In my previous post, I have shared My Story of Hyperlactation. In case, you missed it or want to read, it’s here. Are you wondering, what am I talking about? What is hyperlactation? How to read the hyperlactation symptoms? What are the reason and explication? Read on.
What is hyperlactation?
Immediately after birth, newborn feed on colostrum, the first milk. Colostrum is really concentrated and low volume. Next, the milk starts coming as-in transitional milk, a mix of colostrum and mature milk. Final mature milk establishes a balance of demand by breastfeeding baby or pumping and supply by the mother’s breastmilk producing ducts. However, few mothers might have low milk supply or high milk supply depending on the glandular tissue, hormones, previous medical history, medication, and supplements.
In simple words, when a mother produces more milk than the baby’s requirement it is called hyperlactation or overabundant milk supply.
However, during the initial adjustment period, many mothers may experience varying degrees of milk leaking and/or breast engorgement. It should not be confused with hyperlactation.
Medically, Hyperlaction syndrome is defined as the condition where the body produces an excessive amount of breastmilk than normal. Milk may come out quickly and forcibly than normal, which makes it hard for baby to nurse.
Reason to worry
Many mothers get worried about low milk supply. And upon knowing a thing called oversupply, few might think why the fuss. Well, for a starter it’s painful for both mother and child. It is quite taxing emotionally and physically to watch your child fuss and at times hangry (hungry+angry). Milk is in abundance yet the baby could not have it at peace or aftermath.
Further, there is a high chance that the foremilk-hindmilk imbalance. Foremilk is thin, watery and lactose-rich while hindmilk is thick, creamy and fat-rich. It is essential for the baby to get a balance of both to get nourishment, hydration, and optimal digestion.
If the mother gets a plugged duct, it hurts. A plugged duct is a blockage in the nipple pore. Usually, there is a hard lump near the vicinity of the plug. It may feel hot, tender, and/or swollen. Nursing on the affected side is advised, which is painful. Occasionally, a low-grade fever might be present. I had it multiple times. My eyes still get teary remembering those days. Throughout nursing, I used to cry in pain. At times, when I pumped milk was fatty thick milk, grain-like consistency or string-like appearance.
Mastitis is inflammation of breast caused by infection or blockage or allergy. It looks similar to plugged ducts, but the pain and swelling intensify. I had three accounts of mastitis. My expressed milk during this was pinkish with traces of blood. Though it was still fine to feed to baby.
Both are extremely painful conditions. Did I mention plugged ducts weakens mother’s immunity? It explains why I used to have a low-grade fever for days. I got tired out easily. Breastfeeding alone made me feel like a zombie. My plate also had sleepless nights, mom guilt, marathon feeds and howling baby.
How to point out a case of hyperlactation symptoms?
A mother is hyper lactating if she shows few or all symptoms mentioned below:
- She may suffer persistent engorgement. The fullness feeling might occur a few moments after finishing a nursing session.
- While feeding she might notice forceful let-down i.e. milk ejection reflex.
- During and/or between nursing sessions mother might feel excessive leakage.
- When a mother is facing recurring plugged ducts. Even in some cases mastitis.
In the case of baby:
- Baby might be fussy, refuse to nurse occasionally or dislike nursing in general.
- Pull off from breast in between feed.
- Baby might gulp, choke, cough, gag, gasp while nursing.
- Spit off after feed and gassy.
- Struggle to get a proper deep latch.
- Poop is runny, watery, green-colored, or foamy.
- Make clicking sound while nursing.
What to do about hyperlactation symptoms?
- Avoid galactagogues i.e. milk enhancing food
Avoid consumption of food which promotes lactation like garlic, palak (spinach), unripe papaya, fenugreek seeds, carrots, oatmeal, fennel seeds. Including lactation tea and cookies. Learn from my mistake.
- Work on latch and position
At times the baby might not have a proper latch. Often, the breasts are full or engorged making it tough for the baby to latch on. So, try to get a good deep latch. Also, try laid back breastfeeding position.
- Avoid skipping feed
While I was trying every renowned doctor of the town, in Ob & Gync, surgery, neurology, etc. (I had lost my shit.) Few suggested to stop breastfeeding, they obviously didn’t know much about breastfeeding. Also, few elders suggested offering formula milk to the baby instead of another painful session. I did it and regretted heavily. Baby puked and I got an abscess.
- Warm and cold compress
Use a cold compress to reduce breast inflammation and milk production. It also helps to reduce the painful condition of the engorged breast. In case of plugged duct occur then nurse frequently from the affected side and use warm compress before feeding.
- Block feeding
The trick to offering one breast per feeding. The aim to empty the breast. At times I used to offer the same breast for another feeding. It helped to balance the foremilk-hindmilk imbalance. Massaging during feed also helps in mixing the foremilk and hindmilk.
- Pump or Hand-express before a feed
Just before offering the breast to baby hand express or pump the milk. The expel would help in discomfort from engorgement and again in the balance of foremilk-hindmilk.
- Home remedies
Try placing cold cabbage leaves between feeds. It helps in engorgement and expel milk. Use it till you feel comfortable enough and not overdo it.
I was completely unaware of this option. Wish I had known it earlier. During my experience of hyperlactation, I was staying in a small town in India. Hyperlactation was an alien word for most living there. Yet I used to hear that the newborn is in NICU for a medical reason and the mother is having difficulty to feed the baby as skin-to-skin contact is missing. Yet, I never thought about donating. So, in case a mother is having oversupply then she can donate the precious gift of milk to less fortunate. Amazing, isn’t it? You can connect with Amaara, the first pasteurized Breast Milk Foundation in NCR is an initiative by the Fortis La Femme, New Delhi.
If you are a mother who suspects hyperlactation syndrome, please consult a Lactation Consultant. Two years ago while I was crying day in and out was ignorant about the breastfeeding support groups like Breastfeeding Support for Indian mothers, La Leche League International | Birth India, La Leche League Mumbai. Contact the support groups for any help in breastfeeding.
Before I say adieu to this post, let me come clean that my hyperlactation was a classic case of mismanagement and enthusiasm. I was enthusiastic to feed the baby, relied on misinformed people crying over low supply confusion, so fed on galactagogues. Milk supply kept increasing for months, I was in horrible pain had multiple plugged ducts, episodes of mastitis and finally breast abbess too.
Related: " Hyperlactation – The story of too much breastmilk "
I am sharing all my knowledge here in my blog posts to spread awareness on Hyperlactation. Please do share the post so that mothers with a similar condition can relate and make right choices.