Learn how to navigate your over-the-top letdown and have a peaceful breastfeeding experience with your baby!
Does this sound familiar?
Your baby gags, chokes, gasps and coughs while nursing, as if they're chugging
Your baby often pulls away from the breast upset and is not keen to re-latch
Your baby clamps down on your nipple when you get a let-down
Your baby makes a clicking sound with their tongue during feeds
Your baby's poops are shiny and green, with frequent blowouts
Your baby is fussy, gassy and wriggly after feeds, and struggles to sleep afterwards
You and your baby are likely struggling with the effects of an overactive or forceful letdown, and you are probably frantically googling whether your baby could also have reflux...
An overactive letdown occurs when milk is released from the breast too quickly and forcefully, often overwhelming your baby who's only just started to learn how to latch. This usually begins a week or 2 after your milk "comes in", and is often, but not always, linked to an oversupply of milk.
The rapid gush of milk can lead to your baby coughing, sputtering, or pulling away during feeds, and what follows is a fussy, gassy, overwhelmed Baby and Mama (not to mention soaking wet from the fire hydrant of milk...). Babies dealing with an overactive letdown can often present as having reflux, with frequent spitting up and LOTS of fussing, crying, and trapped wind after feeding sessions - though often, true reflux is not the true underlying issue!
Because the milk is flying out of your breast and into your baby's stomach very quickly, they often take on a lot of air during gulps, causing them to have painful trapped wind and spit up frequently.
Gently massaging your breast for 3-5 minutes before baby's feed, can help initiate a calmer letdown and reduce overwhelm and discomfort for your baby. With a gentle rocking motion, hold your hand in a fist and rock from pinky to thumb from the outside to inside of your breast, moving around each side.
What goes in must come out:
With your milk flying into your baby's stomach at a rapid rate, it tends to fly out the other end in the same way! Because of the quick passage, your baby's stomach and the digestive enzyme lactase don't have enough time or opportunity to process the milk effectively and break down the lactose, so your baby's poops can often be green and sticky with frequent blowouts. Mum's can also worry that this could be a sign that baby is reacting to something in their milk, such as thier own dairy consumption; but rest assured with a rapid letdown, this is rarely the case!
Sizing up with your diapers can really help reduce mess and stubborn stains - and this is my favourite stain treatment for blowouts!
Supporting Your Baby:
Finding the right breastfeeding positions can make a world of difference in helping your baby cope with an overactive letdown. Positions where you are underneath your baby, such as the "down-under", kneeling your baby over your breast, or laid-back breastfeeding, allow gravity to slow the flow of milk and give them more control over the feeding process.
My FAVOURITE feeding position:
Here we see the baby kneeling on the bed, with their torso leaning over Mum's side and onto the breast. You would wrap your arms around your baby to keep them stable, and guide them over the breast while allowing them to self-latch.
This allows them to control the flow, take breaks when they need to AND, gravity is working to your advantage, slowing the flow!
Positions, where there is slight pressure on your baby's tummy, will also help to limit them taking in too much air, causing painful gas. Double bonus, this position also acts as tummy-time!
(speaking of which, it is TOTALLY normal for your rapid letdown baby to hate tummy time due to their discomfort)
"Taking the edge off"
Allow your baby to self-latch in an upright or "down under" position (baby underneath the breast) to allow your baby more comfort during their feed, and when you feel the muscles in your breast contracting at the point of letdown, unlatch baby and try catching the initial spray of milk in a burp cloth or nursing pad before allowing your baby to re-latch.
For a very rapid flow, keep towels handy and catch the spray with your towel, or grab the Hakka and attach it to your breast to catch and store the milk for later. This can help lessen the intensity of the flow and prevent your baby from getting overwhelmed.
Another helpful tip: when baby is latched on the first side, use the Hakka or a manual breast pump on the other side, to initiate and expel the letdown before baby switches to that side. This will help reduce waste and build a freezer stash for later, great option if you are returning to work soon after maternity leave!
Managing an overactive letdown can be challenging, but with patience, practice, and the right techniques, you can navigate this phase successfully. With time, you can create a nurturing and fulfilling breastfeeding experience for you and your little one!