When it comes to breastfeeding, oversupply is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, milk is available for baby in abundance but an oversupply can also be a painful annoyance and a struggle for the baby in many ways.
I’ve dealt with oversupply with all my kids. At first, I just kept that problem to myself. Suck it up, girl, I thought. You’ve got milk (more like MILK), and other mamas would kill for overflowing bottles and constantly full breasts. I vowed to never be caught complaining about this “problem.” So, I suffered in silence.
Even though oversupply might be the better side of breastfeeding woes, it’s still a struggle. In the beginning, I taught myself to deal with it: mountains of nursing pads, sleeping on a towel on top of a bedwetting mat and cringing as my milk let down while my baby continued to sleep. But then, I discovered block feeding.
Angels sang. Block feeding was—and still is—my miracle.
Block feeding is a simple but effective way to tame the dairy farm. When you block feed, you nurse your baby on one breast only for a block of time, usually a three-hour span or longer. In my case, up to six hours. As a result, the unused breast will fill up for a few hours, which tells your body, “Hey, baby doesn’t need this milk, you can slow your roll!” and naturally, milk production will decrease.
Most moms will experience full breasts, known as engorgement, when their milk initially comes in. At this point, it's a good thing, your body is still learning to make milk, so don’t jump to block feeding immediately. Your milk needs some time to naturally stabilize and adjust to Baby’s needs. Block feeding before it’s truly necessary can result in low supply.
If you determine that you have oversupply after your milk supply is more constant, block feeding just might be for you. Signs of oversupply are constant fullness, plugged ducts, and the baby choking on letdown or not being able to stay latched. The best gauge, though, is the baby’s weight. In the first three months, a normal milk supply will result in baby gaining about two pounds/month. If they’re gaining more, it may be time to research and test out block feeding.
Now breastfeeding is a calmer, more enjoyable experience for both me and my baby.
Here’s a glimpse at what a day of block feeding could look like. This is based on a recent day with my 4-month-old, who I nurse on demand. Block feeding doesn’t have to be exact and our schedule definitely varies from day to day, but the goal is to get super full on one side before you switch.
Wake and nurse at 8 a.m. on the left side
Mid-morning "snack" around 10 a.m. on the left side (sometimes we skip this one)
Before nap feed at 1 p.m. on the right side
Wake and nurse around 4 p.m. on the right side
Bedtime/late nap snuggles around 7 p.m. on the left side
It’s-really-bedtime feed at 9 p.m. on the left side
First night wake around midnight on the right side
Second night wake around 4 a.m. on the left side
Early morning "snack" around 6 a.m. on the right side
Block feeding has helped me slow my milk production to the perfect pace. Now breastfeeding is a calmer, more enjoyable experience for both me and my baby. And moms know how truly life-changing that can be.
*I am not a lactation consultant and have no official breastfeeding training. Please don’t take my experience as advice on what you should do. It is always best to seek help from a lactation consultant who can properly evaluate both you and your baby. My insight is simply an anecdotal story based on my experience nursing four babies for 60+ months and my research based on my own breastfeeding troubles.