Today’s question is about having an oversupply of breast milk when exclusively pumping. Is having an oversupply of breast milk bad? And what should you do with excess breast milk?
I’m exclusively pumping and have oversupply – I am making 20 oz more per day than my baby eats. (I make 45 oz, and she takes about 25 oz.) My freezer is full, and I don’t have anywhere to put all of this extra milk.
I want to reduce my milk supply so that what I make is more closely aligned with what she needs. Should I? And if so, how do I do that? If it matters, my baby is 8 weeks old. I pump 6-7 times per day.
Generally, if the primary issue is that you don’t have space for the extra milk you’re pumping, I would not recommend trying to reduce your supply.
This is for a few reasons.
First, your supply might not have regulated yet. At some point in the first three months, your milk supply regulates, which means milk production changes from being hormone-driven to being determined by supply and demand. (You can read more about that here.)
Supply can change unpredictably when it regulates and the effect of hormones goes away. Because of that, I wouldn’t recommend making any big changes (dropping more than one pumping session, intentionally reducing supply) until your milk supply is established.
Also, supply is unpredictable, and it’s hard to “calibrate” the reduction you’re trying for. For example, you could aim for reducing your supply to 30 oz, accidentally overdo it a bit, and end up at 22 oz.
Finally, later on, you might want the extra milk. You could get your period next month and find that you notice a dip when that happens. Your baby might have a few growth spurts and take more milk than usual. It’s easier to maintain a milk supply than to increase milk supply, so staying where you are can be the safer choice.
So what to do with excess breast milk when the freezer is full?
You have a few options. Some ideas:
- Invest in a deep freezer! You can get a chest freezer like this one and store your extra breast milk in it; then if you want to, you can wean earlier than you’d planned but still keep giving your baby breast milk.
- Donate to a Milk Bank. Donating to a milk bank is a wonderful use for your extra breast milk! Most milk banks are non-profits that provide breast milk to very sick premature babies. There are a few milk banks that compensate donors, but most do not.
- Donate Breast Milk Informally. I was taking medication that was safe for breastfeeding, but that disqualified me from donating to a milk bank. (They have pretty stringent requirements due to the often fragile health of the babies who will use it.) Instead, I posted on a local Facebook group and found several moms who were looking for donor milk. Here’s more information on milk sharing and how to do it safely.
- Milk Baths (and other random uses for breast milk) – Giving your baby a milk bath can be very beneficial for his skin! Milk baths can help with eczema, cradle cap, baby acne, dry skin, and more. In addition to breast milk baths, there are other uses for breast milk including breast milk lotion, breast milk popsicles, and breast milk jewelry!
I still really want to reduce my milk supply – I just don’t like all of this extra milk/I’m having pain associated with oversupply. How should I do it?
If you decide you want to try to reduce your milk supply somewhat, I would recommend waiting until 12-16 weeks. This way, you can be pretty sure that your supply has regulated.
To do it, my suggestion would to drop a pumping session without adding the time back to your other sessions. (Normally, when you are exclusively pumping and drop a pumping session, you add the time back, unless you are weaning.) So, if you’re pumping for six sessions a day for 20 minutes each session, you’d drop to five sessions per day that are 20 minutes each.
Monitor how it’s going and if your supply starts to drop more than you’d like, you can add some time back to your existing sessions or add the dropped session back in. Here’s how to drop a pumping session.
Do you have issues with pumping and oversupply? Tell us about it in the comments!