So, you have determined you have too much milk (TMM) and you have decided you don’t want to be the primary pumping station for the human milk bank. You want to make a little less milk. That’s okay! Don’t feel guilty for wanting less!
You should, however, feel guilty for pouring perfectly good milk down the drain because you have nowhere to store it. There are teeny tiny babies in NICUs across the country who NEED YOUR MILK! P.S. If this is the case, you just might be a milk hoarder and just might need help.
Block feeding is an effective technique for the following circumstances:
- You have determined that you have TMM and you have at least one of the problems listed in the TMM blog: the Drowning Baby or the Bossy Boobs.
- Your baby is having a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance. ** Please read my blog “The Good Milk” before you get married to the idea of having a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance. If you are thinking of following this block feeding advice because your baby had one spinach green poop, read “The Good Milk” and reconsider.
Warning: Block feeding will decrease your milk supply. If there is any doubt in your mind that you have TMM, don’t block feed. If you do and your supply drops too low, you will need to read about boosting your supply.
Disclaimer: This blog involves decreasing and spacing baby’s feedings. DO NOT follow this plan unless your baby is gaining like a big fatty (this was part of the TMM, blog if you need to reference what “gaining like a big fatty” means. But, do not follow this plan just because your baby is a big fatty. This isn’t a diet plan for babies, folks.
Another warning: Block feeding puts you at higher risk for plugged ducts and mastitis. If you decide to block feed, please read these blogs first to familiarize yourself with what they are and what to do if you get them.
How block feeding works:
Block feeding has both short-term benefits and short-term discomforts. The whole process takes at least three days, if not longer, to work.
You have to understand that block feeding has two purposes. First, it creates a low level of engorgement on the unused breast. This low level of engorgement sends a feedback message to your brain, telling it, “TOO FULL! TOO FULL!” Your brain, eager to protect your boob from explosion, sends a message back down to your boob to slow down the milk making machine. This negative feedback process takes an average of three to five days. During this period, you will have alternating hard, sore, overly full boobs. A little ways down, I will remind you of what to do with that rock hard booby.
The other purpose of block feeding is to allow the baby to not get drowned at the boob at every other feeding. Or, for the baby with foremilk/hindmilk imbalance, to get thicker, fattier milk at every other feeding. The second time you feed on the same boob, it has had less time to fill and is therefore producing at closer to an average supply. You see the catch here, right? The unused boob, which has been filling for double its usual fill time, is very, very full. Sure, the baby enjoys half of his feedings at the emptier boob, but the fuller boob is even more vicious.
Your baby will be okay. I know it is hard to see him getting sprayed in the face with your milk, but he’s a trooper, trust me.
How to block feed:
- Determine how often you breastfeed now and if it is always or sometimes on both breasts. Most women with TMM have been nursing on only one breast for quite some time.
- If you are nursing on both breasts at all or most feedings, start by trying to nurse on one breast at each feeding. That means the unused breast will stay full until the next feeding. (FYI, some people think feeding on one breast at each feeding is block feeding. It is not. It is simply feeding on one breast at each feeding).
- If you are already feeding on one breast at each feeding, your next step is to feed on one breast for a designated amount of time, or two feedings in a row. So, if you have an every-90-minutes-nurser, hold him off until closer to the three-hour mark. You can do that by using a pacifier (you are using a pacifier since you have TMM, right?). If you are breastfeeding about every three hours, that means you will nurse on the same breast for six hours and your opposite boob will need to hold it for six hours.
What to do with your full boob:
So, the big full boob sits angrily by while the other boob gets to feed, again! The jerk line jumped and took his turn twice!!
The name of the game: Comfortably Full.
In order to send the proper message to your brain to make less milk, that breast has to stay full. I know you wanna pump it soooo bad. But you can’t. You can, however:
- Let it passively leak. Let that puppy out while her neighbor is nursing. Put a very absorbent cloth (or a disposable diaper) or a Milkies on the big angry boob and let it passively leak. This will let a little milk out without sending a stimulating message to your brain.
- Apply ice or cool cabbage. Ice decreases swelling and cabbage decreases milk supply (honest!). It can help keep you comfy.
- Take the edge off. If you just can’t take it anymore, hand express or hand pump just a little bit. It usually isn’t the best idea to set up the electric pump in this circumstance. It is just too much power too quickly. If you aren’t careful, you will have four ounces before it switches to the expression phase at the two-minute mark. There isn’t a set volume that “takes the edge off.” It is different for everyone and different at various times of day. Bottom line: You want to take out the least amount possible to make you comfortable again.
When should you fully pump a boob?
As I warned you earlier, with block feeding comes the increased risk for plugged ducts and mastitis. Here is a good practice for breastfeeding in general and block feeding in specific.
Feel your boobs. After you breastfeed, feel the boob(s) you nursed on. The nursed on boob(s) should feel uniformly softer. There shouldn’t be a section of your breast that is soft and a section that is firm. If there is a firm section, take a note of it because you need to focus on that section next time. If after the second feeding, the firm section is still there, focus on getting it out. That means starting the plugged duct regimen. If that section continues to get fuller, firmer and more sensitive to the touch, try harder. If the baby won’t do it, get the pump out. If it isn’t gone in three days, call your OB or midwife.
Yes, fully pumping will mess up your block feeding process and probably put you back to square one, but it is better than getting mastitis.
How will I know block feeding it is working?
You will know block feeding is working when those full breast feedings get a little less intense. Look for less spraying and less crying (from both of you).
Continue to stick to the block feeding system you are using for a few more days. If it continues to work well for you, change nothing.
If it seems like your baby is less satisfied the second go around on the same breast, you may need to go back to one breasted feeding for a while, rather than doing two feedings in a row per breast.
If it seems like there is still an oversupply issue, try feeding on the same breast for three feedings in a row. Same concept, just longer period that your unused breast stays full.
Oftentimes, block feeding is a rotating system. You have TMM, so you block feed for three to five days. After block feeding for three to five days, your supply seems to have dropped and baby seems frustrated with feeding on the same breast twice in a row. You return to feeding from one breast at each nursing session for a week or more. You feel like you have TMM again, so you block feed for three to five days.
Please always remember that your supply is constantly changing and evolving and you need to act accordingly. Please also remember that you have two boobs. If it seems like block feeding worked a little too well and you have too little milk, as an over supplier, chances are you have forgotten that you can nurse the baby from the second breast!