Breast milk production is based on supply and demand, and the breasts produce as much milk as required by the baby. However, lactating mothers can suffer from over or undersupply of breast milk.
When the baby drinks all the breast milk and the breast is empty, this emptiness stimulates the body to produce more milk (1). On the other hand, if there is some milk left in the breast, called milk lakes, milk production is not stimulated, and the breast stops producing excess milk. It causes the body to alter milk production (2).
Block feeding is a type of breastfeeding method that helps manage breast milk by reducing the excess supply to match it with the baby’s needs. Keep reading the post to know when to block feed and how to do it.
When Should You Block Feed?
Take up block feeding only after consulting a board-certified lactation expert. Block feeding is recommended when the mother is hyper lactating(an overabundant milk supply in the breasts). Hyperlactation is not good for the mother and baby. Excessive milk supply results in regular full breasts that are uncomfortable and cause recurrent plugged or clogged milk ducts.
For the baby, excess milk supply can cause them to choke, aspirate, or spit-up. Oversupply of milk can also make the infant restless during nursing (1). The method of block feeding is usually temporary and continuing it longer than required can result in low milk supply (2).
How Does Block Feeding Technique Work?
The main purpose of block feeding is to keep one breast for a block of time, i.e., one to three hours or so. It means that if the baby needs milk again for this block of time, the same breast is offered. In the meantime, if the other breast is full, mothers can allow passive leakage and use an absorbent pad to relieve the pressure; or they may remove only that much milk that will make her feel comfortable. If the block period is over, you can feed the baby with the other breast.
In doing so for a week, the mother can manage and reduce her supply of milk to adjust to her little one’s demand. In most cases, the mother is able to normalize her breast milk supply according to her baby’s demand (1).
How Do You Block Breastfeed?
If you are looking to block feed, here are the steps you can follow (2):
- Decide which breast is the first of your block feeding schedule.
- Use a breast pump on each breast for a short time, an hour before you wish to begin block feeding your baby. It helps to soften the breasts and allow easy ejection of milk on your baby’s suckling.
- When it is time to feed your baby, offer one breast. Let your baby feed from that breast as long as they want. For subsequent feeds in the next three to six hours, offer the same breast.
- Once the first block time is over, offer the next breast to your baby.
- There are chances that the other breast will begin to leak during the block period, but you can pump just enough to relieve the pressure.
- Avoid emptying your breast to relieve the discomfort as it will lead to more filling of the breast.
Consult a doctor or lactation expert before taking a call on block feeding and if your hyperlactation doesn’t get normal in one week.
What To Do When You Have Full Breasts?
Apart from block feeding, if you still have breast full of milk, you can try these:
- Allow the breast to leak, or use an absorbent cloth to clean your leaky breast. It will also reduce the stimulation of breast milk and control your milk supply.
- Apply ice on the breast to reduce the swelling.
- Allow collection of milk using a breast pump but just enough to let you feel better.
What Are The Benefits Of Block Feeding?
Block feeding, within limits, has benefits for the mother and baby.
Benefits for the mother include:
- Less engorgement and discomfort
- Less nipple pain
Benefits for the baby:
- High fat hindmilk (the milk that is available towards the end of the breastfeeding session) improves your baby’s digestion (1)
- Prevents excess gas formation
- With softer, normally fuller breasts, the baby can latch on to suck properly (1)
- The baby can control the milk flow properly
How To Know Whether Block Feeding Is Working For You?
When you begin your block feeding schedule, in most cases, you will be able to optimize your breast milk supply within a week. Also, better feeding of your baby and an improvement in their health is another sign that shows your block feeding method is working.
What Can Be The Side Effects Of Block Feeding?
One of the most common side effects of block feeding is blocked ducts. Excess milk accumulation in the breast due to block feeding may cause swelling or inflammation and trigger mastitis. In some cases, emptying breasts one by one using the block feed method leads to overstimulation and subsequent overfullness (1).
Sample Block Feeding Schedule
For lactating mothers who wish to begin a block feeding schedule to manage their breast milk’s oversupply, here’s a sample schedule that can be helpful.
To begin block feeding at 7 am, empty both your breasts an hour early.
- 6 am: Pump and empty both your breasts
- 7 am: Start feeding your baby with right or left breast until the baby has finished is done
- Consider a block of six hours, feed your baby with the same breast until 1 pm
- 1 pm onwards: Feed your baby with the other breast.
- 1 to 7 pm: use this same breast to feed your baby
Right after giving birth, it is common for new mothers to struggle with breast milk supply. While some mothers have a low milk supply, some have oversupply issues. Block feeding method is recommended by lactation experts that is beneficial to the mother and the baby. Though there are some minor side effects of block feeding, you should not continue this method for more than a week.
2. Infant and Young child Feeding, NCBI
3. Too Much Milk, Australian Breastfeeding Association (February 2019)
4. Evelina Fisher, Oversupply: Symptoms, causes, and what to do if you have too much milk, Breastfeeding USA