It is probably the last thing that many mothers who find breastfeeding hard work want to hear, but for some women, the flow of breastmilk can be too fast.
It’s not clear why some women will have faster flow than others (though all breastfeeding women will get used to changes in flow, times when their breasts fill more quickly, etc), but if this is the case with you, you need to learn to make it a positive experience for you and your baby.
If you have what your friends call ‘a real guzzler’ from day one, then having a fast flow of milk doesn’t have to be a problem. However, that gush of milk coming right at your baby can be a frightening experience for a small infant.
Signs that milk flow is too fast
If your baby is hungry and coming to the breast willing to feed, but then pulling away, it may well be due to fast flow. If it only happens once or once every few feeds, the flow might only be a passing problem for your young feeder, at times when your breasts are very full. (Perhaps when you have been away from him and your breasts are busting to feed.)
However, a baby who feeds for only a couple of minutes and then pulls away crying and does this often, when you know he is hungry, might well be suffering from being overwhelmed by the flow of milk coming at him.
How to deal with excessively fast milk flow
If you find this is a real problem and getting in the way of your baby feeding to the point where he is tired and irritable 24/7, you could try feeding breast milk by expressing and giving him a bottle.
You can still feed him a bottle whilst maintaining skin-to-skin contact, and as he grows and gets used to faster flowing teats, you might find he is more prepared to return to the breast.
Although many health bodies regard nipple shields as a complete no-no, they could be a way to deal with the problem of fast-flow.
The reason pro-breastfeeding groups disapprove is that shields have been known to stifle milk production, but many women believe they are the saviour of crackle nipples and, if they therefore enable a woman to continue to breastfeed whilst her nipples toughen, then all the better.
Nipple shields hold your milk and release it as the baby suckles, so the flow going into the shield could be a useful way of giving your milk a ‘holding point’ whilst your baby sucks at his own pace.
Again, as your baby gets more used to breastfeeding, you can try the odd feed without the shields and you might find your baby is now happy to feed direct.
If you look at regular milk feeding bottles, they come with different flow teats. (Slower ones for new babies and faster for older babies.) You may well find, as suggested above, that your older baby will be more prepared to a faster flow direct from your breast as he gets older.