Hyperlactation or hypergalactia is a condition that causes a woman’s body to produce excess breast milk. As a result, the milk spurts out with great force or often leaks out from the breasts.
Hyperlactation or oversupply of breast milk can cause problems for both the mother and the baby. It is essential to know ways to manage it so that they can have a normal breastfeeding time.
Read this post to understand the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for hyperlactation syndrome.
Symptoms Of Breastmilk Oversupply
The symptoms of hyperlactation may vary from person to person. Also, the symptoms can be seen in both the mother and the baby. The following are some of the most common symptoms of hyperlactation (1) (2).
Symptoms in the mother
- Full and hard breasts even after breastfeeding
- Milk sprays out when the baby comes off the breast, especially at the beginning of the feeding
- Frequent breast engorgement and plugged ducts, which can lead to mastitis
- Sore nipples
- Milk leaks between feedings
- Forceful letdown
Symptoms in the baby
- Struggles to maintain a deep latch and comes off often when a letdown happens
- Often gulps, sputters, and chokes during feeding
- Gets scared and goes on a nursing strike
- Swallows excess air and burps often
- Spits out milk frequently
- Green, watery, or foamy stools
- Arches away from the breasts
- Fusses and cries repeatedly
- Rapid weight gain or weight loss
Causes Of Hyperlactation
In most cases, hyperlactation is idiopathic (of unknown cause). However, sometimes, it could be due to an underlying condition or some external factors. Read on to learn more.
- Hormonal imbalance
As breastmilk supply is guided by hormones in your body, any imbalance can result in hyperlactation. During the first few weeks after pregnancy, your body might react differently to your body’s hormones, leading to excess breast milk production (2).
- Pituitary adenomas and prolactinomas
In some cases, hyperlactation could be a sign of pituitary adenomas and prolactinomas, which are types of benign tumors that occur in the pituitary gland (3).
It refers to a condition in which a person has higher-than-normal levels of the hormone prolactin in the blood. Prolactin helps stimulate breast milk production after childbirth. Thus, excess levels of prolactin in your body can lead to hyperlactation (3).
- Overpumping or overstimulation
The body produces milk on demand. Usually, breast milk is produced at a pace at which the baby empties the breasts. But, if you pump milk to store them or if your baby causes overstimulation of the breasts, it could lead to excess production of breast milk (4).
- Alveoli glands
Nursing mothers generally have 100,000 to 300,000 alveoli or milk glands that produce breast milk. Mothers with hyperlactation syndrome tend to have a higher number of milk glands (5).
- Overuse of galactagogues
Galactagogues are supplements that help in increasing breast milk production. These can be foods, medications, or herbal supplements. Overuse of galactagogues can cause hyperlactation. Always consult a lactation expert or medical adviser before using any galactagogue (6) (7).
How Does Hyperlactation Affect The Baby?
Along with gastric troubles, fussiness during feeding, and variable weight gain, hyperlactation can also cause the following issues in babies (8).
- If the mother is hyperlactating, the baby may not be able to empty the breast, which can hinder the production of fatter milk. The resultant milk is one with low fat and high sugar content, which may cause rapid gastric emptying and frequent diarrhea.
- Excess supply of breastmilk may also lead to suboptimal breastfeeding. The baby may try to cope up with the excess milk and try for an optimal latch. In the process, they might try to clamp down on the nipple to reduce milk flow, resulting in sore nipples. It could also condition the baby to suckle passively, leading to poor feeding when your hyperlactation subsides.
Management Of Hyperlactation
Once you know the cause of excessive breast milk production, you can follow certain practices to minimize it and meet your infant’s nutritional needs. Here is how you can manage hyperlactation (2) (3).
- Feed your baby from one breast per nursing session. Pump from the other breast to reduce the discomfort.
- Try to nurse the baby in a position in which the milk flows up the breast.
- Talk to a lactation consultant and try block feeding. In this method, the baby is fed from one breast for a block of time (three hours), followed by the other breast for the rest of the feedings. This might cause the accumulation of milk in the unused breast and reduce the milk supply.
- Use a nipple shield to slow down the milk flow and reduce distress in your baby.
- You may take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs upon your doctor’s prescription to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Pump a little milk before you latch your baby on, as this might prevent spraying of milk.
Do not stop breastfeeding due to hyperlactation as it might cause blocked ducts and breast engorgement.
Home Remedies For Hyperlactation
Along with the above tips, you can also try some home remedies to manage hyperlactation. However, talk to your pediatrician before starting any home remedy, as most of these remedies lack scientific backing (3) (7).
- The topical application of green cabbage leaves is believed to decrease engorgement. Chill the cabbage leaves and apply them to your breasts between feedings. Although there are no studies to back the effectiveness, you can still try this as there are no noted side effects.
- Sage and parsley are known to reduce milk production. So make sure you include these in your diet.
- Peppermint oil is also said to reduce excess milk production. Mix one tablespoon of peppermint oil in two tablespoons of coconut oil and apply it to the breasts. Let the mixture sit for a couple of hours and then rinse off.
Excess breast milk production can be bothersome for the mother and the baby. It has to be addressed early on to ensure proper feeding for the baby. A certified lactation consultant may help you understand the situation better and give you appropriate tips.
2. Oversupply: Symptoms, causes, and what to do if you have too much milk; Breastfeeding USA
3. Lauren Trimeloni and Jeanne Spencer; Diagnosis and Management of Breast Milk Oversupply; J Am Board Fam Med (2016).
4. Anne Eglash; Treatment of Maternal Hypergalactia; Breastfeeding Medicine (2014).
5. What is Hyperlactation?; SaveBabies
6. Galactagogues (substances claimed to increase supply); Australian Breastfeeding Association
7. Marya Kabiri et al.; Management of Breast Milk Oversupply in Traditional Persian Medicine; Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine (2017).
8. Caroline GA van Veldhuizen-Staas; Overabundant milk supply: an alternative way to intervene by full drainage and block feeding; International Breastfeeding Journal (2007).