay on your side, position your baby on his/her side facing you and have them latch on. This way any extra milk can easily flow out of their mouth and gravity isn’t assisting the letdown. You may want to tuck a burp cloth or towel underneath you as this can get a little bit messy sometimes.
Sometimes something as simple as using a breastfeeding pillow can help to get your baby in a better position on your breast so they can handle the letdown a bit better.
Pinch your breast
I was trying to come up with a more elegant heading than this but there is no better way to put it. After your baby latches and your letdown is beginning, compress your breast just outside the areola. This compression will slow the flow of milk that baby receives. Think of it like squishing a straw and trying to drink from it – you get much less like this!
Work with a lactation consultant
A lactation consultant is someone who is specifically trained to deal with any problems that may arise while breastfeeding. They will observe you and your baby during breastfeeding and make suggestions for specific actions you can take to deal with your overactive letdown. They truly are experts at this and can address any concerns you have so I highly recommend finding one if you or your baby are having difficulty during your breastfeeding journey.
Find a local breastfeeding group
See if there are any local breastfeeding groups near you. They often offer advice, tips and support for breastfeeding moms and their babies.
Wherever you choose to go, please make sure they are reputable. The last thing you want to do is implement anything that may cause further interruption to your breastfeeding journey. I highly suggest seeing if there is a La Leche League in your area. It is a free service. They often meet monthly and only use evidence based material. You can see if one is close to you ON THEIR WEBSITE.
Try to relax
Do your best to try and relax. I truly believe that when you get worked up your baby feels that and responds to it. This might lead to your baby being nervous or reluctant to feed because they can feel how tense it makes you. So just try and relax and do the best you can. Take a moment to calm down if you need to. Take 5 minutes to do some self care. Ask for help. Whatever it takes, try and relax and stay calm mama. You and your baby will both have a better breastfeeding experience if you can!
Thats a wrap!
If you need any help please reach out. I can be contacted through the comments, contact forum or social media and I would love to be a resource since I have gone through it personally.
While an overactive letdown is something that can be managed with the steps above, sometimes it can lead to some serious issues with breastfeeding. An overactive letdown can sometimes cause your baby to become reluctant to feed because he or she isn’t comfortable and it becomes an unpleasant association for them. If this occurs your baby might be at risk for not getting enough nourishment. This is something that needs to be dealt with immediately. If you have concerns please seek help from your healthcare provider.
Have you experienced an overactive letdown? I would love to hear any tips you have tried out to manage it! Let me know in the comments below.
Just Starting on your breastfeeding journey? Check out my post on BECOMING A BREASTFEEDING EXPERT for things you can do to set your breastfeeding journey up for success!