Breastfeeding is a full-time job. It requires around-the-clock attendance, research on a topic never before explored and devotion to a tiny partner who doesn’t communicate in words. And while having an oversupply of milk sounds like a good problem to have, trust me, it isn't. Especially when you're dealing with a gassy, fussy baby.
As rough as it was on me to constantly feel full while spending a fortune on nursing pads, my oversupply was even harder on my baby. During nursing sessions, I practically drowned her with spraying milk, and 2 minutes after she latched on the first side, she was in a milk coma while I continued to pour out creamy goodness.
And since she never fully drained me, I was constantly dealing with engorgement, which can lead to plugged ducts and the dreaded "M word"—mastitis. I desperately wanted to avoid that and so my initial reaction was to pump for relief and prevention. Bad idea. This only exacerbated the oversupply problem, as it led my body to think it needed to make more milk.
All the while, my baby was fussy. She was gaining weight beautifully, but shrieked from tummy pains and I could tell she desperately needed to poop. When she finally did it was almost fizzy, like it was full of air from gasping during our nursing sessions, and bright green. We were far from the peaceful breastfeeding snuggles I imagined. Rather, we were both drenched in milk and tense from the workout of keeping up.
And then I discovered the two magical words that helped both my gassy baby and my engorgement: block feeding.
Basically, when a breastfeeding mom’s milk lets down, baby gets a rush of lean, skim milk called foremilk. As the baby continues to suckle, the milk consistency changes to a richer, fatter milk called hindmilk. Both types of milk nourish, but it’s the combination that results in ultimate growth and settled tummies.
Block feeding allowed me to relieve my daughter’s gas from foremilk/hindmilk imbalance and signaled to my body that we needed less milk.
In our situation, my baby was getting lots of foremilk during my initial letdown and the first few minutes of breastfeeding. She was filling up on that skimmer milk and falling asleep before the hindmilk arrived. This also means my breast was never fully emptied. Lots of foremilk means airier and greener poop that creates lots of gas.
To remedy this, I started block feeding. My goal was to empty one entire breast and basically ignore the other until that happened. This would help us in two ways. One, it would give my baby a “full meal” in the form of both foremilk and hindmilk and solve many of her tummy issues, and two, it would begin training my body to make less milk.
The first few days of block feeding were awful. When I’m engorged, I’m mega grouchy because constantly having one full boob is horrendous. I hand-expressed every now and then, but a few days of discomfort was absolutely worth the balanced milk supply I achieved.
Each morning, my daughter would begin nursing on one breast and, if she fell asleep during that foremilk rush, I would offer the same breast again an hour or two later to encourage her to completely drain the first breast and get her the hindmilk she needed. Once that happened (usually after 4-6 hours of nursing on just one side), I’d switch to the other and do the same thing. So, basically, a block of time breastfeeding on a single side.
Block feeding allowed me to relieve my daughter’s gas from foremilk/hindmilk imbalance and signaled to my body that we needed less milk. It took some dedication and lots of tears to find a happy medium, but thankfully I learned with my first child and was able to manage my supply and remedy tummy issues much quicker with my following children.
Listen to your body, listen to your baby and ask for help when you sense you’re drowning. Breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally. That’s right, you aren’t supposed to know it all as soon as your baby is born! We are here to help one another with our stories. Even better, there are experts ready and willing to guide us mamas in finding the best way to feed our little ones.