Let's start with a description of a typical situation accompanied by too fast milk flow.
The baby is latched on to the breast, after initial quick suckling movements he starts to suck smoothly and deeply, and then milk flows so intensively and fast that the baby can hardly swallow it, or does not manage to swallow it, so he releases the breast and starts to cry. More determined babies do not release the breast, but change their grasp to more shallow, so milk excess escapes from their mouth through a gap formed in the mouth corner.
Of course, shallow grasp can only mean trouble: raw nipples and incorrect suckling technique that does not stimulate lactation sufficiently, so there is less and less milk. In consequence, the baby is not eating enough - he is tearful, irritated, impatient, and when you despair and give him the bottle, he falls on it gleefully, and starts to reject the breast.
Another negative effect of too fast milk flow can be problems with the baby's stomach - colic, posseting - as a lot of air is swallowed during fast, nervous and shallow suckling, which accumulates in the intestines.
Fast milk flow can occur in periods of excessive milk production. At such time the breasts produce more milk than the baby can eat (supply exceeds demand). When does it happen? Often during breast fullness, on the 2–6 day after the birth, and always when there is a change in the feeding pattern to which the breasts got used. Usually, when:
baby overslept his usual feeding hour;
baby sleeps through the night for the first time;
you started to give additional drink or food to the baby, and he demands the breast less often;
you started to introduce new foods, reducing breastfeeding;
infection is developing or has already started, and the baby's appetite is smaller (he sucks less often and shorter);
baby is teething painfully and refuses to suck breast;
you have returned to work;
you ceased the breastfeeding.
Sometimes, however, looking for reasons of the fast milk flow does not make any sense, as such reasons simply do not exist. Maybe fast milk flow is an individual characteristic of your lactation and does not depend either on its stage or on the baby's suckling technique.
When the fast milk flow is a problem for you or the baby, try to follow our tips:
Try to ensure the baby empties your breasts regularly, do not let them overfill, as then "milk spurting" occurs more often.
At the beginning try to catch the first, very strong stream of milk with a tetra diaper or a nursing breast pad, and latch the baby on to the breast when the milk flow is steadier. This method will work when the baby is not starving and patiently endures a short delay in feeding.
You can extract some milk immediately before feeding to soften the breast and empty it of the first "fast" phase.
Breastfeed lying on your back, with the baby placed on your belly to suck the milk from the top. This way you eliminate the risk of choking. Milk flowing "upwards" will flow slower.
When the baby suffers with stomach aches and cries, because he swallows too much air when he eats nervously or greedily, lift him up to burp him: place the baby tummy down on your lap or lift and hold him against your shoulder (in case of a newborn or a small infant, support his head), delicately pressing on his tummy. After burping, latch the baby on again. When necessary, burp the baby even a few times during one feeding.
The baby may associate the breast with discomfort due to the problems with swallowing fast flowing milk. You will find our advice on how to convince the baby to the breast in chapter Baby refuses to suck breast.
If the shallow suckling results in incomplete emptying of the breasts and in milk stasis, use the tips from the chapter on Milk stasis.
Fast milk flow is not an anomaly and definitely does not represent a contraindication to breastfeeding. Problems that can (but do not have to!) accompany too fast milk flow usually are temporary and affect mainly newborns and younger infants. The older ones cope quite well with it. And if the problem is related to the temporary excessive milk production, it will pass before it starts to be a real problem.