Is your baby drowning in milk?

BreastfeedWhen Oli was born I didn’t know how much milk I was meant to produce. I assumed everything was going well and continued breastfeeding my fast-growing baby.

When the baby nurse asked me how often I fed my baby, I told her every half hour or so. Instead of looking into why that may be happening, she laughed and called me a ‘milk bar’. The only advice she offered was to space my baby’s feeds out more. Oh yeah, like I would ever let my baby cry for milk and not give it to him!  

If this ‘baby nurse’ was interested in doing her job properly instead of making fun and giving bad advice, my first born may have avoided sore tummies for the first few months of his life and I may have gotten a lot more sleep! But now, with my third baby, I think I’ve discovered what the problem is. Hopefully my discovery can help other mums who find themselves in a similar situation.

Are you making too much milk?

Tell-tale signs are:

  • milk spurting out of the other boob when your baby is feeding
  • needing to wear breast pads 24/7 for many months after baby’s birth
  • if not wearing breast pads, waking up drenched in breastmilk in the morning and playing wet T-shirt competitions during the day
  • milk gushing into the baby’s mouth when starting a feed
  • baby choking on the gushing milk
  • a very chubby baby
  • a baby that feeds often and for a short time
  • frequent gassy poos
  • lots of possetting and vomiting
  • etc

Why Oli cried in the evenings

He probably had a sore tummy.

When milk is gushing into your baby’s mouth he gulps down air that causes gassy and sore tummies. This makes him cry in the evenings. Oli did this, and the only way we could help him was to lie him on his tummy in our arms and fly him around the room like baby superman. Considering Oli was on the ‘heavy’ side of the baby weight spectrum, this was not easy or fun!

He might also have felt bad because he was only getting sugary, watery breastmilk that left him unsatisfied and possibly feeling poorly. When you have too much breastmilk the breastfeeding session usually ends before your baby gets to the fatty and creamy milk that satisfies (which comes through at the end of the feed).

Why Oli didn’t sleep well at night

Because Oli rarely got to the fatty and creamy milk that satisfies, he needed to feed often as he was always hungry. The sweet, watery milk Oli was living on was only meant to be a ‘drink’ before the meal, but instead this was all he was likely getting during his feed. So he had to wake up often through the night to fill his empty tummy.

He was also waking up throughout the night to do poos. I became an expert at changing pooey nappies in bed and in the dark!

Why Oli was really chubby

The milk at the start of the feed is filled with sugary sweetness and is also very watery. This means Oli was consuming calories, but wasn’t getting full and soon enough, asked for another feed to fill his empty tummy. This made Oli super chubby. While we all love healthy and chubby babies, if your baby is chubby while being very hungry, it’s not fun.

Oli went above the 100th percentile for weight when he was two months old and has remained there for six years. After being up to 3 to 4 kilos above the 100th percentile when a baby and toddler, he’s been hovering just above for the last few years and will hopefully come back under as he gets older. So far our biggest problem has been finding comfortable clothes that fit, oh, and carrying Oli around has never been easy, which can be sad for a little boy.

Why didn’t my second baby have these problems?

Charlie slept well from birth, only pooed once every day or two, didn’t cry in the evenings and remained on the 75th percentile for weight throughout his life. I also remember feeling relieved that this baby didn’t seem to be as ‘obsessed’ with breastfeeding as Oli was. My milk supply hadn’t changed and neither did the way I breastfed, so why didn’t I have the same problems I had with Oli?

My guess is that it was because I was tandem feeding. This would have meant that Oli would have drunk much of the sweet watery milk and left more of the fatty, filling milk for Charlie, leaving him feeling satisfied and gas free.

Another chubby vomiter arrives

When my third baby was born I noticed similar patterns to my experience with Oli. There were lots of poos and vomiting, including huge projectile vomits, and fast weight gains. I really wanted to stop Austin from suffering the tummy pains Oli experienced, so I asked for advice from other mums about what I could do.

The first thing I investigated was the food I was eating. Perhaps Austin had an intolerance to wheat or dairy. I started a half-hearted dairy elimination diet but didn’t see too much difference. Then one of the mums I was speaking with told me that only a tiny percentage of babies have food intolerance issues, and the problem was probably more likely to be an oversupply of breastmilk. I read more about this and it made a lot of sense. Best of all – there was a solution 

Solutions for mums who make too much milk

This is how I came across ‘block feeding’. Rather than alternating feeding from one breast to the other, when block feeding, you continue to feed from one breast over several hours. This way your baby can access the fatty milk that satisfies.

So I started block feeding with Austin. I fed him from the same side until the other breast was near bursting with milk. This meant feeding from the same side for four to six hours. This was pretty extreme, as the literature suggested only feeding from the same side for two hours or so, but I pushed it to the limit! A risk with this is developing mastitis, but luckily I’ve never had it.

After two or three weeks I started seeing improvements. Firstly, I noticed that I wasn’t as engorged as before. Then I noticed there was less vomiting and fewer poos from Austin. I thought perhaps this was because Austin, at two months of age, had a more mature digestive system and it wasn’t related to block feeding. So I checked my journal from when Oli was a baby and saw that what I was doing was indeed helping. At two months Oli was still experiencing the worst symptoms of an oversupply of breastmilk. So I continued on…

While block feeding has helped a lot, at four months of age Austin is still a chubby baby. He has just gone over the 100th percentile for weight, but isn’t as chubby as Oli was at the same age. He still possets a lot, but the projectile vomits have stopped.  He sleeps well at night and is down to one or two poos a day, and a rare poo at night. I still need to wear breast pads, but sometimes they stay dry all day and night. So while block feeding is not as effective as tandem feeding, it has made a great difference for Austin and me.

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