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Hyperlactation: causes, symptoms and remedies

Table of Contents

Introduction

Breastfeeding is a natural process that provides the best nutrition for your newborn. However, some mothers may experience a condition called hyperlactation, where they produce an excessive amount of breast milk. While it may seem like a good thing, hyperlactation can lead to various problems for both the mother and baby. In this blog, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and remedies of hyperlactation.

Causes of Hyperlactation

The exact cause of hyperlactation is unknown, but it is believed to be due to overstimulation of the breasts. This could happen due to factors such as:

Overactive letdown reflex : This is when milk is released too quickly, leading to an oversupply of milk. An overactive letdown reflex is a condition that affects breastfeeding mothers, in which the milk flows very quickly and forcefully from the breast during a feeding. This can cause the baby to choke, sputter, and gulp, making it difficult for them to properly latch and feed. The milk may also come out in excessive amounts, causing the baby to spit up or have gas. This condition can be caused by hormonal changes, an oversupply of milk, or certain medications. There are techniques and strategies that can help manage an overactive letdown reflex, such as nursing in a reclined position, using a breast pump to reduce milk flow before feeding, and allowing the baby to take breaks during feedings.
Frequent breastfeeding or pumping : Hyperlactation is a condition where a breastfeeding mother produces an excessive amount of breast milk. One of the main causes of hyperlactation is frequent breastfeeding or pumping, which can stimulate the breasts to produce more milk than the baby needs. This can lead to engorgement, leaking, and other discomforts. When the breasts are stimulated frequently, they may produce more milk than the baby needs. More pumping or extracting of milk, automatically increase production to complete the balance.
Hormonal imbalances : Certain hormonal imbalances, such as hyperprolactinemia, can lead to an overproduction of milk. Hormonal imbalance or medications can also increase the flow of breast milk. Hyperlactation is a condition in which a mother produces an excessive amount of breast milk, typically caused by hormonal imbalances. Here are some brief descriptions of the hormonal imbalances that can lead to hyperlactation.
  • Hypothyroidism: An underactive thyroid gland can cause a hormonal imbalance that disrupts the normal production of breast milk, leading to hyperlactation.
  • Estrogen dominance: When estrogen levels are too high in relation to other hormones, it can cause hyperlactation. This hormonal imbalance can be caused by a number of factors, including pregnancy, birth control pills, or other medications.
  • Idiopathic hyperprolactinemia:This is a condition in which prolactin levels are abnormally high without a clear cause. It can lead to hyperlactation and may be treated with medications that lower prolactin levels.
  • Prolactinoma:This is a rare noncancerous tumor of the pituitary gland that causes it to produce too much prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production leading to hyperlactation.

It’s important to note that hyperlactation can also be caused by non-hormonal factors, such as frequent breast pumping or nursing, or certain medications. However, hormonal imbalances are a common underlying cause of this condition

Stress : High-stress levels can cause hormonal changes that increase milk production. Hyperlactation is a condition where a mother produces an excessive amount of breast milk. Stress is one of the factors that can cause hyperlactation in some women. This can be a challenging condition for mothers, as it can lead to discomfort and even pain. However, it also presents an opportunity for breast milk donation. Women with hyperlactation can donate their excess milk to milk banks or to other mothers in need. Breast milk donation can be a valuable resource for premature babies, sick infants, and mothers who have difficulty producing milk. If you are struggling with hyperlactation, consider donating your excess milk to help others in need.

Infrequent feeding : In some cases, infrequent feeding or not emptying the breasts completely can lead to an overproduction of milk. Infrequent feeding can cause hyperlactation, which is an overproduction of breast milk. This can lead to discomfort and potential health issues for the mother, as well as excess milk that may go unused. One solution is to donate the excess breast milk through a human milk donation program, which can benefit babies who may not have access to their mother’s milk. Breast milk donation is a valuable and life-saving option for infants in need, and can also provide emotional and physical benefits for both the donor and the recipient.

Symptoms of Hyperlactation

The symptoms of hyperlactation may vary from person to person, but some common symptoms include:

Engorgement: Engorgement is a common symptom of hyperlactation where the breasts become swollen, hard, and painful due to excessive milk production. This can make it difficult for the baby to latch properly and lead to complications such as mastitis. Breast milk donation can help manage engorgement by expressing excess milk and donating it to milk banks or other mothers in need. Additionally, adjusting breastfeeding or pumping frequency and duration can also help alleviate engorgement symptoms.

Leaking breasts: When breast milk leaks uncontrollably, even when the baby is not nursing. This can be uncomfortable for the mother. However, you can collect this leaking milk, using breast shells/milk collectors. This milk can be stored for use later or even for donation. Seeking support from a lactation consultant or milk bank can help manage this condition and provide opportunities for breast milk donation or human milk donation to those in need.
Rapid milk flow: In hyperlactation mothers, the rapid milk flow can be more pronounced due to increased milk production. This can make it difficult for the baby to keep up with the flow and can lead to several problems, such as excessive air intake, fussiness, and colic. Milk may come out too quickly, causing the baby to choke or gag. To help manage rapid milk flow in hyperlactation mothers, it is recommended to start feeding the baby on one breast first, and then switch to the other after the initial let-down has passed. This can help slow down the milk flow and make feeding more comfortable for the baby. Additionally, breastfeeding in a more upright position can also be helpful in managing rapid milk flow.
Frequent feedings: A baby may need to feed more frequently due to the oversupply of milk. Frequent feedings mean feeding the baby whenever they show signs of hunger, which can be as often as every hour in some cases. The idea is to ensure that the baby is getting enough milk while also reducing the mother’s milk production to a manageable level. In addition to frequent feedings, other strategies for managing hyperlactation may include pumping or expressing milk, using cold compresses or cabbage leaves to reduce engorgement, and consulting with a lactation consultant for additional support and guidance.

Remedies for Hyperlactation

There are various remedies for hyperlactation, including:

Block feeding: This is when you feed the baby from one breast for a set period, usually 2-3 hours, before switching to the other breast.
Pumping: You can pump a small amount of milk before feeding to reduce the pressure in the breasts.
Using a nipple shield: A nipple shield can help slow down milk flow especially if you have an overactive letdown, making it easier for the baby to latch on.
Herbal remedies: Certain herbs, such as fenugreek and blessed thistle, can help reduce milk supply.
Seek medical advice: If the symptoms persist or are severe, it is recommended to seek medical advice from a lactation consultant or a doctor.

Conclusion

Hyperlactation is a condition that affects some breastfeeding mothers. While it may seem like a good thing, an oversupply of milk can cause various problems for both the mother and baby. It is essential to understand the causes, symptoms, and remedies for hyperlactation to manage this condition effectively. Remember, seeking medical advice is always the best option if you are concerned about your breastfeeding experience. However, while you are, managing your symptoms of hyperlactation, any excess milk that you have can be collected for donation to other babies in need. This is known as human milk donation, and it is a great way for mothers to help out other mothers and babies who may not have access to breast milk. By donating their milk, mothers can provide vital nutrients and antibodies to babies who might otherwise be unable to receive them.