Overactive let-down

Overactive let-down

Overactive let-down (OALD) is the forceful ejection of milk from the breast during breastfeeding. In some women it occurs only with the first let-down in a feeding, occasionally women may have multiple strong letdowns during a feeding. OALD can make breastfeeding difficult and can be the source of some breastfeeding complications. It may also be known as hyper milk-ejection. A woman may have OALD in addition to an oversupply of breastmilk. (Often called Foremilk-Hindmilk Imbalance, Hyperlactation syndrome, Oversupply Colic Syndrome , and other near synonyms.) The physical or medical cause of an overactive let-down is still unknown. Whether mothers with OALD have a higher overall milk volume - or a strong reaction to the hormone Oxytocin (which causes the let-down reflex) also remains to be seen.

Complications

The forceful spray of milk can cause the baby to consume too much milk too quickly as well as to swallow air during the period of rapid swallowing following the let-down. The speed of the flow of milk into the mouth can cause the baby to react with reduced nursing times and aversion to nursing often described by mothers as "fussiness", "colicky", "dislikes nursing", or "is weaning". Some babies, especially those of approximately 2-4 months of age, become increasingly upset with the spray of milk which may increase their aversion to nursing to the point of refusing the breast [a nursing strike).

Overactive let-down can be a part of a constellation of symptoms that make up Oversupply Syndrome or Oversupply Colic. Babies coping with OSS, gain weight quickly in the early months, even while nursing for short period. Some OSS babies sleep for surprisingly long periods of time and depth, possibly due to an overful feeling, while others have very disturbed sleep, possibly due to gastrointestinal pain.

Treatment

There are effective remedies for overactive let-down, and oversupply syndrome, however aggressive treatment should be watched carefully by someone familiar with the condition as the mother is at a higher risk for plug ducts, mastitis and other breast infections.

An Overactive let-down can take a long time to control and can be frustrating for the mother and baby, but when controlled effectively a long and satisfying breastfeeding relationship is possible. Mothers with this condition are often given various incorrect rationales for their concerns such as "having weak milk", or "bad milk", it's "just colic", the baby will "grow out of it", or the child is "allergic to your milk", or a food in the mother's diet.

There are no valid reasons to stop breastfeeding due to this condition.

References

  • Andrusiak, Frances and Larose-Kuzenko, Michelle. The Effects of an Overactive Let-Down Reflex. Lactation Consultant Series, 1987.
  • Benson, K.D. "Clinical Problem Solving," CERP session LLL of Illinois Area Conference. September 4, 1993, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
  • Mohrbacher, Nancy and Stock, Julie. THE BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK. La Leche League International, 1991.

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