Hyperlactation and Oversupply: Secret Breastfeeding Struggle


Hyyperlactation is one of the most overlooked breastfeeding struggles. We often talk about when moms DON’T make enough milk. But less often discussed is the problem of making too much milk. Moms are often ashamed to bring this issue up, because so many parents are suffering with too little milk. But isn’t more milk a good thing? Well, not necessarily. In fact, hyperlactation is often one of the most difficult issues lactating parents endure. This is compounded by the secrecy and shame parents often feel with the secret struggle of hyperlactation.

Hyperlactation often leads to a number of problems:

Chronic Breast Pain

This is when the breasts often develop pain that is worse before emptying, but also worse after emptying. It can be constant and debilitating

Recurrent ‘Plugged Ducts’

With making too much milk, breasts enter a chronic state of inflammation. This is associated with difficulty emptying the delicate milk ducts which are being compressed from the outside (not plugged from the inside of the duct as is often mistakenly thought). This leads to areas of the breast not draining well and developing painful hard lumps. This can also turn into an infection of the breast called mastitis, and in severe cases even an abscess. Adding insult to injury, the common tips given to treat these (misnamed) ‘plugs’ such as firm massage, vibration to the breast, and frequent pumping or use of a hakaa style silicone milk collector, actually worsen the situation!

Difficulty for Baby Nursing at the Breast  

It can become hard for a baby to latch due to the swelling of the nipple, areola, and surrounding breast tissue. The high milk volume also leads to a rapid flow of milk coming from the breast. This can cause baby to choke and sputter at the breast, and sometimes to clamp down on the nipple trying to slow the flow down, leading to nipple trauma and even more complications of this secret struggle. 


Even though they have too much milk, lactating parents dealing with the secret struggle of hyperlactation often have deep fears about decreasing their milk supply. They sometimes feel that producing milk is one of the few things they are doing well when it comes to caring for their baby. They fear that if they try to decrease the milk production, they may lose their supply completely and become a ‘failure’. (Just to make clear, even if you make zero milk you are NOT a failure as a parent!) So even when they KNOW they need to decrease their milk production for their baby and their own health, it can be incredibly anxiety provoking to attempt this. This is especially true in parents with postpartum mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. 


These parents often end up stuck carrying a breast pump around everywhere they go. Direct breastfeeding alone doesn’t prevent their plugs. They never get to experience the ‘easier’ phase of breastfeeding.

Prematurely Stopping Breastfeeding

Hyperlactation is often so miserable, and is many times managed in secrecy and shame, that parents dealing with this issue often stop breastfeeding long before they had hoped. 

Hyperlactation can be something that many parents secretly struggle through without realizing there is actually help. As a coauthor of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine’s protocol on management of hyperlactation, I would like to share some important tips for improving hyperlactation and decreasing overproduction of milk. 

  1. Reach out to a Breastfeeding Medicine Physician.

We have specific expertise in diagnosing, treating, and supporting lactating dyads through complex lactation difficulties. There is no need to suffer in secret when it comes to hyperlactation – reach out to us! 

  1. Do NOT Use a Hakaa Style Silicone Milk Collector or Other Breast Pump to Frequently Collect Milk

This will NOT fix hyperlactation but will actually increase the milk production further. I frequently see parents making an extra 20-40 oz per 24 hours due to starting this vicious cycle of pumping to manage the uncomfortable high volume of milk in their breasts.  Instead, managing this with gently lymphatic drainage and other techniques I advise for breast swelling is key to improvement. I do not advise cold turkey stopping the pumping if you’re already doing this, though. Instead we want to work closely to create an individualized plan for slowly decreasing the excess pumping. 

  1. Block Feeding

This is when you choose a several hour time period, and no matter how many times your baby nurses during those hours, you only nurse from one side.  Then when the timer goes off, you spend the next few hours only nursing from the other side.  And just keep repeating. It is very important that this is managed closely by an expert in lactation care, as it can cause other problems if not done correctly.

  1. Supplements and Medications

There are several supplements and medications that can help with hyperlactation. These require medical knowledge to know when to give them, when not to give them, how to individualize dosing, and how to determine next steps based on response to the medication.

  1. Support

You do NOT need to struggle in silence when it comes to hyperlactation. There are other parents facing these same issues. Breastfeeding medicine physicians and lactation consultants should be a source of aid and comfort as well. We are here for you – you are NOT alone. 

  1. Mental Health Care

if you find that you cannot stop obsessing over not losing your milk, or if you cannot stop pumping excessively, despite knowing it’s the right plan, then consider seeking care for postpartum anxiety, depression, or other mood disorder. There is no shame in this and there is MUCH to gain.

As always, this is general medical information, not individual medical advice. But I hope by now it’s clear that hyperlactation has a lot of downsides. Honestly, it’s not a problem I would wish on my worst enemy. But there are many options to help.  If you are struggling,  please reach out to a breastfeeding medicine physician near you.   

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Lindsay Moore-Ostby
I am a primary care physician, lactation consultant, and co-owner of Indy Direct Docs, an Indianapolis direct primary care clinic. I love that my job lets me care for people of all ages. I especially love supporting my patients in the postpartum period, often with in-home visits that allow me to really personalize support. I work hard, but coming home to my family is the best. I live in Indianapolis with my husband and two young children. We love legos, building toys of all kinds, walks in nature, and playing pretend. Our favorite dinner is either breakfast-for-dinner or any night my husband makes homemade pizza. And nothing beats a good family snuggle on the couch.