While the focus of most breastfeeding interventions is to prevent a low milk supply, it well known that some mothers make a lot of milk. In fact, some women produce such huge amounts of milk that the recommended patterns of milk removal don’t apply. If you are one of these women, you will produce milk almost no matter what your baby does. You will also have a greater likelihood of engorgement, plugged ducts and mastitis if you aren’t adept at managing your supply.
No one knows why oversupply happens, whether it is due to more glandular tissue or the way your hormones are regulated (or both). In fact, there is no real objective definition for oversupply. No one even knows how prevalent it is. Yet, it is described and discussed with defined symptoms and treatments based on one paper written by a Canadian physician in 1996.
Dr. Livingstone reported on his clinical experience working with 8,000 breastfeeding families. He described overproducers as women who produced more than 60 ml/hr of breast milk. In his practice, he noted an incidence of 15% and coined the diagnosis, Maternal Hyperlactation Syndrome. Many mothers with a large supply had more problems with milk stasis, mastitis, plugged ducts, and breast abscess. He also noted that their infants experienced excessive colic, frequent and rapid feedings, choking and coughing at the breast, diarrhea, and sometimes weight loss, despite the excess supply.
However, not every mother with an oversupply suffers from these issues and neither does her baby. It is more likely that Maternal Hyperlactation syndrome is just another outcome of restricted infant gape. But since mothers are producing so much milk, the manifestation is different.
If you have an oversupply, your excess milk can mask issues your baby is having with the latch because they may still gain weight despite all the struggles. In these cases, it is important to be aware of the experience of nursing, not just your baby’s weight gain.