Large milk supply

Can I have too much milk?

Some mothers have a large or even a very large supply of breast milk. There is generally nothing wrong with this. It can cause problems, but these are usually solved with minor changes. Mothers with a large supply can breastfeed and express milk quickly, but they tend to have tender breasts that leak and spray and still feel full after feeds. Their babies grow well, but a large milk supply can affect the babies’ feeding and behaviour, including their ability to breastfeed to sleep. Within a few months of birth, milk production usually slows to meet the baby’s needs. Also, during this time, the baby learns to deal with the quick flow and large amount and becomes more settled at the breast. Rarely, mothers develop repeated or severe problems and need to decrease their milk supply. The baby's behaviours and feeding patterns can be misdiagnosed as being abnormal. 

A) Describing a large milk supply

Most mothers have an average supply and their feeds are average in number and duration and their babies grow wellOther mothers may have a large or very large supply from the start of breastfeeding or can develop one. Breastfeeding specialists may call this hyperlactation (Johnson 2020). 

Having a large milk supply has advantages and disadvantages. There is generally nothing wrong with having a large supply; it is simply different and usually temporary.

B) Causes of a large milk supply

Other mothers may have a large or very large supply from the start of breastfeeding or can develop one by expressing too much milk. Rarely, a large supply is caused by pituitary tumours (adenomas) or excess thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) (Trimeloni 2016).

C) Signs of a large milk supply

Mothers with a large milk supply will have very good milk signs.

Table: Milk Signs When a Mother Has a Large Milk Supply

(Links to more information about the topics discussed in this table: increases in breast size during pregnancy; milk coming in; breast fullness; leaking; choking, gulping, panting at the breast; average expressed amounts of milk.)

Mothers with a large milk supply:

When mothers have a large milk supply, their babies tend to grow very well, but dealing with the amount of milk in the breast can affect the babies’:

D) Minor changes and a little time solve most problems

When mothers have a large milk supply, there are various solutions for both mother and baby. Most involve minor changes; within a few months of birth, milk production slows to meet the baby’s needs. Also, during this time, babies learn to deal with the quick flow and large amount, becoming more settled at the breast.

Rarely, mothers develop repeated or severe problems and need to decrease their milk supply.

Mothers, who have a large milk supply, often worry about their babies’ breastfeeding behaviour. For most families, all that is needed is understanding that these behaviours are normal.

References

Johnson HM, Eglash A, Mitchell KB, et al.; Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. ABM Clinical Protocol #32: Management of Hyperlactation. Breastfeed Med. 2020 Mar;15(3):129-134

Trimeloni L, Spencer J. Diagnosis and Management of Breast Milk Oversupply. J Am Board Fam Med. 2016 Jan-Feb;29(1):139-42